Sunday, July 31, 2011

Anarchy on the North Shore

By Bill Kraus

The non party tea party is not in the majority.

What it is or what its self-defining adherents are is a controlling minority.

Welcome to Israel.

Its non caucus is numerous enough to unravel the presumed GOP majority in Washington. The Fitzgeralds are not having Boehner’s problems in Wisconsin. This may be attributed to the fact that the GOP majority here is more like the tea party than it admits or cares to admit.

Whatever the names and alignments and difficulties this new third force is spawning it is fundamentally a new name for an old faction. This faction was generously described as libertarian, less generously as anarchistic. This tea party grandparent was something called The North Shore Republican Club. This was, may still be, a party within the party composed of residents of the northern suburbs of Milwaukee. The club was powerful enough to pick the delegates to the Republican Party State Conventions in the 1960s when being a delegate to the Republican Party State Convention was politically important.

One of its early victims was my estimable friend Harry Franke. Harry represented part of the North Shore Club’s domain in the Assembly and the State Senate in the mid century period when the Club held sway in his districts.

Ultimately the Club excommunicated Harry for, among other things, supporting a tax increase that then Governor Warren Knowles had proposed and passed and for being a prominent leader of the Joe Must Go Club which irreverently suggested that maybe Senator McCarthy might be more interested in getting re-elected after a lackluster first term in Washington than in thwarting an overthrow of our government by Soviet Russia.

The new incarnation of this party within the party still includes the “Don’t Tread On Me” zealots and the taxophobes from the 1960s. They have been joined by the interest groups who want more guns, fewer abortions, and a TSA-like process at the voting booth.

Viewed from a distance this seems to be an unholy alliance on the size, shape, and scale those worthies who brought us prohibition in the early part of the last century papered together.

Like its several predecessors this new phenomenon is causing a lot of trouble for those whose interest is providing a government that works and fulfills the obligations for which it is responsible.

The main differences between then and now is that the radicals are stronger, the moderates are weaker, and the citizen politicians are nowhere.

In the '60s, one of my assignments was to take the Republican Assembly Majority Leader out for a drink and convince him that the state government did have a legitimate role to play in our society. All I got out of this was a hangover.

Ody Fish, who was state GOP chairman at the time was more successful. He almost broke the arm of a state senator from Waukesha County in the process, but he got him to cast the decisive vote on one of Governor Knowles’ budgets. It was, incidentally, the only vote that senator ever cast for any budget during his long tenure. Sound familiar?

We happily didn’t have to deal with the malevolent presence of the talk radio gang, with the power of the moneyed interests to hijack campaigns and terrorize incumbents, or with the professionalization of politics in general and political campaigning in particular, the deleterious effects of which are on display on a television set near you during the current recall season.

We even got Harry Franke into the state convention over the dead bodies of the North Shore Republican delegation by giving him a Portage County badge.

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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