Keller @ Large: Can Either Party Put The “Permanent Campaign” On Hold?

BOSTON (CBS) – What’s the greatest privilege we enjoy here in our federal republic, the good old USA?

Why, the right to vote of course, and we certainly have ample opportunity exercise it, every two years for state legislators and members of the US House, every four years for president and governor, and every six years for US Senators.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

For most of those jobs, fundraising is a constant priority. And with all the media attention on the most powerful positions, the next campaign begins as soon as the last one ends.

Welcome to “the permanent campaign,” a reality of our political culture since the 1960s when, according to the definitive book on the subject by journalist Sidney Blumenthal, the old political system of bosses and parties was succeeded by a consultant and media-driven process in which campaigning never stops.

The poll-driven posturing of the campaign became the m.o. for governing, right down to the obsessive desire to win every news cycle. Governing for the long term, with a willingness to risk widespread public disapproval – once known as “statesmanship” – became obsolete, a game for losers.

The old ways hung on for awhile; Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill used to famously get together for a drink, argue with each other, and emerge with bi-partisan agreement on difficult issues, but that doesn’t happen anymore.

And now there’s a generation in charge in Washington in both parties that doesn’t know anything but the permanent campaign.

Thus, President Obama can agree that the Bush tax cuts are acceptable public policy in the wake of a 2010 GOP sweep that’s got him running scared politically, then turn around less than a year later and insist they are Satan’s work because the polls show everyone wants the rich to pay more. Fair enough, I guess; those tax cuts were a totally political maneuver by Bush to begin with, rather than thoughtful, long-term fiscal policy.

But you wonder if, at some point, anyone from either party can put the permanent campaign on hold, stop spouting partisan baby-talk, and get down to real business?

And you also wonder – even if they wanted to, do they know how?

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

More from Jon Keller
  • gramps

    ‘Term Limits’, are the only way. Two 4 year terms for Senate & two 4 year terms for the house…

    This will reduce the number of elections & constantly bring in ‘fresh blood’…So that in a 12 year span, we’ll only have ‘3’ election days!

    Giving us less campaigning, leading to reduced ‘BS’!


    • JohnC

      The reason for the differing length of legislative and executive branch terms is to provide a continum in our government. Toss everybody out at the end of eight years and we could have a legislature of totally inexperienced rookies. I know, some will say that it would be no worse then what we have now, but the rule of unintended consequences often rears it’s ugly head. I would just go with term limits.They ain’t gonna happen anyhow; legislators are not going to vote themselves out of office.

    • gramps

      Term Limits will end ‘Partisan Cronieism’ & might help to break up all the Congressional ‘Love Affairs’, based on, I’ll vote for yours if you vote for mine.

      If anyone tries to block tern limits….’throw the ‘BUM’S OUT!’


  • emom

    Morning Gramps, Agree, we need to change up their stay in office, Its bad enough we allow a bad president to stay in office for 2 terms, We so got hammered financially because of the last president. But the government of this state has held on for far to long and do nothing.. Congress , senate and the house well I have lost hope they will ever leave.
    Yes term limits would be a grand suggestion, but I do not believe we as the people can even get that voted in,, someone somewhere will veto that. I fear we are in for far worse with the current candidates, I cant even think about voting since I have no expectations any of them can even do any thing let alone what they claim they can do. Its a joke, or should I say they are all jokes.
    Neither side can come to an agreement of any kind.. each wanting what THEY want not what THE country needs. They have all lost perspective of whats wrong and whats needed, Financially we are drowning in debt and then I hear last night what the presidents said.,. FOOIEE, they are mere words, dribble really something they will not listen to any ways, all they hear when the presidents speaks is ———- CRICKETS.
    I am sick of how this country is being run. And yes If I ran my household like that I would be living in a cardboard box under some bridge in the park.
    Many want something but so many can not even agree what that is.,.. how about this,,,,, JOBS, FINACIAL RELEASE FROM INTERSTS, CREDIT CARD RATES LOWERED, FINACIAL AIDS TO STUDENTS AND HOMEOWNWERS, LOWER TAXES across the board, Better healthcare for our disabled, elderly and children, Vital services to people, Better education for our children, and block the greed of corporations and the government, I am sure there is more that we need to be looked at and put in place, Just can not think of it all. But this is what I think about, I am sure I will think of more, But this will do..
    Oh by the way how about no more long vacations like they have just taken,,, Make it mandatory that they break their vacation time up during the year , No more months off and at a time of the year that is needed the most.

  • Willow

    These political pinheads get paid way too much to do way too little. Why do we keep voting them back in office? We wouldn’t need term limits if people would just vote out anyone in office who is ineffective. I think people just vote for the familiar name instead of researching and knowing the candidates who are seeking election. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such division and strife between the parties, and as long as this continues, no matter who is elected our next president, it will just be more of the same. The president cannot make decisions alone, but needs the support of congress. Obama has been fought on every single issue since he entered the office. Why do we think it will be any different for the next president?

  • tsal

    emom, I know that term limits are mentioned repeatedly and I’ve pointed out before that the tea party freshmen just elected didn’t count on another term in many cases nor do they care if they have one. Term limits do nothing to prevent that. I am not saying they won’t work but I’m not sure I’d want my company run by only those who are just learning the ropes. Experience plays a huge part in the success of any business.

    I believe we truly need campaign funding reform. We cannot continue to have only the elite run for office. If they do not understand the problems faced by people every day there is no way can legislate effectively. We need to level the playing field.

  • FireGuyFrank

    Term limits protect those of us who cannot vote someone else out. By that I mean simply that we cannot vote to replace Nancy Pelosi, or Harry Reid, or Mitch McConnell, etc., so we have to rely on term limits to get them out. Similarly, folks in other states would rely on term limits to get Barney Frank and John Kerry (to name only two of the contingent) out of office.

    The only way to truly reform campaigning is to make all political ads free. That way a candidate can get the message out no matter what. In exchange for that flood of information, the candidate has to get a certain level of votes — say 20% — to stay in the race. Otherwise, they are clogging the airwaves and cable boxes.

    Otherwise, and how many times is it written here, it is up to We The People to act and throw them out; not say, “But my guy is doing right by me.” It has to be what is best for the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the United States. We can’t afford to be wanting our pork to stay on the plate and expect others to sacrifice.

    • tsal

      I’m not sure I understand Frank – are you saying that each state should not elect its own representatives and that i should be a nationwide decision?

      • FireGuyFrank

        Not at all. What I’m saying is that I do not expect folks in San Francisco to vote out Pelosi. Yet, there might be folks in other areas of California and other states that would love to see her out. Therfore, term limits would prevent her from being re-elected by folks who just want more pork for themselves.

      • tsal

        but if California wants her, shouldn’t it be their choice. It’s who they have elected to represent them? I guess I am still not seeing a difference.

    • Willow

      Frank, I actually like your idea about making all political ads free, and that the candidate has to acquire a certain level of votes to stay in the race. I understand what both you and tsal are saying. Term limits would get the dead wood out, but bring in inexperienced ones in. Unfortunately, we can’t rely on people to vote out some of these folks because there’s always enough people that they do the right things for that keep them in. So, what’s worse, inexperienced, or doing favors for votes? I think I’m in favor of term limits.

    • tsal

      frank have been trying to post to say I love the idea of free ads also. You are right – we have to make room for everyone – regardless of wealth – to run for office.

  • emom

    OH and lets not forget , HOLDING THEM ACCOUNTABLE for what they do , By that I mean , How many times do they say one thing then we find out they do something esle, Sick of them taking advantage of us in so many ways ,,, They vote them sleves a raise WHY, they get that raise because we are not voting for it. and we do not have control over that we should though, They get what ever they ask for, greedy crooks.

  • Ellen

    I;m getting sick and tired of seeing all these politicians all over the place from their commercials to being on the Late Shows with Jay Leno or David Letterman. Every time I see any of them on the boob tube I immediately change the station.

    • Willow

      Ellen, I agree. Watching some of the ads and seeing them on late night TV is one reality show I can do without. I wish just once we could hear what some of these candidates plan to bring to the White House if elected, instead of what the other guy is doing worse then them. I can barely stand to listen to them too.

      • Ellen

        Willow , what they should do is read some of these comments then maybe they will get a real hold on what’s happening. Makes you wonder if these dopes were around in the 18th century we would all by now be singing God Save The Queen.

  • Stephen Stein

    Hmm. Put the permanent campaign on hold? In an election year?
    Not bloody likely.

  • emom

    Here is a novel idea, How about a committee to look into the backgrounds of each and every candidate, I mean They all like slinging mud at each other , Using trivial info to discredit the others, and then placate the rest, Then we hear all those allegations are not true, so In light of so many skeletons coming out of their closets, maybe their should be a committee of their peers.. US the American people, TO LOOK FURTHEER INTO THEIR LIVES, that way we have a clear view of what jerks we are voting into office. Besides knowing them on how they live and what they have done could be a better benefit, Sick of the negative campaign ads , If only some that got into office had negative ads I doubt we would have voted them if we only new of their past we would have made better choices. JUST A TOUGHT

  • tsal

    And I thought posting problems were fixed – go figure. I’ll try again.

    While term limits may help, it will not solve the problem of the same people running – only those who are monied. I think we have to get money out of politics. There should be strong campaign finance laws passed. There has to be strict limits on campaign contributions. No ads under different names. And blind trusts set up so the candidates have no idea where their money is coming from. We have a huge pool of intelligent, common sense folks in this country but they can’t afford a campaign. We need the average person to be able to run.

    • Willow

      Totally agree, tsal.

      • gramps


  • The Batman

    Personally, I think these nitwits need to get a copy of the Preamble to the Constitution, read it over and over again, have it explained (using baby talk, if necessary) and then put it into practice with everything that they do on a daily basis. Here is that Preamble and tell me if you think that today’s politicians and the courts are doing almost the opposite of what it states.

    “ We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[note 1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. ”

    • BostonIrish

      Nope. Don’t recognize this kind of behavior from the political system at all.

  • Mark

    This website has a total problem with posts.

    • tsal

      mark I thought it was fixed but it apparently was temporary because it is not fixed and I’ll be surprised if this posts.

  • tsal

    on the topic of campaign – Romney’s new ad literally takes a quote from Obama out of context and then Romney follows it by saying he’s going “to do something good for government.” I suppose he means like lie some more??? These guys are all morons and we let them treat us as if we are idiots simply by putting up with this stuff. And sadly I think he may well be our next president. Heaven help us all.

  • Willowwwwww

    What is wrong with this site anyway? You have to post 8 times or change your name slightly to get a comment to post.

  • mikey-yikes-it

    It’s more like “permanent gridlock.” Washington, D.C. is “dysfunction-junction.”

  • BostonIrish

    Tsal, I tried to post a reply on a previous Keller topic in response to a question you asked me – 3 times…

    • Tsal

      One more try and then I give up. BI I am sorry you can’t reply. I was interested in your input.

    • Tsal

      Ugh. I can’t respond either. Jon this is nuts

  • BostonIrish

    Jon, the permanent campaign is dead on. It’s all about the media exposure and redundant posturing. Statesmanship is a quality in my opinion. It is dealing with issues head on with honesty, dignity and respect. Allowing compromise is an important part of it, too. Solutions are the highest priorities to achieve. Now, both sides wait fr the other to blink, then trumpet “I won!”. It’s a complete disrespect for honest compromise.

  • roudydowdy

    To all my right wing political pinhead friends, lefty bums, tea party freshmen, nitwit independents, Wall St. occupiers, job creators, and super committee losers, have a great Thanksgiving Holiday with your loved ones.

    • Tsal

      Thanks RD. I tried to post a happy thanksgiving wish to you as well last night but it didn’t work. Hoping it does now

  • Ajay

    I don’t like term limits. It should be up to the voters to decide if the guy stays or goes. I do think, however, that we should tighten up on requirements for office. Calling yourself a resident is not enough. Those running should have to show that they actually lived within the jurisdiction (for the majority of the year) for at least three times the length of office sought. Someone running for the Senate would then have to actually live in the state for 18 years before eligable for that office. A rep has to reside for six years… This would do away with many of the political families. The Kennedy’s are from Mass….but they’ve been elected to represent RI, NY, CT, MA, etc. The Romny’s are from Mich not Mass. The Bush family is in TX, not Fla… Clinton is from Ark (him) and Mich (her), but she was a NY rep?

    There’s no reason that the gov’t shouldn’t foot the bill for elections… at least at the state/national level. There are too many good people out there that never get a chance to serve because they lack the financial resources. Before someone screams about adding the additional cost to our budget to pay for this… imagine how much savings there would be from NOT having to investigate campaign financing…

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