May 28, 2004
The Wisdom of Pogo
By Bill Kraus
Thomas Jefferson said that if the citizens get a choice between a free press and free elections, they should pick a free press everytime.
Putting aside the question of just how free our press is for the moment, just how important is a free press if the citizens are out to lunch?
Once again Pogo is right: the enemy is us. We are not paying attention, we are not voting, we are not making those who represent us turn square corners. We are getting the government we deserve.
May 21, 2004
By Bill Kraus
As the only admitted Republican on the national board of Common Cause, it falls to me to remind this organization about the realities of reform in this country at this moment in time.
Common Cause is familiar with the difficulty of getting its agenda (spending limits on everybody now and redistricting reform eventually) past recalcitrant Republicans when they are in power.
As an organization that leans Democratic, Common Cause operates under the delusion that the reform agenda will advance quickly and easily when the Democrats are in charge.
It falls to me to point out to this august organization that as, if, and when this Edenic situation is reached, they are going to have as big a problem with duplicitous Democrats as we now have with the aforementioned recalcitrant Republicans. Incumbents of both parties, because they are incumbents, have the keys to the campaign contribution vault and they have no interest in surrendering them.
Find and elect more John McCains and Russ Feingolds.
May 14, 2004
The harm that labeling can do
By Bill Kraus
I was driving back from Central Wisconsin recently and heard a radio ad for the Capital Times. The label the ad put on the newspaper would be widely regarded as accurate. The ad said it was “progressive.” So far so good. But once that label is pre-empted, competitors seem to be reduced to the antonym: regressive.
Less amusing is the pre-emption embodied in those in the abortion choice debate of the label. Pro-life. As Bob Williams once asked, “What does that make me? Pro-death?”
The latest label ogre on the horizon is something called TABOR, which is an acronym for Taxpayers Bill of Rights. Unarguable but misleading. The organizations and people behind the label are really, in my mind anyway, in favor of revenue limits and against representative government. It is kind of a “Stop me before I tax again!” response to lawmakers who are too weak-willed to say no to anything.
But that is an aside. The fact is that the TABOR idea may or may not be attractive, but the label is dynamite.
May 7, 2004
Money and zealots
By Bill Kraus
A story in the New York Times reports that something called a "deliberative poll" demonstrates what we are all coming to believe: John Edwards would be a stronger candidate against George Bush than John Kerry is.
It did not take any particular genius or a deliberative poll to learn that John McCain would have been a stronger candidate against Al Gore than George Bush was.
So how did both major parties end up with such flawed candidates?
The primary system did it.
The Bush organization proved that you can push your candidate all the way to the nomination if you are rich enough. By the time the 2000 primary campaign moved south, McCain was out of money, and Bush was in.
The Kerry organization, after a skillful campaign in Iowa that used Vietnam veterans to devastating effect to propel him over the ABB's (Anybody But Bush) favorite, Howard Dean. Dean, of course, would complete the job with the self-destructing "I have a scream" speech. This left Kerry as the most fervid anti-Busher, and since the ABBs were dominating the nominating races, a shoo-in for the nomination.
It is too early to write Kerry off, and events are likely to be more important in the long run this year than personal appeal, but it is clear at this early stage that Kerry is not appealing to the great unwashed majority that is less sure of anything than the true believers are of everything.
The point of all this is not the 2004 election or the 2000 election, but the fact that in this post political boss, post-powerful-political-parties era we have kind of stumbled into a nominating process that has been dominated by money and by zealots.
Maybe we should rethink this.