Monday, July 8, 2013

And not as I do


By Bill Kraus

President Obama on a recent visit to Tanzania complimented that country on its move toward democracy but added an admonition that indicated they had not completed the job. He told them that they would not have a true democracy until “everyone feels their government is truly responsive and their voices are being heard.”

Like ours?


This may just be the manifestation of the great U.S. conceit of giving advice to others which implies we are doing in our country what we are telling them to do in theirs.

There are, of course, organizations mostly and a few people in this country who think those running our “democracy” are responsive and that their voices are being heard. I do not happen to be one of them.

But I am not a member of the National Rifle Association or the Catholic Church or any organization that wants to turn this country into a gated community.

That may be why I feel like I’m a member of the “unheard.” A couple of incidents illustrate.

Along with a large, impressive group of mostly former public representatives and servants, I offered to do whatever the powers in Wisconsin wanted done to minimize government by recall--something that a large majority of voters had already indicated was what they wanted done. Phone calls to those with their hands on the levers of power went unanswered and unreturned. I did not feel our voices were being heard.

On another matter a call to the office of a chairman of a Wisconsin Assembly committee inquiring about whether and when a hearing was going to be held on a subject that interested me got the brush off from an officious staffer whose head had been swollen by the position he occupied in the chairman’s office. Unheard again.

It is hard to believe that a closed shop government which suffers from institutional deafness is even going to be within shouting distance of the sort of “responsiveness” the president touted to the Tanzanians.

On an almost trivial level, I had an opportunity that paralleled in kind if not in importance that the president had in Africa.

I was invited to talk to a group of Italian business executives who were at the University of Wisconsin to learn about how business works in this country. They asked to be acquainted with how our political system works as well. I assumed they wanted to go back to Italy and emulate both.

I had to be a disappointment to them.

I told them that our political system was a train wreck and was not worth emulating, and that they should take pains to avoid the mistakes our elected officials and courts have made over the years.

I suppose the president couldn’t have given similar counsel to the Tanzanians, but I wish he had. At the very least he would have avoided having people think he’s delusional about the state of our democracy.

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