Monday, June 1, 2009

Breakfast with Sen. Liebham-Part 1

I had the opportunity to attend a breakfast with my state senator this morning. He was holding it to give some of his constituents a legislative update, okay, really a briefing on Mr. Doyle's proposed budget. A budget which contains an large number of non-fiscal items.

One of the more alarming things about this budget is that this governor, having a clear majority in both the assembly and the senate, still feels the need to include these items in the budget. It is my understanding that this practice (including non-fiscal items in the budget)is done in order to get legislation passed - or at least looked at - that would otherwise be difficult to pass. Let me say that again. Our governor, here in WI, a governor with a majority in the assembly and the senate, feels the need to include these non-fiscal items in the budget, ostensibly because even with a majority, they would be difficult to pass otherwise. There is good reason for concern on his part about passing these items. Some of them are nothing less than social engineering on a grand scale. Perhaps that is the payback for the bailout he went hat-in-hand to Washington to obtain. I hope to post a bit about the various items over the next few weeks, but for today, I want to look at leadership.

There was some concern about who will be running for office in the next election cycle. While there are a few looking at the governor's seat, there isn't anyone stepping up to challenge Mr. Feingold. This is something that interests me because I have been hearing variations of the "We need new people to run" concern across the net, but especially in the conservative camp. I find this interesting because one of the challenges I have seen in my own volunteer work of choice is getting people to step up and take leadership positions in the group for which I volunteer. These are small leadership positions and it's a real challenge to get people, so I can certainly understand the concerns I am reading and hearing about a leadership deficit in this country.

I am wondering right now if the same techniques that work to get those volunteer leaders would work to fill these larger roles. To some extent, I think they would. I think many are intimidated by the sheer unfamiliarity of the job along with the potential to make huge, horrible, public mistakes. The idea of campaigning for office is also repugnant to some.

First, I think we need to lay out the requirements for the job. That way, folks would have the same decision making process to approach a run for office as they would for any other job.

Lay out the requirements: travel; public speaking; communication skills; marketing(or the ability to recruit someone who will do that for you); fund-raising; reading and reading comprehension, familiarity with the legislative process and legalese(yes, I know that's not a word-just what grandpa and I used to call the peculiar language lawyers use to write contracts.) and etc. Then lay out the benefits in a similar manner. Is a degree required? I recognize that it may be difficult to get elected when one's opponent can point to your lack of a degree, but is it a requirement? Abraham Lincoln didn't have one.

What is the day-to-day schedule of a legislator like? It seems to me that that is something I would want to know before putting myself or my family into that life.

So, that's the first step, giving people the ability to envision their lives in that position.

The second step is finding someone who is upset enough at the current situation to be willing to work to change it, to take a personal role in changing it.

If the GOP is really sincere about finding new candidates, here's what they should do: Look at the people who are complaining the most at the current situation and wanting them to "do something". Find the ones who can articulate their concerns effectively and who can pass a background screening. Then look in that group for those who would be successful at maintaining their principles in the face of pressure and whose values reflect those of your constituency. I'm sure they can think of other qualifiers to narrow down the list if it's still too large.

Third step: Evaluate the fitness of those folks to serve. Do they have the capacity to do what's required? Can they learn on the job? Do they have the temperament?

I detest political parties, but they are good at supporting a candidate for office-they should be, isn't that what they are for? Stop whining about a dearth of leaders and go out and find some.

Fourth step: Damage control. Stop portraying candidates of the opposing parties as corrupt and evil. They may be corrupt and evil, but it's our duty, as an electorate, is to look at our legislators objectively and evaluate their performance and behavior and replace those who are corrupt and evil. It's a decision we can make for ourselves, given honest, objective reporting. Stop telling us how to think. Those of us who vote have been thinking and making decisions for at least 18 years. (I'll grant you not all of us will make good decisions, but that's the risk we take to be a free people.)

I'm not a big fan of Joseph Lieberman, but he wrote a book called "In Praise of Public Life" encouraging more people to get involved in government service. If we hold our legislators to high standards of behavior, perhaps public service will once again be viewed as service and not the fast track to corruption. Promoting the view that all government employees are corrupt does not encourage participation by those who value their good names. If you want those folks, you need to show that you are not willing to smear opposing candidates. (Presenting objective facts is okay, putting an editorial spin on those facts is not.) People of good character recognize that, what you are willing to do to someone else, you will do to them eventually and will have nothing to do with you if you are willing to engage in that sort of behavior.

"Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good." ~2 Sam 10:12


Dr.D said...

You have presented some excellent suggestions, Mom.

I think that the fact of the matter, however is this: while there is an urgent need for new candidates to bring fresh blood and fresh ideas into the system, the parties strongly want to control who will get the nomination. They want this control to the point that they will not allow anyone really new to come into the system.

To be more specific, suppose for example, I were to approach my local Republican party and say that I want to run for the State Legislature. They would simply laugh at me and tell me that I first have to run as a Republican for dog catcher in the local community and work my way up. They would not consider having someone that they don't have a previous fix on running under their banner. Now I could still run as an independent, but I would have extremely little chance of winning that way. All of this is true, even if the Republicans have only a very weak candidate for the position, but he is their candidate. They know him, and they don't want someone new. So here we are.

I don't plan to run for anything any time soon.

Call Me Mom said...

You are quite correct. It's one of the reasons I dislike party politics so much. The party may be able to throw a lot of support your way, but there is always a price for that support.

Risk is part of the game. There are no guarantees of safety and while it is reasonable to want to field a candidate who will win and to take appropriate screening measures to assure that end, I think the GOP needs to remember why winning is important. If they will not field a candidate whose value structure accords at least reasonably well with my own, why should I vote for them?

All the talk about a "big tent", as far as I'm concerned, is just a way of saying we must abandon our standards to win these elections. There seems to be no voice of reason willing to remind the GOP that if they are fielding a candidate who might as well be running for the other ticket, I don't want them to win.

Terry Morris said...

Mom wrote:

"All the talk about a "big tent", as far as I'm concerned, is just a way of saying we must abandon our standards to win these elections. There seems to be no voice of reason willing to remind the GOP that if they are fielding a candidate who might as well be running for the other ticket, I don't want them to win."

Hear, hear! I couldn't have stated it better myself.

Concerning your list of qualifications:

Not to make light of a serious and thoughtful post, but is it really necessary to list "reading" and "reading comprehension?" Really? Wait!, don't answer that!

May as well add to the list the requirement of speaking a dialect of English that can be understood. :-)

Call Me Mom said...

lol, Terry.
Yes, reading proposed legislation is a part of the job(the budget proposal alone is over 1000 pages long) and comprehending what you read is essential to casting an informed vote. If someone doesn't like to read, I don't want them representing me, because skimming over legislation is not an option.

How would they be elected if they couldn't speak English? Slick commercials using only voice overs? Lip synching? Teleprompters with phonetic spelling allowing a candidate to sound as though he/she were speaking English? Technology - a mixed blessing-lol

Dr.D said...

In the very near future, a mixture of spanish and jive will be much more advantageous than the king's Engilsh in running for office. Those of us who speak English will be simply told to get with the program.

As for reading the bills, why you know that they were written by kind-hearted Democrats without a mean bone in their bodies and loads of empathy, so how can you ask anybody to read 1000 pages of thaat stuff? Is it the lack of a wise Latina in drafting this stuff that gives you pause? Just what would it take to make you get on board with the "pass it without reading" program? You know that is what Zero wants you to do!

Terry Morris said...

Well, you're talking about lawyer-speak. Who the *ell can "comprehend" that, including most lawyers???

But if I were a lawmaker and some jackass plopped down a thousand pages for me to read and vote on, given my other duties, I'd reject it out of hand.

Dr.D said...

Terry, in rejecting it, there should be the comment that it is obviously poorly written and too verbose. It should be redone concisely and precisely, and without attempting to cover too many topics in one bill.

Terry Morris said...

In other words, reduced to a hundred or so pages. Yeah; I'm with you.

Terry Morris said...

That is, assuming it's written in English. I don't want any addendums written in any other language. Call me what you will.

Call Me Mom said...

Check the next post for the beginning of the other topics that should not be included in a state's budget proposal.
I'll try to tackle one a day, since this monstrosity is said to be coming up for a vote next Wednedsday. That won't get me through all of the non-fiscal items, but should get me through the most egregious ones.