There's two things I know about the upcoming primary election to replace Tammy Baldwin in Congress.
When all the smoke clears, there's not much doubt that Mark will win the primary, that Kelda will support him in the general, and that he will toast the Republican candidate in November. It's also likely that Kelda Roys will be back to run for another office, and I'm looking forward to having the chance to support her then.
But there has been a lot of angst among Dane County Dems about Kelda's attacks on Mark. It's not usually the way we do things around here. Democrats seldom speak poorly of their fellow Democrats in a primary (though we do seem to feel free to do so at any other time).
But what Kelda has provided us with is a meaningful choice among two candidates who agree on virtually every issue. (I was especially happy to read that they both support a ban on assault rifles.) It's a question of style and approach and, in my mind, that's exactly the debate we should be having right now.
While Kelda is not likely to win, she has framed the debate. The question is now a clear one of someone who tells us she will be a fighter and someone who has a track record of reaching across the aisle. Since I know them both, I think it's fair to say that the truth is that they would function pretty similarly once in office, but for the purposes of the election the choice has been framed this way and that's good.
For me the choice is easy. Though I like both Kelda and Mark, I'm tired of the partisan fights.
Look, I'm not being nave here. I know that about 90% of the problem goes to the Republicans, many of whom under tea party influence, disavow compromise as weakness. I know that over and over again President Obama held out his hand only to have it slapped away. I know that Governor Walker has rammed his agenda through without so much as a nod to the minority party.
I know all that. But I don't think the answer is to just do only more of the same thing. I just finished an excellent book on World War I: To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild. You read that book and shake your head at the bull-headedness of the generals on both sides who refused to recognize that hitting them harder with the same tactics was just resulting in more devastation and no progress.
So I've made a conscious decision to try to promote candidates and a way of doing politics that is less confrontational and less partisan. Compromise is the way we move forward most of the time. I'm not looking for more "fighters" in government; I'm looking for people who keep their principles, but respect their opponents, or at least find a way to work with them.
The fundamental problem is that we have a system of government that is built around compromise (checks and balances, the super-majority needed to get anything through the Senate) and a two-party system of politics (that the Founding Fathers didn't anticipate) that self-selects partisans. In other words, our political process sends people to Congress who are the least equipped to work successfully in a system that demands compromise.
This is no backhanded complement for Kelda Roys. It's a genuine one. There are many people who will agree with her that liberals need to keep giving as good as we're getting. I can't tell you that's not what you should want.
But for myself, I'm tired of the bickering between the parties. I'm looking for someone who is less into swords and more into plowshares. Better yet, I'm looking for a new political selection process that rewards reasonable candidates over hardcore partisans.