Monday, October 20, 2014

The "Debates"

By Bill Kraus

What is good about the debates?

They put opposing candidates on a stage together.

What is less good?

For openers. They are not debates. What they are is kind of a public editorial board meeting.

They are a showcase for talented broadcasters and a promotion for the quality of television newscasters where two instead of the usual one victim is on stage.

They cover so much ground that no subject gets the attention it deserves and some really trivial questions get more attention than they warrant.

They promote and promulgate sound bite politics.

They are an attack/counterattack medium. They promote incivility, even disrespect at a personal level instead of a discussion of multiple solutions to complicated problems.

The participants have figured them out. No one tries to seriously promote an idea. Compromise is not rewarded. No points are awarded for positives. The dangers to be avoided are all negative. They are a minefield that has to be crossed very cautiously, because a small misstep will be publicized and has known to be fatal.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three Things Wisconsin Needs to Change to Improve Our Elections

By Cal Potter

I read with interest the first in a series of articles in some Gannett papers aimed at describing political changes in our state. As one who served in the legislature for a number of years, and has been a political activist since the 1960's, let me suggest several major subjects for inclusion in that series.

The first of these recommended items is the major political "coup" that has occurred in this state and nation in recent years which is gerrymandered safe legislative districts. This well-orchestrated and financed takeover goes to the heart of the power of the extreme right, and the reality of creating today's non-responsive and non-working government. Here in Wisconsin, in several decades prior to 2010, the federal courts did a reasonable job of drawing legislative districts, necessitated by a party divided government.

All that has changed.

The unpopularity of Congress and many politicians today does not seem to influence those in office, because the reality is that public opinion doesn't matter; legislative districts are mostly non-competitive and officeholders are now largely bought and paid for by big special interest campaign contributions, and then become lapdogs for interest-group agendas.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Back to the future (please)

By Bill Kraus

In 1964 a Canadian Philosopher named Marshall McLuhan wrote a book entitled Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man and coined the phrase, "the medium is the message." At the time I had no idea what he was talking about. I do now. And as I look back across my last 62 years I see how dramatically that idea has played out in my life in political campaigns.

When I was getting my start in the early 1950s, political communications was in what I like to think of as the Plunkitt of Tammany Hall era.

This small book was a biography of a young New York man named George Plunkitt who wanted to become politically active and found the route to whatever fame and fortune he achieved in that trade was about him and the thousands like him.

They were the medium. They wrote and delivered the pamphlets. They made the telephone calls. They organized the precincts. They delivered the votes and the voters to the polls for their candidates.