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.
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