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John Zaring: Electing to go forward ... or backward?

Democratic Voices

Posted: September 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.

If you’re a Democrat, Monday’s Labor Day barbecues were just a warmup for the real fun, which begins today in Charlotte, N.C. The Democratic National Convention will afford President Barack Obama the best opportunity yet to delineate for the American people the real differences between his vision for America and that of Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Conventions long ago lost their reason for being; no real business gets done at these bloated celebrations of partisanship. Conventions have mutated into carefully scripted, masterfully controlled productions — an adult pep rally of sorts — designed to highlight the candidate and his sidekick.

Except when they’re not.

As Clint Eastwood’s “speech” went on and on during the Republican convention, I actually felt myself feeling gleefully conflicted. It was clear that Romney’s messaging was going to be overshadowed by the reaction to Eastwood’s rambling, bizarre and off-message performance.

And indeed within moments, the Twitter-verse was on fire over the icon’s many cringe-worthy moments. Even the yes-men at Fox News had to admit the appearance was off-kilter.

Unfortunately, also lost in the Eastwood shuffle were the lies spewed by Republicans in Tampa. No, not the many fabrications and distortions of President Obama’s record offered up by Govs. Christie and Huckabee, Sens. Rubio and McCain, vice presidential nominee Ryan, or even Romney himself. Those were quickly debunked by nonpartisan fact-checkers.

I’m talking about the wink-wink spin of GOP surrogates that the platform adopted in Tampa was only red meat for the base, the insistence that independents need not pay any attention to the party’s further slide to the right on social issues like abortion (no exceptions for rape, incest or even the life of the mother), equal pay for women or the hot-button issue of immigration.

Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary under George W. Bush, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “The fact is that the party’s platform simply doesn’t matter; Mitt Romney will set the agenda.”

The inference, of course, is that once in office, Romney will ignore the radical hyper-conservative positions he adopted to survive the primary cycle.

Fleischer also suggested that independent voters “should pay no mind whatsoever” to any of the GOP platform’s more radical planks. I’m sure he felt obligated to say this because he knows national polling has demonstrated most Americans find these social positions to be well outside mainstream opinion.

Are you kidding me? And are you ready to take the chance Romney will flop on his flip?

So how should President Obama respond in Charlotte? In my opinion, he should lay out, starkly and simply, how his continued leadership can take America forward and contrast it with the direction a Romney administration will take us, returning America to the failed trickle-down, deregulated economic principles and big-stick diplomacy of the Bush era. In other words, backward.

I say Obama “can” take us forward and not “will” because no president can accomplish anything on his own. Unless Democrats wrest back control of the House — vote for Dr. Lee Rogers! — nominee Ryan and his fellow Republicans in the House will again block every action taken by the president, regardless of what’s best for the country.

Over in the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proudly announced that making Obama a one-term president was his highest priority, we can expect the record pace of filibusters to continue simply to make it harder for Obama.

To judge the president outside of this ideological context would be a travesty of epic ignorance.

And undecideds should also consider the further shift to the right a Romney presidency will bring to the judicial branch. Sure, it’s fun to romanticize the ’50s, but I don’t want to see the Supreme Court returned to the decade of Elvis.

Do you?

After Charlotte, President Obama will have three debates to contrast the actual accomplishments of his first term — such as the positives from stimulus (for example, 23 straight months and counting of job growth creating more than 4 million net jobs), ending the Iraq war, the drawdown in Afghanistan, much needed Wall Street reform followed by recapitalization of banks, revamping the federal student loan program and increasing Pell grants, getting bin Laden and killing most of Al-Qaeda’s top leaders, repealing “don’t ask don’t tell,” rescuing America’s auto industry, removing Gaddafi from Libya and restoring America’s prestige around the world, and of course, passing heath care reform, aka Obamacare, to name just a few — against the vision of Romney.

Sure, the job is far from done; that is why it is far too soon to say goodbye.

John Zaring is a delegate to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party in the 37th Assembly District. He is a founding board member of the Hart district WiSH Foundation and serves on the Castaic Middle School’s Site Council and the strategic planning committee of the Castaic Union School District.


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