Monday, October 29, 2012

Myths and fantasies


By Bill Kraus

Election season produces myths and fantasies aplenty. There is a bumper crop this year.

Attack ads work best:

They work best for the people who produce and promulgate them and convince candidates that they work best. And they are indisputably suited for soundbite politics. But to claim they work best there would have to be competing positive, position ads to compare them with. There aren’t any. Some long-suffering reporter in Colorado Springs watched 1,500 political ads this year. Five of them were positive.

The internet is today's news source:

The internet is a wonder. The internet is a library. Newspapers are in the library and on the internet. Newspapers are convenient, disposable, and aggressively comprehensive. The internet is inconvenient and aggressively specialized and segmented. Big difference.

Monday, October 22, 2012

North and down


By Bill Kraus

The call came from Bob in Stevens Point. The offer was an hour on Glenn’s public radio show produced in Wausau followed by good seats at the Tammy Tommy debate near the studio.

There’s a show on public radio not produced in Madison or Milwaukee? There is. It’s called Route 51, and it is broadcast on those stations located in the mostly unoccupied upper third of the state. I assume I am not the only resident of insular, insulated southern Wisconsin who didn’t know this.

I went and joined Bob and Glenn in the studio along with Christine who was there to make sure the famous public broadcasting balance was intact.

Bob said the show would be a lounge act for the debate to follow. It was more than that. We touched all the usual bases, discredited a few of the myths--that CEO are vicious, rich tyrants who tell their employees how to vote and that the votes in Wisconsin are seriously distorted by busloads of illegals brought in from Illinois--and, we thought, elevated the political conversation from the “you are; am not; are too” level of the media discourse.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A wish list

By Bill Kraus

This is a combination of what I hear from others, what I wish, what I wish I heard from everyone. All followed, alas, by the reasons these wishes are not going to come true.

Shorter Election Season
: In England, campaigns run 60 days. English elections are called, not scheduled. It would be foolish to campaign for an uncalled election.

More Civil, Less Costly Elections: Extreme partisans have always favored belligerent campaigns. The moderates who ran the parties when the parties were running and funding the campaigns always marginalized the extreme partisans and pitched those campaigns to the independent, persuadeables whose votes determined the winners. That group is now marginalized in favor of the new conventional wisdom that it is more important to motivate the committed than to win over a shrinking group of undecideds. Bellicosity prevails.

Less Superficial Rhetoric: This is a protest against sound bites, 30-second commercials, sloganeering, demonizing ad homenism. The new target is the “low information, low attention” market and this market wants simple answers to complex questions and are put off by the pedantic complexities of, say, the once staple full page ads in the no longer important newspapers.

More Truth, Fewer Specious Assertions: The truth is often elusive and questionable. Exaggeration works better particularly in a segmented, fragmented world where “I read it in the paper” is a bygone mantra, and no commonly accepted go-to medium has replaced it for the mass audience.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Some kind of justice

By Bill Kraus

An interesting compromise between those who support an elected judiciary and those who prefer an appointed one was casually and quietly trashed during the radical winter of 2011.

What was given the brush off was something called the Impartial Justice Act.

It was enacted at the request of all the sitting members of the Supreme Court who had witnessed or suffered the precipitous decline in the seriousness and civility of several recent Supreme Court campaigns.

What the act would have done was fully fund those campaigns if the participants accepted public money in exchange for not raising their own campaign warchests.

This act was intended to end the unseemly process of (mostly) lawyers paying for the campaigns of the judges they would appear before.

The justices got half of what they wanted when the Legislature enacted the law, but they didn’t get what they considered enough money to run respectable statewide campaigns as a part of the deal. They evidently considered this uncalled for penuriousness a fixable and a small, hopefully temporary, price to pay for the greater good of not being thought of as beholden to questionable fundraising practices.

Monday, October 1, 2012

All kinds of dumb

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.