Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fixing the unfixable


By Bill Kraus

My list has three categories. None of them are easy. Too many are impossible.


Gerrymandering. The maps reveal everything about the Legislature’s over-reaching to make more and more legislative districts safe. Legislatures in some 20 states have passed laws which are the equivalent of “stop me before I do this again.” Iowa’s law is the best. All that needs to be done is to overcome the opposition of the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader to do what Iowa has done. Hard.

Disclosure. The theory is that if the voters know who pays for the ads run by third parties for and against candidates, the ads would be less effective. That’s the theory. It might be more than a theory if those running the ads had to identify their organizations or causes up front the way candidates do. The legislators who would have to pass a law to force disclosure are safe enough to be almost fearless, except they are afraid of or beholden to the big money sources who prefer not to be revealed. Hard.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Whatever were they thinking?


By Bill Kraus

I am assembling stories from near and far for "Whatever Were They Thinking? Awards" along the lines of the Darwin Awards.

There will be no strict rules, but I expect the entries will be about serious missteps (or over-reaching) by those in power who are important enough to attract press attention.

The antics of the likes of New York City’s Andrew Wiener and Madison’s Brett Hulsey, which seem to me to be in a different category--Not Thinking perhaps--will not be eligible.

A few examples of what I consider eligible follow.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Flunking the Fukuyama test


By Bill Kraus

What Francis Fukuyama’s erudite and thorough book The Origins of Political Order concludes is that, while never fault-free and always subject to the preferences of those who hold power, there is and always has been a best political system or order.

It gets trampled from time to time as despots, totalitarians, and the dreaded “Man on a white horse” assume and abuse power, but it keeps coming back.

It’s known as democracy, and it comes in various shapes and sizes and with different names in different places.

The best of the breed has four characteristics.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A big mouth with no teeth


By Bill Kraus

The chair of the national Republican Party, Reince Priebus, recently declared that the party embraces life, marriage, and one sovereign God.

The big tent party of my youth that Tommy Thompson and his Wisconsin Republican predecessors understood embraced things like frugality, a manageable public sector agenda, competence, and inclusion.

If they embraced the things that Chair Preibus extols, they did so quietly. Their party accepted those who disliked abortion as much as anyone, but preferred to leave that decision to patients and doctors. Their party was willing to extend whatever rights their government granted to heterosexual couples to gay couples as well without questioning the right of any church to sanctify whatever marriages they liked. And all gods or none were considered private matters as well, which they found consistent with their strong preference for the separation of church and state.

The good news is that today’s party is a shadow of its former self.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lighten up and open up


By Bill Kraus

Almost all the things people say they dislike about politics and politicians--and the reason both get approval ratings in the low teens--are driven by secrecy and seriousness.

A couple of examples will suffice.

The blitzkrieg on the public unions that had long terrified their political enemies and intimidated their political friends was neither promised or predicted and was devastatingly effective.

The resulting demise or decline of the 600-pound gorillas has gone pretty much unmourned quietly by their presumed friends and celebrated exuberantly by their enemies. I would expect the same sort of reception to the overreaching of the billionaires who have their own sets of terrifieds and intimindateds as, if, and when the reaction to their excesses occurs as it surely must.

The Capitol's newly newsworthy Solidarity Singers are the public manifestation of those who don’t know that the battle has shifted, that they are prolonging the fighting in a war that is over. What they have set off is an equally ridiculous opposite response by the always questionable forces of law and order who are in a modest way replicating the unlearned lessons of Mayor Daley’s fiasco of 1968.

Lighten up, everybody.

And open up.