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Gary Horton: Can the Buck be passed?

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: March 4, 2009 12:15 a.m.
Updated: March 4, 2009 4:30 a.m.
I did something Thursday night that I've never done before in my 52 years on earth. I finally, formally embraced compassionate humanity. I stopped looking through that glass darkly. I turned away from childish things. I shed the snaky, scaly skin of corruption and greed. Yes, after 34 years as a registered Republican, I officially changed my political party affiliation to Democrat. Mild-mannered, moderate columnist Gary Horton made the long-overdue formal switch to the Democratic Party in pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness - for all people, not just sum (Sic).

That change has been a long time coming. When I was a youth, mom twisted my adolescent arm and malleable mind, having me canvas neighborhoods with her for Richard Nixon. But by and large, since subjecting myself to political brainwashing at Cal State Northridge, I've run from the middle to the "port side" of the political road. Bottom line: It's about people. I just can't help putting people and principle before money. In the land of the free, the free are more important than the self-coroneted, self-obsessed financial elite.

I met over at Vincenzo's Pizza with regional Democratic movers and shakers Darren Parker and Michael Cruz. There's talk afoot of selecting the next self-flagellator to run against Congressman "Buck" McKeon in 2010. This time, there's credible hope that the Congressman might finally be vulnerable, having been kidnapped, hog-tied and mouth-taped-shut silenced by a now-dysfunctional Republican Party hell-bent on a self-immolating betrothment to political arsonist Rush Limbaugh.

By registering as a Democrat, I formally forsake and denounce the craziness that has become today's Republican Party. By registering as a Democrat, I at least have a say in who that human Buck-buster bomb will be. If not even more...

Talking with Darren got me thinking. Just what would a private citizen have to do to run a credible campaign against Congressman Buck? And what would life actually be like as Congressman, should the whippersnapper pull off the impossible, busting McKeon out from such an impenetrable republican bunker? The more you think, the less "glamorous" the notion of congressional politics seems.

And here, I pay public kudos to Congressman McKeon. Like his politics or not, he has served at tremendous personal cost in time, money and dislocation of his life. Sure, service has its perks. He's got a really nice Japanese car, courtesy of the Fed. And a fine staff that does a great job of keeping him moving, talking, bobbing and weaving, and generally staying in campaign mode for the duration of his career.

If you're Buck McKeon, you're perpetually tied down and committed, and your job becomes almost synonymous with your life. Who would be ready to make that leap - to forsake privateness for such publicness?

I asked Darren what a viable campaign against Buck would entail. "24-7 dedication," came the reply. "Total committment."
"But what about your job or business?"

"Well, you'd better hope you've got good managers at your company, because you're not going to be there much." Eeek.

Then comes the never-ending chicken dinners, handshakes, fundraising, pleading, begging, groveling for cash, speeches, letters, interviews and fending off mudrakers. And then, after months of non-stop nonstopping ... finally - election night that one moment of vindication or vanquish when the dice finally roll and the wheel stops spinning. For the last eight McKeon campaigns it's been straight vanquish to Buck's opponents. Buck - 8, Dems - 0. All that Democratic effort gone, except perhaps to soften up Buck for this current cycle.

What if you're some sort of phenom and actually Win? What pleasures await? Well, Congressman McKeon has been kind enough to let Carrie and I watch him in action in his office and at various functions about town. What you get is this: long days, from early in the morning to late at night, six and seven days a week, on one coast or the other. Fear of flying? Forget that - you're forever shuttling back and forth from coast to coast.

"But the money's good." Ha! Buck was a born entrepreneur. His capacity to earn money in private business far exceeds what is really a mid-level management compensation package that congressmen earn. So Buck not only gives of his time, he generously gives from his earning potential as well.

Now, for people like Buck and most of his challengers, the motivator behind the effort is service. That's understood.

And we're remiss if we ever forget the sacrifice of time, finances and personal freedom our representatives make in their tradeoff to serve (Well, at least the honest ones). We may not agree with their politics.

We may despise their dumb voting records. But boy, they put in the hard work, sweat and tears.

Buck McKeon might well go down this next round. Good chance of it, should a viable opponent be forthcoming. The times, after all, they are a-changin'. And come 2010, we'll be riding high on the success of the Stimulus Buck attempted to thwart. Should Congressman McKeon be beaten by some fearless Democratic foe, let Democrat and Republican alike honor him for the sacrifice he's made for us throughout all these years.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. "Full Speed to Port" appears Wednesdays in The Signal. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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