Sunday, November 27, 2011

What do you know?

By Bill Kraus

The Know Nothing movement of the mid-nineteenth century was a semi-secret political organization (an oxymoron?) which was dedicated to protecting the country from a takeover by German and Irish Catholic immigrants. The name resulted from their members’ keeping their association secret. When asked about the movement they, not unlike TV’s Sergeant Schultz, replied “I know nothing.”

The 21st century version of know nothingness is not a movement but a condition. It describes the citizens who have outsourced, abandoned, and ignored politics and politicians.

The result of this behavior has two deleterious effects. The first is the obvious one of letting the righteous righties who want governments to do nothing and the loony lefties who want them to do everything rise in influence. These are the “bases” to which the candidates must play to get nominated and elected. They used to be marginalized by the dominant moderate middle of both persuasions. No longer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Change in a time of beholdenism

By Bill Kraus

As the occupiers, recallers, and other malcontents are about to learn, the mostly invincible incumbents who occupy our legislatures are largely deaf, dumb, and blind to their supplications.

As a veteran of multiple failed attempts to alter the electoral status quo, I feel equipped to offer several warnings and a little helpful advice.

The first warning is that enormous power has devolved on legislative leaders. The political parties, since they lost the power to recruit, slate, fund and manage campaigns, are noisy paper tigers. The tea party types and possibly the occupiers (if they get serious about acquiring power) could do some of this, but for the most part the legislative leaders are filling the pipeline. Are they filling it with rambunctious, aggressive, creative talents? They are not. They want lemmings. Empty suits. Followers. To a very large extent they seem to have gotten what they want in our state.

This means that anyone who wants something the legislative leaders do not want has his or her work cut out for him or her.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Representative democracy and its mutation

By Bill Kraus

The idea was that the people would elect people to represent them and their interests. Those they elected would become more expert at the job of governing and would lead where leadership was needed never losing sight of their followers.

If they tried to lead where their followers didn’t want to go or if they were defective in other ways, their constituents would lead them. To the door. At the next election.

For many reasons this simple idea has been complicated and corrupted.

The forces, events, whatever, that have warped what the founding fathers wrought and envisioned, in no particular order of importance or sequence, include:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Supreme disappointment

By Bill Kraus

What the responses to my last blog post about de-partisanizing redistricting reminded me of is how far below the radar this whole subject is.

This is not what you would call a high-profile item. A good half of the people who contacted me or who didn’t respond to my contact urging them to join a movement to turn the every decade legislative district map-making over to people who don’t have a dog in the fight seemed wary of my motives.

What had been made clear is that the present system puts competitiveness into the criteria mix. Negatively. As long as the map-making is in the hands of the legislators who occupy these districts, they will favor making fewer districts and the elections for those districts less competitive. So far so good.

The next assumption among the doubters was that the Iowa system, which I admire, tries to make more districts and elections more competitive. This may or may not be the result of disinterested redistricting, but it is not the objective of it. The genius of the Iowa system is that it simply takes competitiveness out of the list of criteria.