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The transition to transformation

Posted: December 1, 2008 8:33 p.m.
Updated: December 2, 2008 4:55 a.m.
I have watched many election nights in my lifetime, and none comes close to matching the joy, relief and satisfaction I felt on Nov. 4, 2008.

My wife, Laurine, and I watched the returns in a restaurant, surrounded by activist Democrats. At 8:00:01 p.m., when the networks declared the presidential race for Barack Obama and he became the president-elect of the United States of America, pandemonium was the order of the day.

Later, quiet appreciation of the historic moment took hold as President-elect Obama gave a moving and hope-filled acceptance speech.

Election returns from across the nation confirmed that the Republican Party's stranglehold on power had been broken. Democrats picked up at least 20 House seats and seven Senate seats.

It was a landslide not seen in the Democratic Party since 1964. In the days that followed, the euphoria of election night soon faded, and I have been asked many times since why I am not elated, gloating or jumping for joy.

There can be no joy in the fact that much of President Obama's first term will be spent just getting the country back to where it was before George W. Bush took the office.

Faced with the worst economic meltdown in a generation, Barack Obama and the new Congress are working on economic recovery legislation so that on Jan. 20, 2009, they will be prepared to begin immediately.

Much of the Obama administration's progressive agenda will be on hold until America rights its financial ship.

That said, the future still looks extremely good for the Democratic Party. We have at least four and likely eight years of progressive judicial appointments to look forward to, including one and maybe two Supreme Court justices.

The Obama team is already preparing executive orders for the new president to sign on Jan. 20, reversing some of the worst excesses of the Bush administration.

America will no longer be a nation that tortures prisoners; habeas corpus rights will be restored. Women nationwide will once again be given control over their reproductive choices, oil companies will not be writing energy policy and corporate insiders will no longer oversee their own industries.

The future is bright, but given the state of the nation today, cautious optimism seems more appropriate, so patience, hope and sacrifice are the current orders of the day.

While we may be cautiously optimistic during the transition period, the future of the Democratic Party has not looked better.

Any reading of the new electoral map shows the Republicans have been reduced to a regional party, their power base shrunk to rural America and the South, neither powerful nor populous enough to resurrect the fortunes of the new minority.

The politics of fear and smear ceased to be effective in this past election, and hopefully these divisive tactics will be relegated to political-science history books.

This leaves the Republicans with a big problem, as their economic, domestic and foreign policies have been rejected by American voters and they have no Plan B. The very nature of conservatism is a reluctance to change, and this does not bode well for restructuring a moribund philosophy.

The Republican Party also faces trouble uniting under its "big tent." The social conservatives, led by the Christian Right, have little to show for the six years of total Republican control of the federal government.

The neo-conservatives got us involved in two land wars, they have spoken loudly and used the big stick, and the result is a worn-out military and the enmity of world opinion.

All one has to do is read any headline to see what the fiscal conservatives and supply-side economics have wrought upon the nation.

These factions do not believe their ideas and policies are wrong; they believe the voters are wrong for rejecting them. Not the best place to start when you rebuilding a political party, another thing that bodes well for the Democrats.

Like it or not, (and I like it a lot), the Democrats are going to be in power for the foreseeable future.

After our long political exile and given the myriad of problems facing Americans and the world, I do not feel elation and I don't feel smug, but I do feel confident and relieved.

On Jan. 20, 2009, the problems will not be magically solved but beginning that day, the solutions will not come from Democrats or Republicans.

It will be smart and dedicated Americans taking up the task, and that alone is a comforting thought.

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


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