Sunday, September 13, 2009

Citizen politicians

isconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
September 13, 2009

By Bill Kraus

Several decades ago the Republican Party leaders came mostly from business and the professionals who represented businesses. And to a significant extent, although I am less familiar with their history, the Democratic citizen pols came from labor unions or their allies.

The corporations and the unions were not the district and county chairs and campaign managers, but their people were.

The desirable side effect of this activity was that these political operatives knew the issues, the people, the ideas, the system.

Sometime in the last 40 years or so, business leaders decided to outsource political action instead of participate in it.

The mercenaries took over and the results have been rewarding for them and disastrous for the rest of us.

The mercenaries treated politics as a marketing problem and solved it by segmenting the market and escalating the rhetoric.

The candidates became creatures of the extremist groups and whoever had enough money to finance increasingly costly media-driven campaigns.

Worse yet, the business activists went back to the office or the plant and turned political activity over to friendly associations or simply abandoned it altogether.

Politics may still have been in their budgets, but it no longer was on their schedules. Inevitably, business and its needs took second place to what the mercenaries decided they needed to win elections: lots of money, the full participation of the zealots, and campaigns that played to the so-called base, whose interests were social not economic.

So we come to the place where business people are largely disengaged as well as not particularly well informed on anything that doesn’t have a direct impact on their particular businesses.

We come to a place where it takes someone like Thomas Friedman to point out that business needs the burden of health insurance off their backs, needs an immigration policy that makes the best brains in the world, because there are no business leaders who are citizen politicians to make these assertions off a prominent platform.

Business leaders can’t buy their way back into the game. They have to suit up and start playing again the way they did in the 1960s. They have to take politics back from the mercenaries so that the hired guns are working for the citizen pols instead of vice versa.

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