Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why we're in the ditch

By Bill Kraus

The rocky road to political civility has many detours, potholes, and even switchbacks. It may end up being inaccessible. But the voters, who told us that they disliked no fault recalls more than they disliked the governor, may find an unexpected, creative route to civility as well.

The first obstacle is deafness. The Supreme Court which opened the floodgates to third-party campaigners and their money have not noticed the collateral damage to the integrity of campaigns and campaigners and the unfairness of the playing field which their decisions have tilted toward unregulated, undisclosed attack advertising.

The second obstacle is incumbents whose lives are made miserable and expensive by the presence of those third parties and by the unfulfillable need to raise enough money to counter the damage done to them and their campaigns but not miserable enough for them to take advantage of the one remaining weapon they have to defend themselves: full disclosure of who these third parties are and where they get their money to do the awful things they do to the trade and its participants.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Advice to the lovelorn

By Bill Kraus

Twenty years ago the Senate Democrats asked me to tell them why they were not beloved. I told them. They haven’t invited me back, nor have they acted on what I told them.

Recently, a mostly public labor union group asked me the same question. I accepted their invitation. I never learn. I told them I thought they lost the sympathy that accompanied the Republican overreach on collective bargaining by resorting to the kind of bullying in the recall process that had spurred the Republican overreach.

The face of public labor unions is the 500-pound gorilla that buys power with money and votes to crush their enemies and intimidate their friends. Actually, one of the beneficiaries of their largesse once told me, “You have it wrong. They are not the 500-pound gorilla. It’s more like a 600-pound gorilla.”

Other contributors to this discussion suggested that the public unions’ world has changed and the face of these organizations must change as well. Instead of the hard-line, aggressive, no holds barred leaders and staffs, the unions should put their main assets, the teachers and public employees, out front.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Loving the abuse

By Bill Kraus

Traditionally the party conventions were the high point of pandering to the partisans. The idea was to pump them up enough so they’d go home and do the grunt work of getting out the vote. The vote of the partisans they left behind.

The candidates then gave a wink and a nod to the partisan-pleasing platform and reshaped the rest of the campaign in ways that would attract a majority of the undecideds, the independents, and the casuals.

This part of the campaign had to be constructed in ways that didn’t de-energize the aforementioned partisans, that made solid proposals that would attract the attentive, policy hungry independents and that might tantalize the casuals who are politically uninterested, uninformed, unconnected and are susceptible to side issues and slogans about things like jobs, health care, costs, and personality defects and attributes.

This tradition is still intact, but just barely.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The next press

By Bill Kraus

Even though the business model for the traditional newspaper business no longer works, we are told we needn’t worry because the internet delivery system will soon be universal.

More and more newspapers are delivering more and more often and even exclusively via the internet, which is fine but not good enough.

The internet is like a library. It is a social center. It has all the knowledge in the world at hand. It has newspapers. It has everything a library has, and it has it on steroids.

The internet is a scholarly medium, newspapers are a sciolistic one.

Like a professor lecturing in a classroom, newspapers are a quaint, ancient way to transmit knowledge and information. Both are widely criticized. Neither has been surpassed. The other mass media are time and content limited. Only newspapers are designed in ways that inadvertently widen the readers’ worlds.

The jock who starts with the sports section can stumble over the story in the society section about Bill Veeck’s widow and her friend whose husband covered baseball when Veeck integrated the American League. The social butterfly is exposed to a story about the remarkable Mary Fisher who taught a Republican Convention about AIDS.