Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Triumvirate of campaign deform

By Bill Kraus

Despite widespread agreement on the deleterious effects of money in politics, we have a long history of not doing much about all the things we complain about.

Almost all attempts, from the worthy to the fantasized, have been thwarted by three formidable forces:

1.) Recalcitrant Republicans who think their minority position means that only disproportionatley large amounts of money will achieve electoral success. To put it bluntly an even playing field is not likely to be on their wish list.

2.) Duplicitous Democrats who lament their self- perceived inability to raise as much money as their Republican opponents and support regulation of campaign spending until they achieve a working majority despite this handicap. Their appetite for reform depends entirely on whether or not they have that majority.

3.) The U.S. Supreme Court whose rulings for three centuries have firmly rejected regulation of and limits on political spending.

I know, I know, Republicans once supported the disclosure of political contributors and the Supreme Court even encouraged legislation that would do this, and many on the left continue to believe in and invent ways to bring small contributors with their minimal money into play in a big way. But the fact is that we are about to have a billion dollar presidential campaign.

So what are we to do? Sit still in front of our TV sets and watch the increasingly clever and creative appeals designed by an increasingly clever and creative campaign management industry? Let our answering machines collect for future erasure an endless accumulation of robo phone calls? Read and toss the beautiful 4-color brochures that arrive with the daily mail? Spend endless hours with our various, miraculous electronic devices sorting through the fire hose rush of tweets, posts, blogs, and propaganda of all sizes and shapes that all that money is buying and dispersing into our own cyberspace?

Not appealing, but a case can be made is that what more and more of us are both doing and complaining about.

What is overlooked is that we still have the ultimate weapon. We have what all that money is being spent to get. We have our votes.

We can vote against the negative and for the positive. If all is negative, we can vote for the lesser of the two.

We can stigmatize over-spending.

We can kick back against the parallel campaigns by the mom and apple pie organizations who are promoting their own little ideologies.

We can get back into politics. We can tell candidates what kind of campaign spending we want and don’t want.

We can put our votes where our mouths are in any and every way.

If we can’t find candidates or causes that agree with us, we can join with others who feel the way we do and let the professionals know that our votes and their strategies are incompatible.

I’m dreaming? Perhaps.

But it beats sitting on the sidelines bitching about our screwed-up electoral system.

Follow Bill Kraus on:

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Bill Kraus is the Co-Chair of Common Cause in Wisconsin's State Governing Board

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