Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The big disconnect

By Bill Kraus

The disconnect between what voters say they want in campaigns and what campaigners deliver, instead, is astonishing:

Voters want less spending on campaigns, less or no robo calls, a shorter campaign season, and candidates who are--to be crude--not for sale; not so beholden to the money that makes all of the other things that voters want less of possible.

Campaign managers say that money is, always was, the mother’s milk of politics, that the amount needed has inflated dramatically as the media has become more expensive, volunteers have been replaced by hired hands, and money is needed to counter third-party spending in campaigns.

Voters want fewer TV commercials.

Campaigners point out that the people who used to be a prime communication medium when campaigning was largely retail are no longer available. TV is now the message and the medium. This shift from organization to mass media has driven costs through the roof and made message condensation essential. The internet and social media may be in the campaigners' future, but the way to make them the message/medium hasn’t been invented yet.

Voters dislike negative ads.

If this were true, campaigners say, negative ads wouldn’t work. Voters have not yet shown they prefer the kinds of positive campaigns of the not-so-distant past. Voters continue to be swayed by the almost always negative contributions of the third party participants in today’s campaigns.

Voters want serious talk about issues and ideas instead of slam bam thank you ma’am appeals to emotions instead of intellect.

Campaigners dismiss this. They concede it may have been true, but probably wasn’t, when newspapers and campaign brochures delivered by volunteers were the medium and the message. We’re talking ancient history here.

Voters want their candidates and their representatives to be civil and to respect each other and the trade they all practice.

Like the tea party, like recalls and protest politics, like movement politics, the campaigners ask? Doesn’t seem so. Their follow up question is, “What is the civil response to the kind of single issue fanaticism that the shooters, the anti-choicers, the gay bashers bring to the campaigns?”

Voters want spending limits.

The campaigners point to the fact that we are now in the third century of court decisions that prize free speech over the collateral damage to citizen participation done by the 19th century’s “corporations are people,” the 20th century’s “money is speech,” and the 21st century’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates even further.

The campaigners will start giving the voters what they say they want as soon as the voters ask candidates to put those things on the vote-driving short agenda and follow through by voting for those who do and against those who don’t.

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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