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Kevin Buck: Fear and loathing in the GOP

Democratic Voices

Posted: June 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.

One of the hallmarks of the Republican Party’s electoral strategy has been its reliance on vague and scary threats to the perceived well-being of America.

For much of my life as a politics junkie, communism and Democrats were the preferred boogie men. I missed the heyday of McCarthyism, blacklists and loyalty oaths, but the 1960s and 1970s certainly had their fair share of political scare tactics.

We even fought the Vietnam War for fear of communist dominoes falling around the world, until they landed on America. And anybody with the temerity to protest against that terrible war was labeled an un-American commie sympathizer.

After Ronald Reagan single-handedly defeated the communists in the Soviet Union, Republicans still had China, Cuba and North Korea to fear and loathe. But China was far too lucrative for American business, so the whole communist part of Red China has been conveniently excused for the sake of profit.

There’s still plenty of hate for the communists in Cuba and North Korea, but not enough fear to make them an effective issue in elections anymore.

With the rise of the Christian right as the political base of the Republican Party, abortion, gays, lesbians, women, immigrants and the poor moved into the crosshairs. These social issues were easily tied to the Democrats, because the Democratic platform supports equality and civil rights for all Americans.

Clearly this political agenda still works for Republican politicians because denying women equal pay and access to health care and fighting full equality for gays and lesbians are still potent political weapons.

The terror attacks on 9/11 added Al Qaeda, terrorists and Muslims in general into the enemies list.

After 11 years of war, Al Qaeda has been decimated, and everybody agrees that terrorists will always be a threat. The old enemies list still works in raising funds, turning out voters and creating animosity, but every campaign needs new enemies.

Since 2010, the enemy of choice has been the “union thugs,” who are apparently the reason for all the economic ills besetting the country today. And by “union thugs,” the Republican Party singles out teachers, police, firefighters and government employees. These are the scapegoats Republicans are now castigating for their greed and blaming for the bankrupting of state and local budgets.

Demonizing unions comes naturally to Republican politicians; American business has been and still is a valued constituent of the Republican Party. Because fair pay and decent working conditions cost business a percentage of what otherwise would be profit, the destruction of labor unions has been a long-time goal.

Unions also provide the Democratic Party a source of campaign contributions to help offset the historic Republican fundraising advantage, so in the zero-sum game of Washington politics, unions must be neutralized if Republicans ever want to achieve a permanent majority.

But unions are not just political entities; unions are people, my friend. They are our children’s teachers, the police, firefighters and first responders who protect us with their lives. They are the people who build and fix our roads, bridges and railroads.

Union members make the movies and television shows we watch, they build cars and staff our governments and until corporations outsourced their jobs, they built the things that proudly carried the label “Made in America.”

Mitt Romney may believe that the “lesson of Wisconsin” is that we need fewer teachers, policemen and firefighters, but I cannot imagine any city or town in America where that is true. Greed is not the motivating factor for public service, teachers do not choose their careers to get rich, they teach to make a living and make a difference.

I find it disturbing that a vulture capitalist, who made his vast fortune bankrupting businesses, firing and laying off workers and raiding their pension funds, has the gall to call teachers greedy.

American politics have never been for the faint of heart and, sadly, fear and loathing often trumps vision and hope when it comes to turning out voters.

But demonizing the very ones who sacrifice riches, fame and power to serve the public, denigrating the people who protect us from calamity and crime, who build and repair the infrastructure we need to grow as a nation and those who teach our children, so the next generation can build on our American greatness — this is just wrong.

Whose work leaves the world a better place: Wall Street bankers and corporate CEOs, or teachers, cops and firefighters?

Republicans may be right about some things, but they are dead wrong about the “union thugs” and their intrinsic value to our society.

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


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