Monday, June 25, 2012

From incongruity to incompatibility

By Bill Kraus

In 1914, when the La Follette movement was at full strength, the voters rejected his attempt to limit the powers of those elected as representatives by adopting initiative and referendum and no-fault recalls.

This was before California showed the world that populism enhances instead of diminishing the power of the special interests La Follette opposed, especially special interests with money.


Ten years later the La Follette movement was well established, but La Follette’s life was over. The La Follette adherents decided to revive the no-fault recall to deter the opponents of the man and his ideas from reversing what La Follette, with the considerable help of Governor Francis McGovern, had wrought. They added the previously rejected no-fault recall provision to the Constitution to do this. Whether this was unnecessary or worked as intended is hard to determine.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Shallow pool

By Bill Kraus

The candidates’ lot is not a happy one.

Put yourself in the role of someone considering running for political office or trying to recruit someone of substance to do so.

For openers, any candidate must be told that a substantial amount of time and effort will have to be devoted to raising the money needed to finance these evermore expensive campaigns. The parties that used to do this--and that, in the process, insulated candidates from the quid pro quos that often accompany the money--disappeared in the wake of the Watergate reforms.

Campaigning itself is no kiss for Christmas either; plant gates, grabbing hands of people heading to work half-asleep and attentive or heading home tired and inattentive; doing doors; if you’re important enough, drawing the bilious scorn of the talk radio “entertainers” who are in the business of selling ad time.

There’s no telling what your opponent and those who support your opponent are going to say publicly about you, your forebears, your life, but it isn’t going to be pleasant.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Lights on and nobody home

By Bill Kraus

How can it be that we live in a low-information society? We have the remnants of the once dominant newspapers, we have TV news, we have radio, and, best of all, we have the incredible internet.

What we don’t have is a unifying, widely-accepted public communication medium.

To put it as colloquially and simply as possible, we don’t have page 5 of the Milwaukee Sentinel. We don’t even have the Milwaukee Sentinel. The communication mantra when we did was that everyone in government read the morning paper, and whatever was on page one or the state news page 5 determined what everyone’s day would be like.

The operative word was “everyone,” including most of the citizenry.

There was TV news with its “if it bleeds, it leads” emphasis and its time constraints.

Radio was all over the place. From the often overlong on public radio, to the breathlessly short on commercial radio, spiced by the talk radio screamers who admit under questioning that they are really in the entertainment business.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Desperately seeking Dewey

By Bill Kraus

I cast my first vote for president in 1948. I voted for Thomas Dewey. He lost. Since he lost to Harry Truman who later became an almost iconic figure in American history I didn’t talk much about my first vote. A little embarrassed.

Then I read a book about the contributions that presidential losers have made to the betterment of the country across the years. Henry Clay was definitely the top of the “should have beens” but was undermined by bad timing.

Stephen Douglas, who knew, devoted most of his energy to stopping the secessionists and saving the Democratic party after losing to Lincoln in 1860.

Even the flamboyant bible thumper William Jennings Bryan gets credit for many of the developments he never got into office to enact but his successors from both parties acceded to.

My biggest surprise, however, was Thomas Dewey.

I don’t know who I credited with the kind of Republicanism I tried to practice, but it sure wasn’t Dewey. It should have been.