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Kevin Buck: Good civics vs. politics

Posted: September 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.

It appears as if there is some confusion among conservatives regarding how our government works and its role in the lives of Americans, as well as its role in the world in general.

Several weeks ago I wrote “that Republicans in the House and Senate have brought governing in Washington, D.C., to a standstill.” This was met with some derision from my friends on the right side of the political spectrum.
The gist of the reaction was that the Senate is controlled by a Democratic majority and that Republicans cannot be responsible for the political gridlock obstructing any and all progress in Washington, D.C.

Apparently people who get their news from the Right Wing Noise Machine are not aware that Senate Republicans have used the filibuster a record number of times to halt legislation and delay and derail executive branch nominees and judicial appointments.

The Republicans in the Senate have used the filibuster 360 times since President Obama was elected, denying him executive branch leaders and creating an unprecedented judicial backlog.

This really should not surprise anyone, since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced after President Obama’s election that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Not jobs for Americans suffering from the worst recession since the Great Depression, not repairing our aging and crumbling infrastructure, not exercising the Senate’s job of advice and consent for a nation at war in Iraq, Afghanistan and worldwide against terrorism.

If Obama and the Democrats were for it, they were against it, period.

Mitch McConnell and the Republican congressional leadership turned the world’s greatest deliberative body into just another political war room and fundraising machine.

The hostile takeover of the Republican Party by the far, far right has ominous implications. They abhor government and are not at all interested in governing; instead, they single-mindedly champion an agenda to destroy the social safety net, roll back regulations that protect our air, water, food and workplace safety from corporate predators.

In the coming days we will see the tea party wing of the GOP holding a gun to the head of the still-struggling economy, willing to shut down the government in order to de-fund the Affordable Care Act.

One budget vote in the House has already been postponed because the tea party minority refuses to vote for a continuing resolution to fund the government that does not also end Obamacare. 

Newt Gingrich and the Republicans tried this hostage-taking gambit in 1995 and 1996. It cost the party its majority, and Newt lost his speakership.

Speaker Boehner is in a similar bind. A government shutdown would be catastrophic for the Republicans going into the 2014 mid-term elections, but avoiding it now means passing a budget with Democratic votes, which would probably cost the Speaker his job and a 2014 primary challenge from the right.

Sadly, what is good for the nation does not appear to enter in to the equation.

On the left, we understand that there are legitimate differences in our political philosophies. In the past these differences were debated, deals were made, compromise was not a dirty word and politics was not played as a zero sum game.

And the nation prospered, our economy was second to none, we wereheld in high esteem by the rest of the world. 

No longer. The Senate minority uses the filibuster to gum up the works of governing, and a vocal minority in the House has enough clout to cow the Speaker of the House, bring legislating to a standstill and the government to its knees.

Lost in this petulant display of brinksmanship is the reality of what American voters really want.

Republicans have five of the last six popular votes in presidential elections.

In 2012 the Democrats added seats to their Senate majority, defeating tea party candidates to do so. Democrats received a million more votes than Republicans in the last House election; only massive gerrymandering after the 2010 census saved the Republican House majority. 

Grand bargains on a variety of issues are still possible, but not until Republicans decide that governing is more important than political purity and that right, left or mushy middle, we are all in this together.

Kevin Buck is a Santa Clarita resident. “Democratic Voices” runs Tuesday and rotates among several SCV Democrats.


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