Friday, June 11, 2010

Inmates Running The Asylum

A person or persons you’ve never met, seen, or heard of, is deciding right now who you can vote for.

Who are these often nameless and faceless people who decide who we can and can’t vote for? Mainly, they’re a bunch of political insiders and power brokers who decide the fate of far too many actual and potential candidates for public office, from the county level all the way up to United States Congress.

My friend Neil Heinen’s editorial on Channel 3 a couple days ago got me thinking about this. Ever wonder why Barbara Lawton suddenly dropped out of the race for governor? We never got the full story, but I have no doubt some big-time operator in the Democratic Party dropped a dime, and she was never heard from again.

Certainly wasn’t the slanderous reason my old pal Jerry Bader gave on his Green Bay radio talk show.

Jim Klauser, a savvy political operator who was Governor Tommy Thompson’s enforcer, is asking Mark Neumann to drop out of the Republican primary for governor.

Think “the Kathleen” – County Exec Falk – would like to run for gov again? I do. But Tom Barrett’s crew no doubt have given her a clear message to stay out of the way. I’ll bet they’ve had a few words with Ron Kind, as well.

Heinen says the capital-D Democrats have anointed (great word, Neil) Julie Lassa as the replacement for Congressman David Obey, discouraging any and all challengers to her candidacy.

And don’t tell me Republican operatives weren’t behind the sudden disappearance of Terrence Wall and Dick Leinenkugel from the race to unseat Russ Feingold. Good Lord – Leinenkugel consorted with the Democrats when he briefly held that cabinet position for Democrat Jim Doyle! His beer may be made with pure western Wisconsin water, but his politics were not pure enough for the party!

Even here on the local scene, County Board member Dave DeFelice is on the outs with the local “progressives” for even thinking out loud about running against Tammy! One of the least effective members of Congress, Tammy is automatically re-elected every time.

But maybe not this time.

Heinen opines that it’s becoming a closed system with politicians and paid party staff deciding who runs and who doesn’t.

My opinion: this fall we’ll have a crop of candidates, hand-picked by party operatives, talking about issues you and I don’t give two hoots in hell about, with ads run by faceless organizations telling us how horrible the other candidate is.

Hell of it is, they’ll probably be right.


  1. The notion that the political system is somehow "open" is one of the more enduring myths of our two-party democracy. Picking candidates and getting them elected is what political parties are for. That process has always been a breeding place for machination and manipulation and assorted other political skulduggery.

    Changing the system in a way beneficial to the public as a whole is more easily said than done.

    Viable alternative parties would only marginally improve matters. There would be more choices, but the parties would still engage in the same closed selection process.

    Third parties would not necessarily mean better candidates, as the Tea Party's sometimes loony selections so far have demonstrated.

    Wide-open primaries might be an answer. California thinks it is trying such an approach, but the Golden State may reap the whirlwind in the wake its embrace of the bizarre changes its potentially disastrous Proposition 14 will bring.

    Money has always played a major, if not necessarily incontrovertible role in determining a candidate's success. That may change. The law of unintended consequences is likely to hand the California political process over to the candidates with access to the most cash. "Angry" voters, who seem to have let their emotions overrule whatever good sense they may possess, have raised the potential for mischief by at least an order of magnitude.

  2. Meh...

    No matter Wall's personal integrity--the 'no-tax' problem IS a killer. Leinie had absolutely no reason to run except boredom, and it showed.

    And, yes, parties nominate people who are 'calculated risks' to win. They can afford to run on principles in only 2 instances: when their candidate is guaranteed to either win or lose by a ton.

  3. Colonel,

    What do you make of the goings on in the Senate race in SC? Keither Olbermann's interview of the victorious Democrat was bizarre:

    The Town Crank

  4. Yah is coming.

    Prepare for a year of fire.

  5. Tim, re Tammy Baldwin, you're dead wrong. Tammy IS automatically re-elected every time, but she's not by anyone's measure " of the least effective members of Congress." Tammy's been very effective and has positions on two powerful committees, Energy & Commerce and Judiciary. Her local constituent service is outstanding and she's successful in bringing federal grants to the District. Got any evidence for your statement?

    Considering the very many ineffective members in both parties of both chambers of Congress, your Baldwin comment is factually wrong and unfair. Dave DeFelice isn't ready to carry Tammy's briefcase, and any effort he might make to challenge her in a primary is a pipe dream.

    The rest of the post focusing on both parties trying to pressure folks not to engage in circular firing squad primaries is on target.

    Barry (not the Alvarez)