Monday, January 28, 2013

Trench mouth


By Bill Kraus

The 10th rule of government (circa 1980) is “A stalemate must be broken before there is time to dig a trench.”

This rule is no longer operative.

Most legislators now live in trenches.

These trenches were dug for them by their fiercely partisan supporters.

Most legislators, somewhat paradoxically, have been gerrymandered (actually have gerrymandered themselves) into districts where they are unassailable from their traditional, other-party adversaries.

Their new natural enemies are the trench-supplying, aforementioned, fiercely partisan supporters who want them to be as unyielding and uncivil and uncompromising as they, the fiercely partisan supporters, are.

This full explanation of the system comes to you courtesy of a member of the now despised and denigrated minority known in Republican circles as RINOs (Republican In Name Only), more generally as “moderates.”

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pipelines and cauldrons


By Bill Kraus

The discussion was about empty pipelines. It started with an obvious question. Who will the Dems run against Walker? The follow up was less obvious but beyond probable. Who will the Republicans run if Walker heads for greener and friendlier national pastures while he is still an iconic figure?

Two things immediately became evident. Both parties' pipelines are empty, and what once was a bubbling, boiling cauldron of ambitious wannabes--the state Legislature--is cold and dormant.

What happened?

There have been occasional forays by outsiders like Lee Dreyfus, but most candidates for governor in Wisconsin have come with a legislative history. The main exceptions have come from the other traditional spawning ground: the attorney general's office referred to by insiders by its initials AG, which often stood for "Almost Governor."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Who killed representative government?


By Bill Kraus

I am reminded of an Agatha Christie book and movie called Murder on the Orient Express in which the redoubtable Poirot finds that an execution was the work of not a single culprit/suspect but all of them.

The difference is that representative government is not dead yet or doesn’t know it is.

The suspects are a combination of outside people and forces and the legislature itself. The death when it comes will be a combination murder suicide.

Suspect 1

Populists came along early and often. Even Wisconsin’s beloved Fighting Bob wanted us to have initiative and referendum and no fault recall so we could impose agenda items and punish representatives who voted in ways we didn’t like. It’s an open question whether these are attempts to get a town hall government or a way to protect the people from the people they voted into office. Doesn’t matter. What this has turned into is a field day for public relations big spenders who can work their will an issue or an incumbent at a time without waiting for the next election. The most extreme example is California where conflicting referendums and other zaniness threaten to make representative government unworkable.

A milder form of populist intrusion is something called TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) which puts a lid on how much the people we elected to govern can tax us to do the job we elected them to. It is said to work in Colorado. It is doubtful that the founding fathers figured this kind of hobbling.

Suspect 2

Monday, January 7, 2013

The lonely crusade for rational redistricting


By Bill Kraus

Everybody who has been paying attention knows that decades of gerrymandering via maps and mathematics have inevitably created two sets of elections with two sets of winners beholden to two very different constituencies. Or, in a word, a gridlock democracy.

A gridlock, no compromise between executive and legislative branches world is hardly what the founding fathers had in mind and sets a course for governing futility.

I, along with many others, thought that those with the power to do so would move quickly to repair the damage gerrymandering has done by changing the way legislative districts are fashioned before permanent, irremediable hardening of the arteries sets in.

I was wrong.

The first clue came from three presentations I made to three very different groups about the results of and remedies for legislative redistricting by incumbents and partisans.

All three audiences agreed that most of us have lost a real choice of who is to represent us by the time of the November election, that this was not desirable, and that someone should probably do something about this.