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.

Even got around to talking about things that no candidate or campaign talks about. How you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours gerrymandering has made the newly rearranged 7th district which Wausau and Stevens Point are part of much less competitive, thereby joining the other seven Wisconsin congressional districts where the winners are picked in the August primary not the November general election.

Deplored the length and cost of campaigns too, which seems to be an out of bounds topic for both parties and all candidates as well.

God, gays, and guns didn’t come up.

Kind of a Joy Cardin show from afar at a more respectable hour for a more pastoral audience.

Then it was on to the “debate.” Quotation marks are deliberate.

Anyone who has finished high school knows these are not debates. Nobody knows what they are. Certainly not me.

Bob and I, who were adults when radio not television was the evening entertainment medium, were reminded of a once popular radio show. The stars were Kenosha’s own Don Ameche and Frances Langford. They played a married couple, and for a half hour every week they bickered. The show was appropriately called “The Bickersons.” They agreed on nothing and traded endless insults, most of which were quite funny.

Tommy and Tammy did the same, but weren’t funny.

The long suffering moderators, hosts, whatever, posed a series of questions. Tommy and Tammy replied, or not. Then the two combatants were given six minutes to talk to each other about the subject of the moment. For the most part they talked to the audience instead and, of course, they bickered. The Bickersons would have been proud.

As has become the accepted practice, no one says what they will do about anything. They prefer to tell what their opponents have not done or done wrong about everything. It’s show business.

One is tempted to say “enough already; I get it; I get it.” I know that Tommy cut taxes 91 times. I know that Tammy loves the middle class. I know that Tommy went to Washington and got rich. I know that Tammy is more liberal than Nancy Pelosi.

I also know that the 350 people in that room in Wausau had decided who they were going to vote for when they settled into their seats and that neither candidate changed a single vote because of anything either of them said.

I had hoped for more. Tommy and Tammy have known each other a long time. They probably like each other. They view the world differently and have differing ideas of what is wrong and what fixes are needed.

I had hoped they would have talked about those things.

They bickered instead.

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