Sunday, April 3, 2011

Our upended state

By Bill Kraus

A Supreme Court justice who was one of the court’s unanimous signers of a letter to the Legislature urging the passage of full public funding for elections to the court says he didn’t mean it and that the law was intended to cripple his election prospects. He said this even though he sailed through the pre-protest primary where the law got its first, unfettered test.

Another candidate for the Supreme Court takes a pass on a golden opportunity to trash the trashers who are demonizing everybody with their attack ads paid for with their anonymous money and who are undermining the Impartial Justice bill which has made her candidacy painless at least and maybe even possible.

A perfectly respectable, church-going, good neighbor family in rural Dane County with no evident dog in the current fight going on at the Capitol is accused of being responsible for telling 16 elected officials to put their affairs in order because they and their families will be killed.

A public union official warns the otherwise unengaged merchants of Union Grove that unless they put up signs supporting the public unions their businesses will be boycotted by the members of his union. He could have chosen a different locale for this action and not set off a counter movement claiming “The only union we support is Union Grove,” but the union president says he shouldn’t have done it at all, anywhere.

There is a run on a prominent bank because the officers of that institution have been revealed as donors to the campaign of the now-toxic new governor. The bank’s fortunes were not threatened by these withdrawals, but the well being of the bank’s employees was thought to be enough at risk to cause the doors to be shut for awhile. The bank, which, along with the rest of corporate America, had been thought to be itching to get into the political wars with all guns blazing, ran for cover repeating the Sergeant Schultz “I know nothing” disclaimer. This may or may not tell us just how threatening the much maligned Citizens United decision really is, but that’s another story.

The legislative leaders who are at the top of the power tower due to the weakened political parties and the retreat to outsourcing by the once politically active citizens who used to do the slating and funding of candidates that has now devolved on them turned out to be maybe not ready for prime time.

Those on one side of the aisle failed to follow their own laws and procedures so grievously that they are now in the toils of the slow moving court system or will have to do a reprise of what they did before to do what they want to do.

Their adversaries on the other side of the aisle abandoned their posts, emigrated to faraway Illinois, and, in effect, threw away the passports they would need to get home again. A one-way exit plan with no way to get back may not have been thoroughly thought through.

All the state senators who are eligible for recalls are threatened by them. At least five of them are said to be endangered by these threats. If this comes to pass, we will see in Wisconsin more legislative recalls this year than we have experienced in the preceding 163 years. If this process proves to be fruitful, it is predicted that in November a whole new wave of recalls will be launched against the rest of the senators who will then be susceptible to this ultimate weapon. The governor, who is already the subject of recall bumper strips, will presumably be at risk then as well. Government by recall may or may not loom, but democratic institutions are at risk.

And the most incredible development of all is that our local paper, the Wisconsin State Journal, even in its reporter-deprived state, now carries more vital and interesting news than the New York Times.

The world is upside down.

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

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