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Our Politics

Our Politics

Reflections on Political Life

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Douglas Kane, with a foreword by Mike Lawrence


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About the Book

Douglas Kane, an American politician and economist, offers readers a straightforward, personal account of what it is like to run for and hold public office—the demands, conflicts, temptations, and rewards created by political, economic, and social forces. Throughout the book, Kane references Illinois and Wisconsin politics. The campaigns of his wife, Kathleen Vinehout, and her years in the Wisconsin senate show that the centralization of political power, the structure of campaign organizations, and the policy decisions that Kane experienced as an Illinois legislator are not unique to any one state.
In Our Politics Kane reflects on his nearly fifty years of active engagement in state and local politics. In a series of essays, he seeks to understand the forces, motivations, incentives and technologies that shape our politics and produce the consequences that we live with every day.  He describes how candidates and officeholders deal with the fundamental contradictions inherent in the democratic process, and how and why the political power structure has changed. He also explores the personal experience of being a legislator, from deciding how to vote to building relationships with party leaders, fellow legislators, the governor, and the voters in the district. Kane concludes by considering the possibility of change, how it might happen, and the steps that candidates, political parties, activists and others might take to better our politics with results more to our liking.
While many journalists record politics from the outside, and numerous political memoirs focus on personalities and what happened to whom and when, this book gives an insider’s view of politics at the level of state government. This book is not about those politicians but about our politics, which together we have created and together we must deal with.


Douglas Kane served as the director of staff for the Democratic leadership of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1969 to 1973, staff assistant to the governor of Illinois from 1973 to 1974, and Illinois state representative from 1974 to 1983. Prior to his public service, he was a reporter with the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. He is an economist and for twenty years was president of Program Analysis, Inc., a consulting firm that specialized in economic and public policy issues. He is a longtime member of the Alma, Wisconsin, School Board and for four years chaired the Buffalo County Board of Supervisors.


"Candid, informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, Douglas Kane's "Our Politics: Reflections on Political Life" is an extraordinary account of contemporary American politics as rarely provided to the general public." —James A Cox, Midwest Book Review

“Kane drills deep into the politics of America to tell us how and why our once responsive, essentially local political system has been replaced by faraway and typically well-financed special interests. He shows us how the so-called bad-old days weren’t so bad after all. Read this book and you'll learn a lot about why our political system has become so dysfunctional today.”—Dave Beal, former business editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and coauthor of Manufacturing Works: The Vital Link between Production and Prosperity
“Kane is a twenty-first-century Machiavelli, though constructive in tone, neither partisan nor cynical. He advises not the prince but the voters on how to turn our centralized, angry and polarized, money- and message-driven political system on its head, returning political decision-making to our local communities. For the sake of all of us, let’s hope Kane is onto something. Our Politics is well worth a read by concerned citizens of all stripes.”—Jim Nowlan, coauthor of Illinois Politics: A Citizen's Guide and Fixing Illinois: Politics and Policy in the Prairie State.