Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Be more like NRA

isconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
March 9, 2010

By Bill Kraus

This should be the reformers year. At long last large numbers of people seem to be noticing that our legislatures do not seem to be working. They also seem to be coalescing and organizing to let it be known that some of them do not like what legislators are doing, more of them don’t like what the legislators are not doing, and all of them have noticed and really don’t like the fact that the legislators are not listening to them.

This latter has been the reformers lament ever since I got into this Sisyphean business 20 years ago. Reform measures are somewhere around 13th place on almost everyone’s priority list. Reformers are not marching on capitols. Reformers are mostly old lefties. Nice. Well intended. Hardly threatening.

Reformers want to be is as threatening as, say, the National Rifle Association. They aren’t.

Until this year.

Except the latter-day protesters who have noticed that the people who are representing them are a lot more interested in preserving the status quo, in paying attention to people and organizations who will raise and contribute the money they need to be re-elected to the jobs that they want to career out in, and, worse yet, that the people who represent them in most cases have picked them as constituents instead of vice versa.

The system is not working as the reformers have been telling them for all of my time in the reform business.

So why don’t the newly alerted and aware protesters simply join forces with the reformers, adopt the reform agendas, get the attention and action they deserve and want?

Why isn’t Common Cause more like the NRA?

Because the reformers operate in the ethereal precincts of policy not politics.

Step on the toes of the NRA and your mailbox fills up and your contributions box doesn’t.

So the rascals' movement is looking for more than the reform organizations offer.

Putting the tea parties aside for the moment, the recent action against the system and its incumbents comes in two main forms.

One is mostly positive. The Wisconsin Way coalition of diverse interest groups in Wisconsin that Jim Wood collected proposed changes in the way taxes are collected and spent. They want the legislators to quit posing for holy pictures and do something.

What Ed Koch, the 85-year-old former mayor of New York City, had in mind for the collection of interests he is putting together was a place for the “throw the rascals out” advocates to gather and target the miscreants in Albany.

Surely California’s discontent will breed variations on both of these change-agent ideas.

What occurs to me is that this might be the year that the long standing, long suffering reform groups finally get some respect. But only if they step up ther firepower.

The Common Causes, Leagues of Women Voters, Wisconsin Democracy Campaigns, and all their clones are reform and change agents who have members and programs which the protesters have got to love: dispassionate redistricting, election reform, contributor disclosure, even such ideas as term limits, part-time legislators are not off the table.

None of the newly awakened are going to ally with either party. They want bi-partisan action.

Why reinvent the wheel? Why not make the reformers as scary as the shooters already are?

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