Monday, June 17, 2013

Store from Hell


By Bill Kraus

There is more to tending the public store than delivering merchandise. The store itself has to be seen to.

We have all seen the recent legislative products on the political store’s shelves and have decided whether we are buying them or not.

What is increasingly obvious is that the store itself, the system which delivers the product, is falling apart.

The writer George Packer says that the nation’s leaders have “abandoned their posts.”

They are not dealing with the flaws in the political system. They are not tending the store.

I could start with something as basic as the distrust and disdain that 90 percent of those polled say they have for the people who they have elected to public office.

Is the fact that most incumbents are easily elected and re-elected an adequate excuse for not trying to do better or for overlooking the fact that Edward Snowden is only the tip of a very large iceberg of disgusted, potentially disruptive citizens who are, to put it kindly, disengaged?

The larger iceberg, which is also being ignored, is the disengaged elite, those citizens who once ran the store, who are now outsourcing participation and think sending money to bought-and-paid-for incumbents who will deal favorably with their needs is all that modern-day citizenship requires.

The excessive partisanship, government by caucus, and party-line voting brings into question whether we are governed by ideology or by people with imagination and ideas of their own or by a class of new age lemmings.

The rise of influence of well funded third parties that have the ability to hijack campaigns in an era characterized by media soundbites, lightly informed voters, and elections driven by slogans and spending is unchallenged.

Has anybody noticed?

The victims/beneficiaries of reputation destroying money in politics have given up trying to mitigate the courts’ obsession with free speech. The rare successes of poor boy and groundgame campaigns are derided as aberrations instead of lauded as routes away from the beholdenism that money=speech has engendered.

The Supreme Court is part of the money problem, but the other part is leaders who fear slowing the money flow from interest groups whose donors want to keep their donations secret. The Supremes' suggestion that legislators tell the voters who is buying all these ads the voters say they hate is widely ignored.

And, of course, the dramatic alteration of the election system by unrestricted gerrymandering is ignored by whichever party it happens to favor at the moment.

Packer is right. The people in power are seen as tending to the needs of the extremists who they credit with giving them power. He says they have abandoned their posts, that the store itself needs tending. I can’t help wondering if all of this couldn’t be made into a compelling campaign.

Maybe it’s time to introduce civility and serious debate about complex questions into campaigns and to step away from the smashmouth style of the hired guns and yellow dog partisans.

Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

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