August 27, 2004
By Bill Kraus
The pressure from the Capital Times, several liberal columnists, Bush-o-phobes everywhere, and even the New York Times' David Brooks is on Kerry to denounce the war.
What Kerry seems to have decided is to take the advice of a former president instead.
In 1885, U.S. Grant, who thought the Mexican War unjustified and unnecessary, wrote about the politicians who probably shared his view but didn't say so:
"Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in life or history. Better for him, individually, to advocate 'war, pestilence, and famine' than to act as obstructionist to a war already begun."
The implication is that Kerry believes all the anti-war (But pro-warrior? Is that consistent?) people are more anti-Bush than anti-war. So the possibility that they might vote for Bush is remote to non-existent. What they could do is go to Nader (if he is available where they live) or simply stay home. Not likely.
This is not a risk-free strategy, of course, and nothing in politics is a sure thing. But the encouraging thing is that Kerry has not been captured by his base, or at least this significant part of his base.
August 20, 2004
Faction, faction, who's got the faction?
By Bill Kraus
In her wonderful book about Birmingham in the 1960s, Carry Me Home, Diane McWhorter recounts the Bull Connor story. Connor was the resident law enforcement bully in town. The self-appointed establishment enhanced his powers to control the pace of integration in the city. Not surprisingly, Bull went too far. But when the establishment tried to rein him in, they found that they were no longer calling the shots. He was.
It seems to me that the political leaders of both persuasions are traveling, have traveled, this same path with the factions that make up their base of votes and money.
They have found or will find a couple of things that should not surprise and definitely will not please them. The factions are my way, all the way, or no way. The factions are perfectly capable of calling all the shots not just those that wedged them into power.
And the loser as, if, and when this happens, of course, is the general interest, which is not a faction and is not a player in the new power game.
August 13, 2004
There is something wrong with this picture
By Bill Kraus
One of the first bills introduced in the last session of the Legislature was SB12. It was authored by Mike Ellis, a Republican, and was co-sponsored by Jon Erpenbach, a Democrat.
Whenever a poll asked the people if they liked the campaign reform ideas it embodied, more than 80 percent of them said they did.
Every major newspaper editorialized in favor of the bill or its ideas.
It never got out of the first committee to which it was assigned.
Late in the same session, a Republican state Senator introduced a bill that would have permitted carrying concealed weapons.
A poll indicated that 69 percent of the voters thought this was a bad idea.
No major newspaper endorsed it and many opposed it.
It went through the obligatory committees like hot butter through a tin horn. Both houses voted for it overwhelmingly. It almost survived a gubernatorial veto.
A legislative leader of several decades ago once said that while legislators are often dumb, they are never deaf. He may want to reconsider that conclusion.
August 6, 2004
An open letter to UW System president Reilly
By Bill Kraus
The unintended consequence of the post-Watergate political reforms was to disembowel the political parties and the bosses who used to run them. Just why this happened is a long, complicated story, but trust me, it happened. The political power in this country has now shifted solidly to factions. The factions have the money. The factions have the politically stimulating causes. And some of them even have members. The increasingly invincible incumbents who populate our state and national legislatures respond to the factions because the factions fund their campaigns and deliver the votes that keep them in office.
AARP knows this. The NRA knows this. The Right To Lifers know this. The teachers' union knows this. The manufacturing association knows this.
The higher education establishment does not seem to know this.
You are sitting on top of the faction with the potential to have the most political clout of them all in Wisconsin. You have an economically important physical presence in almost every significant community in the state. Your thousands of employees and students are a little hard to corral politically, but when their self and selfish interests are engaged, they can become at least as menacing as the oldies and the shooters who scare the pants off most incumbent legislators.
I deplore the new, faction driven political reality, but I recognize it. You should too, because you can make it work for what may be the most important asset that Wisconsin has to offer to the world: its superlative higher education factory.