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1876 - Southern Pacific begins subdividing town of Newhall (original location at Bouquet Junction) [story]

The Rational Center | Commentary by John Zaring
| Tuesday, Jan 22, 2013

johnzaring2012Historically speaking, President Barack Obama’s inauguration yesterday completed America’s journey from the exhilaration of 2008 to the confirmation of 2012. His reelection proved that this country is absolutely great enough to get beyond our recent past of segregation not only to elect, but also reelect, an African American to the highest office in the land.

Obama came into office four years ago believing he could bring change to Washington, and with America hoping he actually could. He won his second term – only the 13th president to do so – after a bruising four years of battling obstinate Republicans in Congress. Since his reelection he has appeared bolder, fierier, and less inclined to negotiate with himself. He has clearly learned, frankly the hard way, that change can’t and won’t happen without pressure from the outside, from the rest of us.

Of course, in a democracy you can only move past paralysis if both sides are willing to come together. If Republicans in Congress continue to avoid tough decisions and do nothing, or next to nothing, Obama’s ability to cement a lasting legacy will surely be tested.

Yet, in his 19-minute inaugural address, Obama’s soaring oratory revealed that he won’t be going quietly or without a fight. He reminded Americans of the values we hold in common and linked his vision for the future to the evolving history of civil rights in the United States. He doubled down on the coalition that got him elected: young people, women and minorities – the coalition of the future, if you will – by moving them to the front of the American conversation.

Obama knows that while the Republican Party is aging, declining and fracturing, he will surely face continued GOP intransigence and near-pathological devotion to ideological purity. Obama said repeatedly that Congress has a responsibility to join him in working on things where there’s common ground – to find a “unity of purpose” for the good of the country – and it appears he plans to take this argument directly to the people.

One area where common ground can likely be found is tax reform. The nation’ss wildly convoluted, 73,000-page tax code should be scrapped. It is inefficient, ineffective and fundamentally unfair.

I doubt Congress will throw out all 73,000 pages, but the confidence of the country in general, and small businesses in particular, has been negatively impacted as Congress has careened from one revenue-related crisis to another, whether it’s the debt ceiling debacle or the fiscal cliff or expiring tax credits. This lurching back and forth has not only restrained consumer confidence here at home, but also roiled the world’s markets.

Our leaders surely know fiscal discipline is crucial to long-term recovery, and achieving will help drive investment and hiring, so this should be an area where compromise can be forged.

Another issue Obama identified for action is gun safety, which literally no one in politics would be advocating today were it not for the inarguable tragedy of Sandy Hook. Despite irrational tirades from the fringes, it now appears that a consensus on sensible gun control is possible without running afoul of the second amendment.

The American people are solidly behind background checks on all gun purchases – some recent polls indicating support reaches three in four Americans – while a ban on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips is supported by six in 10.

With America appalled and activated, Obama challenged Congress to show moral courage instead of cowardice when it comes to the National Rifle Association, which has mutated into a fringe, anti-government lobbying group with paranoid and bizarre leaders.

In my opinion, though, the issue of immigration provides the lowest hanging fruit for Obama to add to his legacy. Many Republicans have finally realized this issue is killing them with voters. In 2000, forty-four percent of Hispanics voted for George W. Bush, while only 27 percent went for Mitt Romney last November. Given that Latinos are already prominent in key swing states including Florida, Nevada and Colorado, and growing in traditional red states such as Texas and Arizona, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has taken up this charge for the Republicans.

Rubio knows the vast majority of Americans believe that if you’re a law-abiding, contributing member of our society, there should be a path to citizenship. But he also knows amnesty has become such a dirty word for many Republicans, he will need to do some heavy lifting to get the GOP out of the demographic cul-de-sac it has driven into. And he’s not alone. Republican stalwart James Baker, who served as chief of staff to both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and in various cabinet positions, put it this way: “Republicans need to pay attention to changing demographics. We need to be the party of hope and opportunity, not the party of anger and resentment.”

It remains to be seen whether the GOP will join Rubio, but it would be wise to do so, because in his inaugural address it was obvious Obama understands that after four years of strife, America doesn’t expect or even need perfection, just progress. He injected a greater optimism, knowing the country is moving to a new, modern progressive paradigm fueled by social networks such as Facebook and Twitter but sustained by old-fashioned, grassroots activism.

This shift is real. It is happening already, which is why reactionary forces, driven by a fear of change, have tried so mightily these past four years to protect the old guard and slow the changing face of America through extreme, ultra-ideological partisanship.

It is a familiar response, one we’ve seen before, whether we’re talking about the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the suffragette movement that resulted in women getting the right to vote, or even America’s tragic Civil War, which saw Abraham Lincoln convert America from a slave nation to a truly free nation where all men are indeed created equal regardless of the color of their skin.

But history has also taught us that while progress can be slowed, it cannot be prevented, so 145 years after Lincoln began his ill-fated second term, Barack Obama’s presidency provides living proof that Lincoln’s fight was just. Now, as Obama looks to extend certain inalienable rights to gay and lesbian Americans, he aims to complete Lincoln’s mission of freedom for all, regardless of whom you love.

Regardless of whether you agree with his politics, you can’t refute the fact that President Obama is a compassionate and reasonable man. He models fairness, whether the topic is human rights, economics, health reform or the environment. He is, I believe, the right man for the times, and I wish him, and the Greater Us, all the best in his second term.


John Zaring describes himself as a reformed Republican turned moderate Democrat who believes democracy works best when its government actually functions because its leaders are working together. He serves on the Castaic Area Town Council’s Land Use Committee, Castaic Middle School’s Site Council, the Hart District’s WiSH Education Foundation, and he is the West Ranch High School representative on the Hart District’s Advisory Council. A self-proclaimed “New Democrat” a la Bill Clinton, he lives in Castaic with his wife of 21 years and their daughters, Fiona, 16, and Kylie, 12. His commentary publishes Tuesdays.


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1 Comment

  1. Nobama says:

    one more liberal puss… no wonder why all those shooters were democrats.. F u.

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