Ruffalo: Recovering Republican weary of promise-breakers

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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As is the case with many people, I pride myself on always being right — until I’m wrong — but currently I don’t seem to know which is which. Allow me to explain. No matter what the political climate is, I keep a set of principles near and dear, and change maybe one of them every Ice Age or so. One of those rules is that in politics, the only thing that belongs in the middle of the road is a dead skunk. I’ve always subscribed to the bromide that “Politics ain’t bean bag.” In other words, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. That’s been especially true in recent times. As a recovering Republican, I’ve grown weary of Democrats habitually breaking a promise on their end of every legislative compromise. And speaking of compromise, I always note that when they’re in charge, such as a few years ago when they had a filibuster-proof Senate, a huge majority in the House, and a president from their own party, never once was the word “compromise” uttered. However, now that the Republicans control the House, and that the Senate has became cloture-proof, and that there’s a president who would throw his own party under the Made in Canada bus, all one hears is we need to compromise. With that in mind, I lobbed several calls to elected officials and local political junkies. Predictably — probably because I was foolish enough to let them know beforehand what I wanted to discuss, not that many bothered to return my calls. On that very short list of those who did was Rob Haswell, the behind-the-scenes guy who runs the Democrat Party in these here parts. It’s extremely difficult to dislike Haswell. One reason for that is he usually serves a chaser of truth whenever pouring you a large dram of grape Kool-Aid. Insisting that in these times of economic hardship, there practically is a requirement for all of us to consider adding “revenue increases” in the ongoing discussion of governmental budgets, he also claimed “It’s time we had some statesmanship in the discussion,” adding that “The problem is we’ve lost the art of compromise.” Haswell blames that loss on several factors, not the least of which is “undue influence” on our present batch of elected officials. In case you haven’t been keeping score, that sort of “influence” translates into handing said politico a check, one usually containing no fewer than four digits, although three figures can suffice for state and local politicians. Of course, he blames the “politically biased” for that, which The Gentle Reader already realizes is the Republicans, but then hastens to pour the chaser by adding “although there’s plenty of blame to go ’round.” Auburn Mayor Bill Kirby, a registered Republican, agreed, saying that elected officials need to ask themselves “what’s really best for the whole country instead of asking ‘how do I get re-elected?’” Kirby hit the nail squarely on the head when he insisted that “Common-sense people know what the solutions are, but we’re all afraid to discuss them.” He wasn’t afraid to discuss them, tossing into the mix items such as making cuts in existing governmental discretionary spending, enhancing revenue streams and revamping entitlements, such as raising the entry-level age for future Social Security benefits. Compromise can be good, but just when I’m in a place to extend my hand across the aisle, I see where the state now allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to quit sending us reminder notices when our vehicle registrations are set to expire. Yes, fines for forgetting are still in place, and for good measure, the Legislature hiked those fees by $12. Right there would have been a great place to compromise, such as we’ll raise the fee to the now $46 level, but we’ll use the new funds to continue to notify you of the upcoming expiration date. Talk about my way or the highway. Meanwhile, there was one group of political denizens whom I did not attempt to contact and that was the local tea party. Why? Well, besides already knowing what they’d say, I also remembered that there probably would not be the current discussion on governmental costs and budgets without the Liptonites. Unlike many entrenched politicos, I do not fear the tea party, nor do I dismiss the organization as merely off-shoots of the Republican Party. They were precisely what was needed to ignite a burning review of on-going political processes. And, not as an afterthought, they are hardly knee-jerk Republicans, especially if one rightly recalls that in the most recent primary election, the tea party took out more seated GOPers than the Democrats did in the following November elections. Also, it was their strident adherence to a core of tested principles that has me again questioning myself. Do we need compromise, or do we need steadfast elected representatives? And which is which? Perhaps those with whom I spoke are on the right tracks. Maybe, and I welcome feedback, timely concessions prevent revolutions, but when is enough enough? I wish I knew. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs on Sundays. Reach him at