October 15, 2012
A wish list
By Bill Kraus
This is a combination of what I hear from others, what I wish, what I wish I heard from everyone. All followed, alas, by the reasons these wishes are not going to come true.
Shorter Election Season: In England, campaigns run 60 days. English elections are called, not scheduled. It would be foolish to campaign for an uncalled election.
More Civil, Less Costly Elections: Extreme partisans have always favored belligerent campaigns. The moderates who ran the parties when the parties were running and funding the campaigns always marginalized the extreme partisans and pitched those campaigns to the independent, persuadeables whose votes determined the winners. That group is now marginalized in favor of the new conventional wisdom that it is more important to motivate the committed than to win over a shrinking group of undecideds. Bellicosity prevails.
Less Superficial Rhetoric: This is a protest against sound bites, 30-second commercials, sloganeering, demonizing ad homenism. The new target is the “low information, low attention” market and this market wants simple answers to complex questions and are put off by the pedantic complexities of, say, the once staple full page ads in the no longer important newspapers.
More Truth, Fewer Specious Assertions: The truth is often elusive and questionable. Exaggeration works better particularly in a segmented, fragmented world where “I read it in the paper” is a bygone mantra, and no commonly accepted go-to medium has replaced it for the mass audience.
More Respect for the Political Institutions and Practitioners: It would seem that candidates in general and especially incumbents are dismissing the widely publicized information about the low popularity ratings of politics and politicians and their trustworthiness. The evidence in favor of ignoring these “not-popular” polls is strengthened by the fact that well over 90 percent of incumbents are routinely re-elected. This would indicate that there is no serious incentive to stop trashing each other and demeaning the trade.
Less Money in Campaigns: Forgedaboudit. All attempts to regulate the amounts and sources of the money pouring into political campaigns and political discourse have foundered on the free speech provision of the 1st Amendment and the candidates' perceived needs for larger and larger amounts of money and unwillingness to offend the large contributors of that money. The only money sources that are less important and may be becoming less fruitful are the small contributors. Their contributions are followed by their votes, but they must be wondering if anybody who is dealing with millions notices their hundred bucks. Money was always the mother’s milk of politics. Now it’s more like the coke, beer and Jack Daniels. Higher octane.
A Route to Getting These Wishes Noticed by Those Who Can Make Them Come True: There are many attention attracting ideas afloat--term limits and part-time legislatures are the main ones. These would have to be enacted by the incumbents whose wings they would clip. Unlikely.
Hobbling those who represent us in ways that demonstrate how little we trust their representation include bypassing them with initiative and referendum mandates, limitations on their power to tax and spend like TABOR, the threat of no-fault recalls so those who vote for “unpopular” legislation can be unelected.
I, for one, prefer representative government to populism in all its manifest forms.
What I would like is representatives who represented me more and the extreme partisans, the money, and the fist-in-the-face advisors less.
I am looking for that route. Ideas welcome.
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I prefer populism to your brand of "civility."
-John Davey | Kendall, WI | October 15, 2012