Sunday, November 4, 2012

Small signs of a big problem


By Bill Kraus

1. In 2008, candidate Obama turns down $100 million in public financing for his campaign because he can’t live with that as a spending limit. Nobody complains. The do-good reform organizations which are the main proponents of public financing are surprisingly quiet.

2. In 2010 there is an open seat for governor in Wisconsin. None of the 132 incumbent legislators run for it.

3. Speakers Boehner and Fitzgerald, despite their large majorities, are unable to round up enough votes to support a tax/spend deal with the president (Boehner) or a job creating bill for the governor (Fitzgerald).

4. A politically active citizen asks what can be done to stifle a state legislator whose views are at odds with his and his party’s. He is told that he can run a candidate against his nemesis. “I don’t know how to do that,” he says.

5. Legislation urged by the entire Wisconsin Supreme Court and enacted by incumbents from both parties which is intended to fully fund elections to that court with public funds to a eliminate the perceived unseemliness of lawyers who may appear before that court funding the election of candidates for the court is eliminated. There is no public objection nor is anything heard from the members of the court or the legislators who voted for the full public funding legislation. Unseemliness wins.

6. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel discontinues its tradition of recommending/endorsing candidates for public office.

7. Television commercials, which have become the main medium of campaign communications for any campaign which can afford them, are 99 percent attacks on the sponsors’ opponents. The citizens who are asked are 99 percent opposed to these ads and to other annoyances like robocalls which flood the airwaves and clog the telephone lines. The ads do not turn positive. The calls do not stop.

8. Mendacity consisting of half truths or outright lies is tolerated.

9. Credulity is tested as candidates make Alice in Wonderland promises and absurd-but-frightening charges on everything and anything.

10. Campaigns are increasingly funded by big money from big institutions. Adding to the contributions by labor unions are the Political Action Committees (PACs) which were created to solve the excesses of political parties, the corporate contributors which were freed by the Citizens United decisions, the Super PACs, the third-party organizations created by billionaires of all varieties who want to spread their ideas as well as their money around. Modest contributions are highly praised (95 percent of our donations are less than $200, one campaign says; the campaign does not say how much of the total campaign budget comes from that 95 percent) but increasingly insignificant in effect as campaigning hits the 10 digit stratosphere

This is what politics has become: a combination of show business, a profession and a career for campaign managers and unambitious incumbents, a gold mine for the hired campaign managers and television broadcasters, just another market where citizens are consumers and half truths and unsupportable claims are commonplace.

The system is broken. We’ll see what it delivers on Tuesday.

More importantly, we might see a widespread effort to reverse the 10 signs, above, on Wednesday.

Follow Bill Kraus on:

twitter / wmkraus

No comments:

Post a Comment