Monday, December 26, 2011

What 'government-by-recall' begets

By Bill Kraus

The recall frenzy is either a grassroots reaction to an abuse of power by a radical group or it is an unjustified expansion of what the recall provision of the Constitution intended to be a response to personal perfidy into policy disagreement.

If the latter, it is a dangerous departure from the design of our system into something approaching those parliamentary democracies where governments are overturned on bad or unpopular decisions not bad behavior.

Our response to bad decisions has been to throw the rascals out at the next election. The expanded recall definition/option throws them out immediately.

Justified or not, this clearly changes the way we do business in this country. Elections here are for stated terms. In the parliamentary system, elections are mostly indeterminate in length. Usually, new elections are called when those in power wear out their welcome or don’t produce the expected results. They could also be a response to abuses of power or other mis- or malfeasance.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The incredible shrinking reform agenda

By Bill Kraus

Not too long ago there were high hopes that an inventive combination of spending limits on candidates accompanied by a dose of public money into campaigns and an offset feature that would have provided matching funds to protect candidates from campaign spending by hostile, outside forces would become law in Wisconsin.

This didn’t happen. The Republicans never liked the public money idea, the Supreme Court didn’t like what they regarded as suppression of free speech, the Obama campaign passed on public financing, and free marketers everywhere, including our own Democratic Governor Doyle, didn’t support this attempt to starve the campaign beast.

The reform movement shifted to what the Republicans had said and the Supreme Court did say was the best option: disclosure. The candidates wouldn’t get any money or any protection against hijacked campaigns, but at least they would know who their enemies were. The Republicans backed off when organizations like Right to Life, which had supported them with collateral campaigns, told them their money would dry up if their donors were revealed.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The moderate's dilemma

By Bill Kraus

Judging from the ideas being forwarded and the appeals being made by candidates today it is easy to conclude that the moderates are being marginalized at best, ignored at worst.

Candidates who had the problem of being attractive enough to win the primaries, where immoderates and immoderation are disproportionately represented, without poisoning the general election well don’t appear to be worried about that as much anymore.

Those who vote in primaries are no longer regarded as a stepping stone to the general election. They have become the main event.

This is not surprising at the legislative level, where partisan redistricting has made most general elections irrelevant. Statewide and even presidential candidates are behaving as if that is true in their elections as well. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Representative democracy

By Bill Kraus

I know, I know. It isn’t perfect. It never was. There were always representatives who represented something other than the people who elected them. Like money. Or even something purely self serving.

With “advantage” redistricting doing maximum damage, there are more and more “representatives” who represent a segment or two of the electorate and markedly fewer representatives who believe that while they were undeniably elected by a percentage of the voters they represent everyone in the district they were elected to represent.

These untoward trends and developments are naturally exacerbated when the representatives of one party win majorities in both houses and control the executive office as well.

The question then is whether the two main ideas being used to offset these inherent flaws in this imperfect system are really improvements.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Interesting Political Times

By Cal Potter

One can surely say that we live in very interesting political times. Conservatives are already hard at work pinning all the political and economic problems and decisions of the last ten years on President Obama. Massive corporate dollars and many irresponsible talk show hosts and politicians are fueling a political atmosphere that defies fact and intellect, and has too many civic illiterate citizens buying this trash talking propaganda as the truth.

The basic facts being perverted are that if our nation still had the tax rates of the Clinton administration; had not been fighting, mostly through deficit spending, two multi-trillion dollar wars; and did not have the great recession brought to us by irresponsible Wall Street and major banking actions, this nation today would have no national debt at all - None. The political and financial community decision makers over the past ten years have given us a real economic mess, and a political climate wherein cooperation and compromise, needed if a divided and pluralistic society such as ours is to function in behalf of the citizenry, is impossible.

The voters are indeed fed-up as is reflected in the 9% positive rating given to Congress in recent national polling. One would think that Congress, faced with this unbelievable negative report card, would be falling all over themselves trying to regain some semblance of public support. Herein lies another facet of our interesting political times, the reliance for re-election on one issue voters, who when added together, can still give politicians victories in spite of over-all dismal performance ratings.