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The times, they are a changin’

Democratic Voices

Posted: May 20, 2008 7:17 p.m.
Updated: July 21, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
It is difficult to believe that only eight years ago the Democratic Party was being relegated to the political scrap heap and Republicans were speaking in terms of wielding power for generations. It is amazing
what a difference the worst president in history and a rubber stamp Republican congressional majority can make. Fairly or not, the war, the dead, the tanking economy, the massive debt, the mortgage crisis, the
disastrous disaster response and the 400 percent rise in oil prices have been attached like an anchor to the Republican Party. As a consequence, the Democrats are poised to simultaneously control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives for the first time since 1992.

This is the most fun I have had in politics since I ran a McGovern headquarters in the heart of conservative Orange County in 1972. I learned some valuable lessons that year: Reality trumps idealism in national politics, Republicans play for keeps and the best candidate does not always win. Consequently, even though I expect Democrats to build upon the gains of 2006, it is important to remember that it will
not be as easy as it has been so far. On the plus side, the Obama campaign, the Democratic leadership and DNC chair Howard Dean have their eyes on the ball. They are not going to give the Republicans the
slightest bit of breathing room, one need only look at the three special elections held this year for vacant Republican congressional seats to verify this.

The first election was to fill Speaker of the House Denny Hastert's seat, who resigned after the Republicans lost the majority in 2006.

Democrat Bill Foster beat his Republican opponent by a solid 52 percent to 48 percent and took the former Speaker's seat, which had been in GOP hands for 20 years and this was only a prelude of things to come.
On May 3 Democrat Don Cazayoux won a Louisiana special election for the 6th Congressional District, which had been held by Republicans for more than 30 years. It was last held by a Democrat in 1974. In a solidly Republican district the Democratic candidate won by a 49 percent to 46 percent margin.

The most troubling loss for the GOP came in Mississippi's 1st district.

Travis Childers just became the newest member of the Democratic majority with a resounding 54 percent to 46 percent win. This is huge because Republicans have a 10 percent registration advantage in the district.

It voted for Bush 62 percent to 37 percent in the last election. This spells trouble in River City for Republicans in November, with a capital T.

There has been much bloviating about the Democratic primary battle between Senators Clinton and Obama. That race now appears to be over, with Senator Clinton concentrating on the last couple of primaries while Senator Obama turns his focus to John McCain and the general election next fall. Contrary to what you hear on right wing radio, Faux News and from the professional Democrat haters, the 50-state, neck-and-neck fight was good for the Party and our nominee.

Millions of new voters have been registered and a new generation of activists and engaged voters has been brought into the Democratic Big Tent. And millions of them are donating money through the Internet, in small enough amounts that they can keep on giving. Consequently, the glory days of the fat cat, big donors are waning. This is one reason why the Clinton campaign is $20 million in debt, McCain's is almost broke and Senator Obama is flush with cash, with millions more rolling in every week. It is a whole new dynamic, the old 20th Century political models are no longer effective and our nominee is right on the cutting edge.

A change election sends a whole different level of dynamism through the electorate. Old timers like myself are re-energized, young voters and their enthusiasm are joining up and the nation is paying close attention. Howard Dean's 50-state strategy is paying off big time in voter registration and local organization. While Democrats look to the future, Republicans are being forced to defend the status quo, and McCain is running for a third Bush term. Not an enviable position when the country wants change.

This is not to say the road to the White House will be an easy one for Barack Obama. There is a reason a Republican has lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for 28 of the last 40 years. Fear and smear tactics
will again be a factor. If politicians can't run on issues, they go negative. The Swift Boaters are already promising to destroy Obama.

George Bush, President of the United States, recently tried to score cheap domestic political points in a speech to the Israeli Knesset. His petty and false denunciation of Obama and Democrats as traitors and his invocation of Hitler and the Nazis to a foreign Jewish audience is an indication of the desperation Republicans are feeling, as their relevance to the country and world remains in free fall.

The man who has been chosen to save the conservative brand, John McCain, has been a successful politician for more than 24 years. He will not be easy to defeat; he is a chameleon and a shape shifter and will mold himself to any message or image to gain the advantage. He is a straight-talking maverick when he needs independent votes. He is a lifelong conservative when he needs the right-wing base and he is a
bipartisan pragmatist when he needs Democratic votes. He walks a narrow path keeping these diverse constituencies in the fold, but he can't fool all of the people all of the time and that is why we win in the end.

There is still much work to be done, many fights to be fought, debates to be joined and votes to be cast.
But the wind is at the Democrats' backs this year and I really like our chances in November.

Kevin Buck is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. Democratic Voices runs Tuesday in The Signal and rotates among several SCV Democrats.

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