Friday, January 7, 2011

2011: A watershed year for pols and the two-party system?

The year 2011 may prove a watershed year for politicians--from President Obama on down to your local legislator--and for the nation's two-party system. This may be the year we really see who truly serves Wall Street or Main Street.

Alabama's George Wallace used to say there wasn't a "dime's worth of difference" between the two parties, and he was absolutely right in many ways. In the U.S. Congress, both Democrats and Republicans are so beholden to K Street lobbyists, Wall Street, and their own self-preservation that it's no wonder Americans are looking to Tea Partyers and similar groups for solutions.

President Obama's most recent picks for his top advisers are further signs that he's becoming just another Bill Clinton Democrat, one of those Democratic Leadership Council types that are about as removed from FDR's Democratic Party as you can get.

It actually may be more politically interesting to see what's going to happen on the other side of the political aisle as quintessential corporate boardroom Republicans like new House Speaker John Boehner deal with the anti-government Tea Partyers in the party's ranks. Remember: Boehner's party isn't really anti-government. It just wants government to suit the purposes of its powerful financial backers. There's no real ideology there other than a bipartisan view of government as essentially a spoils system for those in power.

Here in the South, we have an old-line, blue-blooded Republican like Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour considering a bid for the presidency. On the surface, Barbour might seem to have the perfect combination of the insider connections only a former Republican National Committee chair and top Washington lobbyist could have with a record as governor that seems to have some actual Tea Party-like credentials, given his philosophy of minimal government and opposition to tax increases.

If there are any mainstream reporters still out there digging for truth, however, it shouldn't be hard to show that Barbour is no Tea Party protester. Like Boehner, he is a symbol of the very system Tea Partyers claim to protest. Barbour never saw a corporation he didn't like, and that's why he just pushed through a $500 million incentives package for a new solar panel-making plant in Hattiesburg at a time when the state is planning to close mental health facilities due to lack of funding.

At the state level, Barbour still has to contend with Democrats like House Speaker Billy McCoy who still believe government should be at the service of people, not corporations and fat-cats.

Too bad there aren't more Democrats like McCoy in the U.S. Congress--or in the White House, for that matter.

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