Monday, May 23, 2011

A problem and an opportunity

By Bill Kraus

Every indication is that the flurry of recall elections coming this summer will be referendums on Governor Walker.

They will not necessarily be about what he has done or proposes to do but on him....personally.

The bumper strips “Recall Walker” say it all.

The pro- and anti- interests that have dogs in this fight will weigh in with their money and their ads which will oversimplify, stretch, and/or distort the truths about the things they like or dislike.

Disagreement will be displaced by demonization. Adversaries will become enemies. Irrespective of the winners of these elections the effect will be to deepen the partisan divide.

The losers will be compromise, civility and mutual respect for the trade and the people who ply it.

The biggest losers will be the ideas that don’t make the legislative leaders’ short lists and that get trampled as the elephantine ideologues fight it out on their issues.

Could there be a saving grace?

Is it too late to suggest that the contestants in these elections might share some goals about the way the place works or more specifically how it could be made to work better? Could a kind of peace be declared in those areas where the survivors of these recalls and the yet to be recalled could do the citizens’ work for the benefit of the citizens instead of themselves?

What if all of the candidates in the recall elections agreed to bring ideas to the voters that go beyond a beauty contest on the embattled governor?

How about asking the voters if they would like:

1. A redistricting procedure that would put a stop to gerrymandering?

2. Open government rules that require legislators to do the peoples’ business in public so the people can watch their business being done?

3. A disclosure requirement that would ask those well endowed outsiders who are putting up the money to buy all those ads telling us what they want and who they favor in these elections to tell us who they are?

Bipartisan proposals to do all three of these things are on the shelf. That’s where they will stay until and unless the voters make it clear that these changes are important enough to them to be election deciders.

Despite all of the rancor and screaming and name calling that is going to be a part of the next two months the byproduct of this questionable recall exercise can be more votes that count, fewer secrets and secret sessions, and a scorecard that shows the names of all the players in this most important of all games.

If it is, the real winners might be the people after all.

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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