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Kevin Buck: Party of tea, your table is ready

Democratic Voices

Posted: April 26, 2010 2:00 p.m.
Updated: April 27, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
I have to admit, I'm just a little jealous of the tea party movement and the endless rallies, demonstrations and protests they are engaged in. For most of my life, it was liberals, Democrats and their fringe political groups that were doing the protesting.

Thanks to my father, I marched for civil rights and attended freedom rallies when I was 10 years old. I was too young to understand the scope of what was happening, but to this day I remember the feeling of expectation, excitement and empowerment in the crowd.

When I was in my 20s, we had the perfect storm of protests: Vietnam, Richard Nixon, Watergate and an out-of-control executive branch that was committing very real felonies. Throw in some rock and roll, free love, counter-culture lifestyles and the ability to gather hundreds of thousands of like-minded people in one place, and it really was a unique political force and created memories to last a lifetime.

With my middle age came the horrendous Bush administration. This time, the left was protesting a war before it ever began. Americans by the hundreds of thousands, and millions of others worldwide, gathered to try and stop the unilateral and unprovoked invasion of Iraq.

Alas, to no avail, in the end, the lies, doctored intelligence and power of a unitary executive trumped all the voices for peace.

The rest is not just history, it is the present and future, seven years gone, and Americans are still fighting and dying in Bush's Iraq War.

For the past 50 years, liberals have had an embarrassment of riches when it came to things to protest against. Conservatives could only kibbutz from the sidelines, demanding we either love America, or leave it.

They had to defend the policies of Nixon, Reagan and Bush - not much fun or glory in that. Even Clinton, who they hated from the beginning, never gave them much to protest against. Peace, prosperity and worldwide respect are difficult to oppose.

Finally though, conservatives are getting their chance to gather, march, carry signs, dress up in funny costumes and rail publicly against the perceived injustices and nefarious plans of the Obama administration and Democratic congressional majorities.

There are many reasons I do not begrudge them their fun; protests are what the First Amendment is all about. They are serious business, but enjoyable and rewarding, as well. They present no threat to the governing class. Politicians pay lip service to populist uprisings, but ignore them when votes meet lobbyists. Vietnam did not end because of the protesting in the streets.

Bush ravaged the country, ran up massive deficits, started two unfunded wars and trampled the civil liberties of American citizens at will, and no amount of protest had any effect. Bush had liberal protestors moved to "free speech zones" miles away from his presence, his motorcade routes and town halls were packed with adoring fans and no dissent was tolerated.

Today's tea partygoers don't know how good they have it. They have the right to freely protest that their rights are being threatened. And they can do it wherever they like. Is this a great country or what?

But, by far, the best thing about tea parties is that they will make it more difficult for Republicans to win elections. By forcing conservative candidates further to the right in primaries, they make it more difficult for them to attract independents and the center, where most general elections are won.

In contests where the Republican candidate does not exhibit enough ideological purity, tea party groups are running their own candidates, siphoning away Republican votes.

Tea party protestors may hate the commie, liberal, fascist, secret Muslim, socialist dictators in the Democratic Party, but they are not all that enamored with the entrenched Republican power structure, either. The Republican Party desperately needs them to win elections, but the tea party has not fully signed on to the "Party of No."

The tea party movement is against taxes, health care for all Americans, deficits, foreign-born presidents, illegal immigrants, big government and anything Obama is for. It's easy to get this kind of blanket condemnation on signs and sound bites, but virtually impossible to change the government power structure.

I know, because I've been there and not done that - many times. The protest movement, though ineffectual, is an integral part of American politics and the fulfillment of the promise of a free society. I'm glad conservatives are finally getting their turn.

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

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