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Kevin Buck: Bipartisan partisanship

Democratic Voices

Posted: August 10, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Updated: August 10, 2010 4:55 a.m.

The current conventional wisdom, pushed heavily by the right-wing noise machine, is that the November elections will result in the end of the Democratic Party's congressional majority. The Republican Party's dreams of repeating the glory days of 1994 help fill Fox News' dead air and GOP coffers.

However, three months is an eternity in politics and the reports of the Democrats' demise may be greatly exaggerated.

The Republican fantasy of regaining power is mainly based on polling that shows an "enthusiasm gap" between likely Republican and Democratic voters. Not surprisingly, Republicans are much more eager to get to the polls and throw the bums out than Democrats are to maintain the status quo.

While I am pleased the GOP has a glimmer of hope - because Democrats still believe in the power of hope - I also believe that in this case hope will not result in change.

Chief among the reasons the Republicans will underperform in November is former President George W. Bush. The Democrats regained a majority in 2006 and added to it in 2008, because the policies of the Bush administration created massive deficits, brought the country to the brink of an economic depression and enmeshed us into two unwinnable wars.

The current Republican leadership has nothing new to offer America, except a return to those galling days of yesteryear.

We hear a lot of blather about deficits coming from the tea party and other denizens of the right, but where were their protests when Bush and the Republican Congress turned President Bill Clinton's budget surpluses into trillions of dollars of red ink? The selective outrage of the current deficit hawks diminishes their policy position. We have yet to hear where they would cut the budget.

It is easy to protest and obstruct from the sidelines; it is quite another thing to govern effectively, as the Republicans found out when they controlled all the purse strings.

One of the main contributors to the Bush deficits were the tax cuts for the rich, the first order of business for the new Republican administration in 2001.

Remember, "It's our money." Sadly, it was not. It turned out it was mostly China's money.

Those tax cuts are due to expire this year, and the demagoguery from the right has already begun. The Obama administration is proposing extending the tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses, which would benefit 98 percent of the American people. They are also planning on letting the tax cuts for the top 2 percent of Americans expire. Those individuals who earn $200,000, or households that earn $250,000, will see their taxes rise to 1999 levels. This will reduce the deficit by $700 billion dollars over 10 years.

One would think the deficit hawks would be pleased with this, but sadly, that is not the case. Senate Republicans continue to filibuster extensions for the unemployment insurance, state aid to prevent layoffs of teachers, police and firemen and jobs bills to kick start the economy - all in the name of reducing deficits, but they are fighting tooth and nail to preserve the tax cuts for the rich, with no revenue offsets to protect the budget.

Another reason Democrats will retain congressional power is thanks in large part to the rise in power of the tea party movement. Much of the enthusiasm gap is a result of the high-profile treatment the tea party has received from both the mainstream media and the right-wing noise machine. The main problem for the Republican Party is that the tea partiers are not new voters; they are, by and large, Republicans and conservative independents who vote Republican anyway.

Politically, the tea party has driven the GOP to the outer fringes of right-wing crazy. Conservative candidates who do not conform to the even more conservative litmus test are challenged from the right.

The result of this rightward tilt is that many probable Senate and House pickups are now back in play. Fringe issues and policy positions that resonate in Republican primaries will have to be walked back toward the center for the general election, and that will not please the conservative zealots or the uncommitted centrists.

President Barack Obama's election was not the finish line, it was the starting line. The Obama administration and the Democratic Congress have accomplished a great deal in two years, and they have done so in spite of near unanimous opposition from the Party of No.

A government that works for the people is the Democratic ideal and a Republican nightmare. Enthusiastic or not, Democrats cannot give up now. The alternative is a return to the dark days of Bush, and I don't believe anybody wants that.

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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