Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

The Voters Should Keep Speaking

With the Supreme Court race in our rear view mirror, the usual hysterics are taking place with regard to how we select our justices. According to Jay Heck from Common Cause, \”This was the most nasty, negative, demoralizing statewide election in Wisconsin history. . . . This is about as low as you can go.\”

Consider me among those not \”demoralized.\”

The election of conservative Judge Mike Gableman has set the media on fire. Much of the reaction resembles the state being hit by a hurricane, not the state electing a conservative Supreme Court justice. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign\’s Mike McCabe, who must have a heck of a cell phone plan with all the calls he gets from state newspapers, said \”\”Wisconsin is in the midst of a hostile takeover of its court system.\”

This article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel goes on to quote SEVEN individuals who think we should completely overhaul our system of electing judges. Not content with just that pitch for campaign finance reform, the paper today also ran an editorial describing the Supreme Court race, titled \”Tawdry and Despicable.\”

Naturally, had Butler won, we wouldn\’t be hearing any of these calls for blowing up the system – everything from eliminating free speech to publicly funding elections to doing away with elections altogether. Everything would be golden until next year, when the balance of the Court would be up again.

But there are some interesting facts that the Journal Sentinel seems to leave out. Take, for instance, the results of the last four Wisconsin Supreme Court races:

2000: Conservative woman defeats liberal man (Sykes v. Butler)

2003: Conservative woman defeats liberal man (Roggensack v. Brunner)

2007: Conservative woman defeats liberal woman (Ziegler v. Clifford)

2008: Conservative man defeats liberal man (Gableman v. Butler)

Could it be possible that Wisconsin voters simply prefer conservative justices? Is there even a remote chance that the people who voted wanted their justices to adhere to a strict reading of state law?

In fact, it could be that all those \”scary\” ads had little to do with the race. The Sykes and Roggensack races were low-profile elections, yet the conservatives won in each case (Sykes by a nearly 2 to 1 margin).

Consider also the 2006 elections, when Republican J.B. Van Hollen won the race for Wisconsin Attorney General amid a Democratic tidal wave. How could this be? Could it be possible that voters are actually sophisticated enough to know what they want from specific elected offices? If voters knew what they were doing, that would ruin the whole fairy tale about how they are unduly influenced by campaign advertising, and how they\’re not qualified to pick judges.

Put simply, you want a conservative to keep bad people from doing things to you, but you want a liberal when you want to do things to bad people. (Oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, Dick Cheney)

Yet the state media can\’t comprehend the fact that in electing Gableman, they were only doing what they have done for the past decade – electing a conservative. It doesn\’t matter how much people spend or how much press coverage there is of the race.

Had Gableman lost the election, conservatives certainly would have been bummed out. But how many would be calling for an overhaul of the electoral system? Answer: none. When Democrats and liberals are elected, the Right lives to fight another day. Fortunately, they have enough class to refrain from insulting the will of the people.


  1. What frustrates me is that liberals already know what you’ve presented above. They know that voters don’t like judges who have an expansive view of judicial power. Justice Butler knew this when he wrapped himself in the words of judicial restraint during the campaign.

    However, despite knowing this — and perhaps burying it deep in their subconscious to avoid confronting their non-mainstream status — they continue to claim that voters in judicial elections are stupid (at least when they vote for conservatives).

  2. Although–it is important to point out that “liberals” like the Wisconsin State Journal started calling for merit selection prior to the election.

  3. Voters seem to speak louder when special interests like WMC and WEAC dump money into a race. Few voters, if any at all, knew how to assess the judges, and the negative ads won.

    Is that how we want our judicial system decided?

    I’d rather have judges appointed by politicians I don’t like than to have them funded by business or teacher associations. In 75% of the cases that reach the Supreme Court level there’s a contributor on one side or the other.

    How’s that for a clean judicial system.

  4. Lets test your theory….how about a ban on any and all 527, third party or participation in advertising, by anyone other than the actual candidate for any non-partisan office.

    Let’s see how voters would ‘choose’, if that media influence was removed from the equation.

    I suspect we elected a propaganda suite, in WMC, Club for Growth and All Children Matter.

  5. I’m interested in joining other citizens opposing the change to merit selection. This is a power grab. Merit should be determined by the voters.

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