November 26, 2006
Close, clean politics
By Bill Kraus
In the fall of 1968 after Richard Nixon was elected president, the Washington Post’s very anti-Nixon political cartoonist known as Herblock told his readers that he was going to give the new president a pass.
The Nixon images in Herblock’s cartoons always showed him with a couple days growth of beard.
Herblock said he would give the new president a clean shave.
I think the press and its electronic extension, the bloggers, might consider doing the same for the winners of the mostly unbecoming, even vicious, campaign of 2006.
The people we elected are engaged in a difficult but honorable trade. They are, for the most part, adventuresome, superior people.
The public agenda, which is now their responsibility, is long and complicated and contentious.
Let’s give ‘em a break. Let’s talk about what they want to do instead of who they are or where they came from or what labels they wear, or even what baggage they carry.
Let’s give them a clean shave.
November 18, 2006
I want the parties back
By Bill Kraus
I can’t believe I said, “I want the parties back.” Almost all of my recollections of working through, with, past, or around the parties when they had the power to slate, fund, and endorse (a sine qua non for Republicans) are rebellious at best.
I recall being scorned along with a handful of others who voted not to censure the U.S. Senate for having censured Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. I also spirited Harry Franke, a former member of the state Assembly and Senate, into a Republican convention as a Portage County delegate because the north shore Republican organization to which he belonged wouldn’t forgive his activity in behalf of the Joe Must Go Club. I remember helping Ody Fish and Glenn Davis outmaneuver the Milwaukee delegates who wanted to chastise the 1st term Warren Knowles for increasing taxes. I remember fending off the extreme factions and keeping the big tent open enough to welcome pro-choice, anti-handgun, no death penalty moderates. And, worst of all, I was heavily involved in the 1978 campaign which revealed that the Republican Party was a penniless, toothless tiger.
And, worse yet, I know that putting the parties back into power will mean fighting all of those battles again and again.
But putting the parties back in power could do a couple of things that make the game worth the candle.
Powerful parties will attract a wider constituency than the so-called “base voters” who dominate and exclude those who they don’t simply repel. Powerful parties will provide a general interest home for the politically active not just the politically rabid.
Powerful parties will also diminish the power of legislative leaders who, because they can raise the all important money, have become inordinately powerful. To say that the governor, the majority leader of the Senate, and the speaker of the Assembly run Wisconsin is not an overstatement.
Good people all, but they have too much power.
We need some citizen politicians to reintroduce civility and temperance to the process of getting elected and running the public’s business.
We need, God forgive me, political parties that have a major role to play in the nominating and election process.
November 10, 2006
The new independents
By Bill Kraus
When a lifelong Republican and activist, who had been a campaign manager and a presidential appointee, announced last summer that he was no longer a Republican, it seemed more amusing than portentous.
When I passed this news on to several of the members of my Republican generation (a former state chairman, a state vice chair, a former legislator, a former governor, former regents and workers in the Republican vineyards), I found they too were declaring their political independence.
The message was consistent: "I don't like the behavioral agenda, and I really don't like being read out of the party for not adhering to that agenda."
I confess that I wasn't sure how far this rebellion would go. Most of the people I was talking to were over 80 and hardly posed a long range threat to the new, righteous, closed-shop organization that we once called home. My small coterie also was struggling with their new place on the spectrum. We had to decide whether it was possible to send a message to the Republicans by simply not voting or whether we had to actually vote for Democrats.
Tuesday's election provided the answer. The new independents voted.
There were, of course, many factors at play in this election as there are in any election. Some pundits are actually claiming that the righteous righties were not happy. Good grief. What do they want?
But clearly the new independents sent a strong message to those presiding over their former home. They have found a new home, and they are going to be a lot of trouble to the party they left and the party they are unlikely to join.
What they want is what the moderate middle (a space occupied by Democrats as well as Republicans) has always wanted: A government that works.
November 4, 2006
Do you want fries with that?
By Bill Kraus
My travels have taken me to Minnesota and the East Coast in the weeks leading up to the election of 2006.
I can report, without fear of contradiction, that crooks and rogues are running for office in Minnesota, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. You already know about the Wisconsin choices.
They are similar elsewhere.
The only exceptions are the shoo-ins like Hillary in New York and Herb in Wisconsin. They are running positive, sweetheart, beauty contest advertising.
Every other campaign that is important enough to have the money needed to run television advertising is trying to persuade the viewers to vote against someone. (I have not, incidentally, seen a single political ad in a newspaper).
The only time the candidate who is paying for the ad appears in these blasts is at the end of the presentation when they admit who they are and that they approve of these atrocities.
So it has come down to this.
Campaigns talk about the sins of opponents.
Campaigns do not talk much about ideas and only occasionally about accomplishments.
The winners are mostly those candidates who have the most money to spend on media and on talent to produce the best commercials.
Campaigns make the members of the campaign management industry (a relatively new phenomenon) and the owners of television stations rich.
It’s fast food politics, and the voters are the customers.