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.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The 10 percent solution

By Bill Kraus

I suppose the most important, and distressing, takeaway from the August 12 primary is that most of the races in the state Assembly and more than a few in the Senate were settled that day. They joined the large number of other candidates who had no opponent. To summarize: A majority of the state legislature was picked by 10 percent of the voters.

The fact that the primary is now held before the middle of August didn’t help. But, beyond that, wondering how important it is to require stringent identification standards to a process that doesn’t draw flies, it’s hard to figure out how to excite voters about being disenfranchised by gerrymandering. Or maybe that’s why they aren’t voting. Why bother when you and your votes don’t count? The voters are not stupid. They know that the game is rigged.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mushroom communications

Political leaders think we are best when kept in the dark.

By Bill Kraus

A couple of the tacit assumptions that made the founding fathers think that the democracy they were inventing would work have fallen on hard times.

They assumed there would be open, communicative, accessible, and responsive legislatures and legislators.

They assumed that there would be a common public communication system which would provide the voters with the information they needed to select their legislators and judge their performance.

In reverse order then…the common communication system was for most of our history the print press. It was not common in a monolithic sense, but it was journalistically comprehensive, maybe overly so.