Sunday, March 6, 2011

Three lessons learned

By Bill Kraus

1. There is no pleasing the macho true believers. It is their way or no way. Overheard at a Lincoln Day dinner in Wisconsin Rapids: “If Walker gives in on anything, I’ll never vote for him again.”

The Floating Fourteen are undoubtedly getting the same message from their radical adherents as well.

If we take talk, compromise, and respect out of governance, what’s left? Totalitarianism? A caller to a radio call-in show not too long ago accused me of compromising and went on to denigrate that very idea. I asked him how his marriage was going. He hung up.

Hanging up ranks right up there with walking out of the room.

2. The internet is a gold mine of information, but it ain’t journalism. The internet is a miracle, but when used as an information source (excepting, of course, the websites by reputable newspapers which are electronic versions of what they are printing) it is user activated and single sourced. The people who rely on internet sources for their information are a.) likely to go to sites produced by the like-minded and, b.) don’t know or care that what the like-minded are saying has not had to suffer the indignity of validation by the tiresome process of listening to more than one source. The danger of single sourcing is that it susceptible to bias and to dispensing opinions disguised as facts.

A recent example of the internet’s shortcoming and the desperate need for journalists and the rules of journalism concerned a controversial proposal by Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. The plaintiff’s case arguing that what Fitzgerald proposed was unconstitutional got widespread distribution on Facebook and elsewhere on the internet to the great pleasure of those on one side of the argument. The next day a newspaper asked if there might be two sides to this argument. There were. The newspaper published both opinions.

At about the same time a story was being merchandised on the internet about the damage being done to the revered state Capitol by its protesting temporary inhabitants. That story too fell from its partisan pleasing pedestal when a newspaper challenged its accuracy and reported that it was wildly overblown at best and mostly just plain wrong.

Internetism is not built to do what journalism does routinely and, one hopes, responsibly.

3. Most voters want a government that works. It follows, then, that it is in the best long-term interests of those who have been elected to govern to do just that, to govern. Flirting with inaction for any reason is dangerously distracting and could be bad for one’s electoral health.

When the Fitzgerald brothers spoke at a recent WisPolitics forum, they agreed that they had two years to live, that they were not given their amazing majorities to do nothing.

They are, of course, proposing to do something. Actually, they are proposing to do many things. None of them easy or pleasant. Where they may go astray is if the things that they are trying to do or the way they do things end in a prolonged stalemate.

They will then have not done what they proposed to do, and they will have tested the limited patience of a very significant part of the population that quickly tires of the rhetoric and wants them to get on with it, for better or worse.

Follow Bill Kraus on:
twitter / wmkraus

Bill Kraus is the Co-Chair of Common Cause in Wisconsin's State Governing Board

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