Even though the nationally-funded would-be manipulators of our state’s justice system will continue the desperate, dirty tactics in the most disgusting campaign in Wisconsin history until the last minute, some of the right-wing bloggers and mainstream radio talkers who tried their best (worst) to destroy the first African-American on the state’s Supreme Court are already predicting their own failure. Blame is being placed at the flat feet of pathetic WMC puppet Gableman, who is now found lacking by the same people who were singing his praises just last week. If only the anti-Butler forces didn’t have to go with their seventh or eighth option, ending up with the opportunistic dregs of the northwestern Wisconsin judiciary....well, sweet Republican dreams are made of these.
Those four or five people who hang on my every blog may wonder where I have been this past week, while other bloggers on one side or the wrong one develop dueling seven-part legal treatises on the intricate niceties about, for example, whether providing a copy of a prisoner’s pre-sentence investigation to review is an "activist", loophole-ridden, pro-criminal, keys-to-the-jail-cell surrender to the forces of the underworld...or not. Well, as much fun as that must have been (I dipped my toe in earlier), there was this small matter of a spring-break jaunt to New Orleans for a history lesson and there was this infernal law practice that intruded on my free time as I played catch-up this weekend. But thanks for asking, not that anybody did.
In any event, I was planning to sum up this gruesome attempt at a power-grab by the right before tomorrow’s election. You know, plagiarizing myself by repeating, er, emphasizing some of the points I’ve made over the last couple of months and maybe expanding on a few others. But then, on Sunday morning, a moment of great clarity intruded to make all that unnecessary. I watched the We the People debate on public television between my friend Louis Butler and Michael Gableman.
Although I sensed some of this when I saw them both in person at the MBA three weeks ago, there was something about the glare of television lights off of Gableman’s shiny head that brought a new focus on exactly what these people were trying to pull. In the course of an hour before about a hundred good-and-true Wisconsin citizens, Michael Gableman was the robo-candidate, insulting their (and our) intelligence by refusing to answer any questions and repeating the talking-point babble fed to him by the WMC handlers. It was beyond pathetic. And so is he.
You had to see it to believe it (so here it is). While Butler was his usual engaged, intelligent, charming self, Gableman sat stiffly and just waited for his next opportunity to repeat his exaggerated law enforcement support and to say the words "activist" and "conservative", as if they had any real legal meaning (they don’t). He refused to discuss – as he has the whole campaign – exactly what is wrong with any of the Supreme Court decisions he and his surrogates (wait, he's the surrogate...) have criticized. When invited to ask Butler a question, he actually asked him why he, Gableman, had such great support from law enforcement. Justice Butler, who was stifling chuckles for much of the hour as Gableman’s tightly-scripted performance reached new heights of absurdity, even came up with a decent answer – he attributed some of it to sour grapes by sheriffs for a decision requiring them to follow collective bargaining agreements and to the DAs being lied to in an early Gableman mailing.
But, watching the travesty that is Gableman in all his glory, all you could do is hope that the people behind his dangerous campaign don’t get away with it. If the WMC and their national-agenda overlords are able to pull this off – if they are really able to install a backwater cipher like Gableman to rubber-stamp their agenda on the Supreme Court - then there really is no hope for justice in Wisconsin or anywhere else.
It’s one thing for the general populace to watch this spectacle; it is quite another for lawyers, who, believe it or not, I always hope will have some sense of decency and ethics. But these radical paradigm-shifters are a different breed. I think back to my visit to the Federalist Society lunch. These were win-at-all-costs people – people who are not satisfied having all the resources in the world to beat up on any plaintiff who would have the temerity to sue one of their clients’ companies. No, they want the rules changed to make it even easier - no, guaranteed! - for them to win. They want to stack the court. They don’t want fairness or justice. They want predictable and constant victory.
One of the most revealing questions in the We the People debate was about the propriety of judicial elections. Gableman was all for them. No wonder. There is no way that any too-willing puppet like him would ever get anywhere in an appointed judiciary – his application would be immediately circular-filed, or maybe put up on the dartboard for the committee’s amusement. In the end, the success of the judicial election process is threatened by the willingness of the monied right-wing to play on the emotional and, yes, racial attitudes of the electorate to get the skewed court that they desire. And by the willingness of empty suits like Gableman to play a front for the outside interests.
Through the WMC/Gableman campaign, we have now seen the outer edges of how far they will go. Or, at least, we hope so. That they must fail is obvious. Whether they will or not won’t be known until tomorrow night.