Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Up in the air

Something immense has happened on Wisconsin's political landscape, but what it is at this point is mostly unknown.  

By Bill Kraus

The immediate reaction to the collection of over 1 million signatures on recall petitions is: WOW.

There have been no elections. But there will be one big one for governor and five for lesser offices.

The outcomes are not predictable. The challengers to the recallable incumbents aren’t even decided. But something significant is afoot.

If politics is still lists, and the role of money and TV messages it buys to the contrary notwithstanding it stll is, the Democrats have 30,000 qualified activists and the names and addresses--and to a considerable extent the ever-important e-mail addresses--of more than a million voters who are somewhere between sympathetic and enthusiastic about Democrats’ ideas, issues and representatives.

This is an enormous head start on the recall campaigns on the horizon.

Properly nurtured, these are foot soldiers in the battles for majorities for years to come in terms of recruiting candidates, raising money, mounting campaigns and governing.

There are lots of balls still in the air, but this one has landed with a resounding thud.

Among the balls that are still up in the air:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Six degrees of ruination

While almost everyone thinks our current political system is corrupt, there are still too many influential people who like it that way. 

By Bill Kraus

In a recent Kathleen Dunn show on Wisconsin Public Radio, her two guests made a lively, lucid presentation on the two pretty much mutually exclusive “ideal” campaign financing proposals that are competing (unfairly, as will soon be obvious) for the hearts and minds of a somnolent public.

The primary objective of the position espoused by spokesman for the bevy of “reform” organizations at state and national levels is direct or indirect public financing so that the money needed to pay for increasingly expensive media driven campaigns will come from subsidized small donors or the government directly. Doable. The secondary goal is to expose and, to the limited extent possible, regulate and suppress the participation of non candidates and organizations in the election itself. Harder.

The market position is a no holds, no spending limits, unregulated free-for-all in which anyone and everyone, including the candidates themselves, can contribute and spend without disclosing where the money for campaigns and campaign advertising comes from.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

True believers ascendant

By Bill Kraus

I have a lot of trouble with true believers...I have always had a lot of trouble with true believers. The main reason is that they think they can simplify the truly complicated and contentious into a slogan.

This tendency would be correctable if they listened, but they don’t.

The true believers on the right are fundamentally anarchists who think the market and its free enterprise operatives have the solution to all things large and small. Those on the left believe the public sector in general the government in particular is father-knows-best and can solve all things large and small.

Both are wrong.

The recently marginalized occupants of what we call “the middle” are less sure of anything than the true believers are of everything, which may or may not be a virtue, and know that there are no simple solutions to most of the things that confront us as individuals and collectively.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Three wishes (and some other stuff)

By Bill Kraus

Resolutions are unlimited, nice, personal, breakable. Wishes are bigger, better, limited (like a political agenda; no more than three) and are so hard to achieve that breakability is superfluous.

When I asked for nominations, I excluded personalities. Recall Walker or Re-elect Obama and the like were edited out.

The three that survived are headed by, no surprise here, a wish that someone, anyone running for public office would talk about the fact that our representative government is at risk, endangered. Everyone I talk to loves the reform agenda: less gerrymandering, shorter election cycles, an even playing field, less spending. Unfortunately, nobody loves the agenda passionately. A “Save Representative Government” rally would not draw flies.

It does, nonetheless, need saving. It has plenty of enemies. The U.S. Supreme Court among them. The money drive election process is wretchedly unbalanced. Candidates must follow strict rules on how much money they can collect and from whom and must report in great detail the sources of that money. Candidates are routinely outspent by outside organizations that do not have to reveal the sources of their money and are spared the candidates’ burden of declaring who they are or that they approve the message being delivered.