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Noon, Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Wisconsin Supreme Court election votes are still being counted and will be for hours, if not days. There will then be recounts and court challenges, no doubt. News reports and blogs—including my own—will cover each maneuver, every fiery soundbite, and all of the turns of fortune for Kloppenburg and Prosser along the way.  I’m just having trouble getting my partisan rant on right now.

I know this election matters, and it matters a lot.  Thousands of people in Wisconsin, some of them dear friends, will likely be affected by the outcome of this election.  

Under normal circumstances, this election would have gone largely unnoticed by most folks within or outside of Wisconsin, if not for the bizarre and radical acts of the GOP legislators and governor since January.  I voted in a dozen or more elections in Wisconsin during my adult years there: I cannot tell you the name of even one Supreme Court justice for whom I voted.  Were it not for the GOP attempt to bully public sector unions and pit the people of the Badger state against each other, I wouldn’t know their names now.

I care about the people.  Even though I do favor the Democrat, I’m just not feeling the suspense about the result. And I am beginning to understand why.  What is playing out in Wisconsin is a bad melodrama, not politics.  Can the corporate-backed GOP tie the unions to the train tracks?  Can the lonely middle class liberal stare down the evil richest-man-in-town and take him out in the final gunfight?  The great advantage the old black hat/white hat films had over the current political melodrama was at least the movies were silent.

7 PM, Wednesday, 6 April 2011

It now appears that Kloppenburg has prevailed in the first full vote count.  Again, while it is uncertain what will happen in the inevitable recounts and court challenges, some are trying to say what this outcome means to larger questions or forecasts other contests to come—particularly the recall challenges.  Speculation on how Kloppenburg or Prosser would rule on the injunction blocking the implementation of the “Budget Repair Bill” when it reaches the WI Supreme Court is the hot topic on blog posts and news reports tonight.  

Too bad that the value of these two seemingly capable and complex human beings have been reduced to how they would decide one legal issue.

Our elections have taken on a glamour, the illusion that they are referenda on a position, philosophy, or ideology.  Somewhere in my dim memories is a civics class where it was suggested that elections might be a process by which the person better suited to perform the functions of governing is selected.  That may be a lot less sexy, since in the short term only one direct winner identified: the prevailing candidate. Any benefit to the electorate is slow to develop and may be subtle.

But when an election is seen as a referendum on an ideology, then there are many vicarious “winners”: the candidate’s victory is a victory for the thought pattern her/his supporters have adopted.  Governing is beside the point. Serving the electorate is beside the point.  The office holder is only there to hold the office as a marker of the battle won.

The people of Wisconsin, and the interests that have used them as proxies in their own battles, have expended so much energy and money on a contest decided by a few hundred votes out of 1.4 million…less than one quarter of one percent of the ballots cast.  That much unsettling acrimony and bitterness for an election margin so razor thin that it settles nothing about the direction of a great state with a complex and important political history.

I am afraid that this race will add little to that history, because the battle in Wisconsin is about standing for something political only on the surface. How tragic that the mainstream political discourse has been reduced to a Charlie Sheen slogan.

The first problem with “Winning!” as a political philosophy is that you them have to portray opponents as “losers”.  Then, you wake up on the day after the election is decided and go to work or school or church with “losers” who used to be your colleagues and friends.

The second problem is that, once achieving “Winner” status, becoming a loser is an ever more terrifying fear.  Rhetoric becomes louder and more extreme, divisions more polarizing, and battles more fierce.  Resources, including the time and energy of legislators, are diverted from the needs of the people to the needs of preserving a majority.

If there is a ray of hope in the apparent election of Kloppenburg, it may be in the emotional, financial, and physical fatigue of both her backers and Prossers’.  Only when the politics of melodrama gets too tiring and too painful will the electorate again get the chance to decide between candidates on skill and experience, not ideological purity and the ability to shout it loudly.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (0+ / 0-)

    Having an Ideology is not the same as Having Ideas.

    by Mark Throckmorton on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 09:26:25 PM PDT

    •  My take (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JVolvo, progressivebadger

      For me, it was never about how Kloppenburg or Prosser would rule on the budget repair bill. My assumption is that the budget, either with or without the collective bargaining changes and all of the other odious provisions of the so-called budget repair bill (like the changes to Medicaid that will directly impact my family), will be passed before the new term begins in August. So even if Kloppenburg prevails in the recount, she will be seated after the budget is resolved.

      Instead, it was about the growing influence of corporate players with lots of money to throw around. Two of the last three Supreme Court justices elected in Wisconsin were bought and paid for by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) and other big money, right-leaning groups who expect (and largely receive) favorable treatment of their cases when they reach the court.

      It was WMC, along with the Wisconsin Realtor's Association, who pushed new rules allowing justices to sit on cases involving campaign contributors and third-party "issue" advocacy organizations that spend heavily Supreme Court races. The rules are a travesty, permitting a judge to rule on cases where one of the parties may have spent millions of dollars to help get that same justice elected.

      And in this race, it was Prosser who had the big corporate money behind him in this race. Anyone would be a fool to believe that these corporate interests are spending all that money for any purpose other than to influence the court.

      Equal justice under the law? Fat chance of that in Wisconsin.

      April is Autism Awareness Month. Are you aware?

      by A FIB in Cheddarland on Thu Apr 07, 2011 at 03:13:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Except you are wrong on the particulars. (5+ / 0-)

    I have followed the race since it first came to the foreground after the emergence of the "Budget Repair Bill." While I have seen some evidence that Prosser blew several dog whistles intimating he would support Walker and his bill, I never once saw anyone suggest that Kloppenburg would vote to invalidate the bill.

    The most I saw was that Kloppenburg would view the bill as an impartial judge.

    Given the choice between a judicial candidate who will not announce a position on a case that probably will come before her, and a candidate who all but screams from the mountaintops that he knows how he will vote and (wink, wink) his supporters should also know how he will vote -- given that choice, I think it is a major win for the American system if the first candidate wins.  I think it is axiomatic that the second candidate is a loser no matter how the vote turns out.  

    Are there people speculating on how either candidate would vote on a future case?  I'll take your word for it that there are, and it doesn't bother me in the least.  People can speculate on whether Michigan or North Dakota will win the NCAA frozen four game tomorrow.  They can speculate on whether the marriage between those two celebrities in England will last.  People speculate on things that interest them.  People interested in politics will speculate on politics.  So what?

    For the record, North Dakota will win tomorrow and go on to its 8th national title on Saturday.  Hopefully against Duluth.

    I'd rather stand with the down-trodden than lie with the wealthy.

    by Endangered Alaskan Dem on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 09:45:28 PM PDT

    •  JK herself did not say it... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Endangered Alaskan Dem

      ...but the blogosphere is well populated with people who did look at this race primarily in terms of that bill coming before the WI Sup Ct.  I don't believe it is a stretch to believe that significantly more than 204 people, JK's apparent margin of victory, were motivated to vote for her because of their speculations about how she'd vote.

      Since there was no movement on the two-to-one polling margin in Prosser's favor until the bill in question was stopped by an injunction that will likely wind up appealed up to that court, there is probably some causal link with how the candidates were expected to judge that matter if they were on the bench before them. Not all, to be sure, but let's not pretend that the voters for JK were any less driven by those expectations than the Prosser supporters.

      I intend no disparagement of Kloppenburg. She would have already been my choice--based on the candidate's record and their behavior in the campaign--were I still a WI voter.

      I think my "facts" are reasonably solid, as were my assertions about what was said on behalf of (if not by) each candidate. I don't hold JK responsible for her supporters' speculations, though Prosser did say things that encouraged ideological partisanship.  I hold the current practice of casting every race as a plebicite on polar opposite ideologies in great contempt, however, and I believe that good government is impossible as long as that is the tenor of political discourse.

      And I'll go along with you on ND. Just so a WCHA team wins, and not some preppy outfit from out east...

      Having an Ideology is not the same as Having Ideas.

      by Mark Throckmorton on Thu Apr 07, 2011 at 12:32:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm just saying I never saw one (0+ / 0-)

        comment that suggested Kloppenburg was a vote against Walker or his bill.  There is a difference between the following two dichotomies:

        Prosser all but said he would vote for Walker's bill and Kloppenburg will vote against it.

        and

        Prosser all but said he would vote for Walker's bill and we don't know much about Kloppenburg but she will no doubt be more fair and impartial.

        I saw tons of comments of the second type, and none of the first.

        BTW, of the Frozen Four there are two WCHA and two CCHA teams, so unless you view Our Lady's Fighting Irish as an elite eastern preppy school . . .

        Which reminds me, less than two hours before I can start chanting, "Face off, face off, RIP HIS FACE OFF!"  :)

        I'd rather stand with the down-trodden than lie with the wealthy.

        by Endangered Alaskan Dem on Thu Apr 07, 2011 at 10:16:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Then if you never saw one... (0+ / 0-)

          ...how do you know it did or didn't happen. And "All but said" is the kind of careless language Prosser used against Kloppenburg time and time again.  See linkProsser: JK only prosecuted DNR dock cases

          There was rampant speculation, much of which was not the fault of either candidate's actions, but that did influence the vote. Exit polls clearly showed many JK supporters turned out and voted based on their perception that Prosser would vote to uphold the Budget Repair Law. A subset of those expressed their belief that JK would rule against the law.

          To me, that speaks of an election becoming a referendum on a particular issue. What I support in this piece is elections being more about candidate qualifications than about one hot button issue, which actually makes things easier for the Right Wing since they have the media outlets and outstanding soundbite machine to win that kind of campaign.

          The longer we let that happen, the harder it will be to come back.

          Having an Ideology is not the same as Having Ideas.

          by Mark Throckmorton on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 02:49:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Hockey (0+ / 0-)

          Oh, and sorry about NoDak. Duluth was my second choice, and WCHA rules!

          Having an Ideology is not the same as Having Ideas.

          by Mark Throckmorton on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 02:51:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The GOP threw the first punch. (3+ / 0-)

    They ran on Jobs, and fucking lied.

    The moment they got any power at all, they set about devaluing ordinary Americans as quickly as they could, while at the same time framing everything in terms of, "those other people" dividing us, distracting us so they can get it done.

    These wins are by thin margins, if they happen at all.

    You are spot on that it's ugly, with sides taking momentum, projecting and all the rest.

    IT MUST BE DONE.  They forced our hand, and the sooner we learn that, step up, and start rubbing their faces in it, the sooner we can begin to end 30 years of very ugly attacks on the middle class.

    IF THEY ARE GOING TO SCREW THE PEOPLE, MAKE THEM OWN IT. #opengeekorg

    by potatohead on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 10:13:52 PM PDT

    •  An eye for an eye.... (0+ / 0-)

      ...makes all the world blind.

      If JK's win brings me any hope it is that it shows genuine activism in support of a good candidate, which overcame the ideology-babble.  In my better moments, I think this might have been the indicator people are beginning to reject the politics of division and the contrived battle with an imaginary enemy.

      That day of awareness will come, which is why I disagree with the premise that "IT MUST BE DONE".

      Dems must not just do it the same way as GOPs. We must be the party of another way.

      Having an Ideology is not the same as Having Ideas.

      by Mark Throckmorton on Thu Apr 07, 2011 at 12:14:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not advocating that at all. (0+ / 0-)

        At some point, we all need to have the self-respect necessary to recognize when we are being gamed, and to do what it takes to end that.

        What happens from there determines a lot of things.

        Ever been bullied?

        It works a lot like this.  The bully will start something, then claims themselves the victim, and the target of the bullying, say, takes the higher ground.

        The bully continues, manipulating because they know the outcome, as the other party is limited by that higher ground.

        That will work for the bully, until either somebody gets wise to the scenario and ends it, relieving the target from having to lower themselves, or...

        the target of the bullying decides to act to end the bullying.

        Once that has happened, the target could be no better than the bully, pressing the advantage, or they could return to their higher ground and continue on, free of the bully.

        The answer to that question is character, and the assumption that people are of low character leads to the "eye for an eye" discussion.

        The assumption that people are of good character, leads to a bully being pushed back, learning that not everybody is a chump, and there are consequences for our actions in this world.

        Sometimes people do ugly things, sometimes they do beautiful things too.  That's the real world, where sometimes a person must do what it takes, however unpleasant, because another person forced their hand.

        We are there with the GOP, who is perfectly happy to manipulate the situation.

        And given the state of our media today, and the clear regressive economic majority that owns the government, who exactly is going to wake up, and come to our rescue?

        Look around.  Do you see anybody but us?  I don't.  With Citizens United in play, do you honestly believe that the money won't trump somebody wanting the right things to happen, more often than not?

        So then, how long do you tolerate the bully?

        I've been there in life, and I've gone down both roads.  My experiences so far have shown me the value of self-respect, and the meaning of do what it takes.  

        These asses have been on the attack for 30 years, and it's profitable as hell.  There isn't anything other than us to stop them from continuing to do that.

        So what is worth what?  I don't think living a life under bullies, knowing things could have been done, is worth some illusion of higher ground that somehow makes it all ok.

        Why?

        Because it just isn't ok, and that's all anyone needs to act.

        IF THEY ARE GOING TO SCREW THE PEOPLE, MAKE THEM OWN IT. #opengeekorg

        by potatohead on Thu Apr 07, 2011 at 06:30:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Rubbing their face in it, is necessary (0+ / 0-)

        because the authoritarians among us won't really buy in otherwise.

        Needed to add that to my other comment.

        IF THEY ARE GOING TO SCREW THE PEOPLE, MAKE THEM OWN IT. #opengeekorg

        by potatohead on Thu Apr 07, 2011 at 06:48:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The world's interest in this story is amazing! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    progressivebadger

    It's so strong that the Wisconsin Public Radio web site has been overwhelmed with traffic.  They's shut down all but their dialup-compatible audio streams.

    Listening to their Ideas Network stream just now, doing a news call-in show, I heard a guy who said he normally votes Republican say that he voted for "Kloppenburg, or Kloppenburger, I apologize to her if I got her name wrong" saying because of Walker's duplicity, he would have voted for Bambi against Prosser if he were on the ticket, just to express his disgust with Walker's duplicity.

    You know what hope is? Hope is a bastard. Hope is a liar a cheat and tease. Hope comes near you, kick it's backside. It's got no place in days like these.

    by tbetz on Thu Apr 07, 2011 at 04:29:08 AM PDT

  •  False Equivalency Alert!! (0+ / 0-)

    Mark,

    The left has been getting steamrolled since 1980.  That is over 30 years.  The left has been trying to “play nice” for those past 30 years as the right has played for keeps.  The right has been fighting an ideological fight at least since Reagan and has been pretty much been winning that fight.  Their goal is oligarchy, corporate domination, cheap labor, end of labor unions, and the destruction of the middle class.  Their ideology will destroy the country.  If that truth sounds like melodrama to you I am sorry.  Look at fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan’s budget bill.  This is a full out class war.

    Your argument is the exact same argument my dad made to me about a month ago.  Both sides are equally to blame.  Both sides need to come together.  I would really like that Mark.  But, the other side has no such intention.  They are not only out for political victory they are out to literally kill people.  Do you not believe people will die if their Medicare is taken away or if their social security is taken away?  Do you not believe that people are not already dying because of our privatized health care system?  

    I’m sorry Mark, but this is not just some theoretical political fight where at the end both sides can go out afterward and share a beer and a laugh.  I want to get back to times where both sides have serious discussions and there is a serious give and take.  But, those times are gone Mark.  We are now in a new era.  The new era is an era of a new populist movement.  And only this movement is capable of saving the country.  Only this movement can force changes that will remove the money from politics and corporate personhood that are at the core of the problems our country faces.  The sooner you get your mind around that the sooner you can join the fight.  Because Mark, this is a fight brother and we need to win.

    Fascism: The conservative notion that killing people makes them work harder

    by madtowntj on Thu Apr 07, 2011 at 11:46:16 AM PDT

    •  Both sides not "equally to blame". (0+ / 0-)

      TJ, It is a struggle, and the right wing does not "play fair". LibDemProgressives have also done unfair things, but that is not the point. I am talking about "winning" the struggle, but to make it a "fight" allows for the underdog side to adopt the same tactics of lying, misrepresentation, divide-and-conquer, "let's you and him fight", and repeat a lie until it is considered truth.  

      #1, I don't believe we CAN beat them at their own game. The right wing is too well financed, has more experience and more infrastructure.

      #2, I want to stop training the electorate that this is the only way to have public discourse and create public policy. The left has become so reactive to the right that we do not stand up and offer clear alternatives when it comes to how the issues are discussed. Once the form of the discussion is set, the content is constrained and the outcome is often predictable.

      #3, I don't want live in what is left of this country if the right dictates how we act as political agents on the left. The right "rules" at this time because we read the results of a few elections wrong decades ago and thought we would succeed using their playbook.  Which leads to...

      #4, Wisconsin is winning back their government BECAUSE THEY ARE WORKING HARD, not playing dirty.  Kloppenburg even coming within 20%, much less .5%, of Prosser is evidence that the state and the nation are weary of the crap coming from the GOP.  And JK got there by running a clean, responsible, and respectable campaign, not a GOP liefest.

      Everything you say about the intentions of the other side is true. And we find it despicable. And there is evidence that it is coming to its end.

      So why should we jump in and do the same? THAT is the sure way to lose the entire struggle, though we might win a few elections.

      Recalls, and Quality candidates on the ballot to replace the ousted rascals. Peaceful, Massive Protests. Open Meeting Law enforcement. Truth telling. Courage. These are our weapons, they are our advantage because the GOP has forgotten how to use them. Their lawsuits and calls for investigations are SO lame. They lost over Planned Parenthood in the budget debate because the Dems grew a backbone and said "no." And they couldn't turn out more than a few buses full of "Tea Party" folks the capitol square.

      And, brother, this ain't no "theoretical". It's the cold, hard fact. We can't beat 'em if we become 'em.

      Having an Ideology is not the same as Having Ideas.

      by Mark Throckmorton on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 02:35:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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