Monday, March 31, 2008

Butler-Gableman Contest Puts Us At A Crossroads

Wisconsin's reputation is on the line Tuesday, inextricably tied to the outcome of the ballot contest between incumbent State Supreme Court Louis Butler and challenger Burnett County Circuit Court Judge Michael Gableman.

That's because Butler, an African-American jurist, has been subjected to misleading, even racist attacks as part of the plan to remove him from the Court.

Should Gableman win, validating reprehensible tactics of sympathetic outside groups and his own campaign committee as well, Wisconsin's already thinning reputation as a fair and progressive-minded state would be erased.

I've noted the irony of the Butler-Gableman faceoff taking place in the context of the Barack Obama presidential campaign, where the US Senator from Illinois has been undercut by his own pastor, the Clintons, and former Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro as he tries to conduct a ground-breaking adult national conversation about race in America.

It's painful that Gableman, who should certainly know better, had at the same time aired, then stood by his slimy race-baiting, Willie Horton-style television ad - - a commercial so misleading that even right-wing talk show Charlie Sykes, a Gableman supporter, said it should be pulled.

Though Gableman's ad played the race card, blatantly, on the offense and offensively, without provocation, the candidate stood by the ad and didn't take it down.

Many editorial writers and bloggers too numerous to list have blasted Gableman over the ad.

It was even noted by Newsweek.

The most precise of the Wisconsin critics was Isthmus' Bill Lueders who wrote that Gableman's double-embrace of the ad should be a disqualification from holding any judicial office in Wisconsin.

The documented ploys unleashed to get Gableman onto the Circuit Court bench, then into contention against the eminently-qualified Butler, by corporate attack-ad funders, have been just as cynical.

If those tactics are validated in a campaign accurately labeled "a new low" in state judicial contests by 34 Wisconsin judges - - something of an unprecedented "no confidence" decision handed down by judges statewide - - the Wisconsin Supreme Court, our justice system and the state's image will be indelibly marred.

So the State Supreme Court election on Tuesday will tell us a lot about who we are as a state.

Are we still the state with an identity forged by the La Follettes, or civil rights giants like Gaylord Nelson, Robert Kastenmeier, Percy Julian Jr, and Father James Groppi?

Or will we stand revealed to the nation as the time-warped Northern reflection of 1950's-era Mississippi, or Georgia, or Alabama, where, in 2008, Jim Crow was resurrected by some shameless corporate power brokers on the Right to boot the state's only African-American jurist off the State Supreme Court?


Anonymous said...

So we should always vote for a black candidate no matter what? No one will actually vote for Judge Gableman because they happen to agree with what he stands for? No one could possibly think Justice Butler has expanded the power of the court too far?

Of course not. The only reason anyone could possibly not vote for Justice Butler is because that voter is a racist bastard.

Do you have any idea how incredibly insulting that is to voters in this state? I can't believe this blatant pandering. Playing the race card to prop up Justice Butler. It is degrading and insulting. No one could possibly disagree with a liberal justice, so anyone who does must be a racist or a sexist. You make me sick.

James Rowen said...

To anonymous:

It was the Gableman campaign itself that played the race card with its race-baiting ad. Get your facts and chronology straight.

That ad was Gableman's definition of the campaign, and he wouldn't back away from it.