Depending even more than usual on who shows up, the spring elections could bring fundamental change to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The April 7 election promises to be an unusually low-turnout affair even for the spring contests, so everyone who votes will have outsized influence and any bloc of motivated voters could decide who sits on the Court and soon after, who leads it.
Incumbent Ann Walsh Bradley, firmly aligned with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and the Court’s Liberal minority, seeks re-election facing a challenge from Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley—who may or may not be a Conservative but would in no way be likely to align with the Liberals.
This distinction is consequential because the nominal 4-3 Conservative majority that exists today would expand—presumably most of the time—to 5-2 if Daley is elected. If Bradley returns for another 10-year term the status quo would remain and the movement of a single vote would continue deciding many issues, especially those with broad philosophical implications.
Adding interest, if Bradley is re-elected and if voters fulfill her wishes and reject or simply overlook a constitutional referendum tucked away at the bottom of the ballot, she will be the next Chief Justice, succeeding Abramson on the sole, currently-existing criterion of seniority.
The proposed amendment, having made the requisite two trips through the Legislature with an election in between, will be written into the state Constitution if a majority votes “yes” on April 7th. It would replace seniority with a vote of the seven sitting Justices, to elect a chief for a two-year term.
It’s often the little things more than the big ones that tell you where the world is going. Wisconsin being “the world” in this case, a little thing that’s nonetheless remarkable occurred in Dane County last week.
A big thing happened when the State Assembly and Senate adopted right-to-work legislation and Governor Walker signed it into law. That had been pretty much a certainty for several weeks. Then came the little thing.
Following standard practice with every major undertaking of the Walker administration, unions went to court in Madison petitioning to block implementation of the law. This time, a Dane County judge refused!
Let the record show that Judge William Foust is not, on paper at least, an outlier on the Dane County bench. His judicial career was preceded by a stint as Dane County’s elected Democrat district attorney.
The lawsuit proceeds and could of course go either way, but ample precedent indicates the union plaintiffs will eventually find—as if they didn’t already know—that they’ve been tossing their members’ dues money onto a bonfire. And the obligatory statement from the AFL-CIO unintentionally underscores the frivolity of the litigation by volunteering that right-to-work notwithstanding, the unions will continue doing what they do.
The Bloomberg News Service tried to stoke up some drama but succeeded mainly in illuminating just how undramatic right-to-work has become, with the percentage of private-sector union membership in the mid-single digits and states like Michigan—the original exporter of public-sector unionization to Wisconsin—having already taken the plunge before the idea was even seriously considered here.
The times, they are a’changin.
Undoubtedly some suspect we harbor Ahab-like obsessions with our great green whale the Environmental Protection Agency which, in our view, is better situated than any foreign adversary to disable the U.S. economy and suppress individual liberty.
So we probably ought to put aside our exasperation and rejoice when the EPA willingly delivers evidence supporting our argument that it considers no corner of anyone’s life exempt from its specialty of command-and-control regulation.
Last week found the EPA—more precisely its grant recipients—halfway through a year-long effort to devise technology to control emissions from—hold onto your hat—residential barbecue grills. If you think this is just another episode of the federal government whimsically wasting your money on goofy boondoggles, think again. The agency’s own website spells out an ambition to regulate cookouts everywhere, expressly referring to “potential global application.”
Scene Two: After eight or ten hours coaxing a rack of ribs to smoky perfection over a (carefully regulated) wood fire, you may want a shower before dinner. Better make it a quick one, because the EPA has its eye on your bathing habits, too.
Recently we saw a map showing which U.S. counties would fall out of compliance with EPA ozone standards, should the agency achieve the tightening it’s proposed. Nobody could build or expand an emitting facility in a noncompliant area without securing equivalent emission reductions from other sources. We’ve been to lots of places that would fail the standard—easily accomplished because they cover well over half the U.S. landmass. Some would qualify as wilderness areas. See, the EPA is proposing limits so low, in many places they’re already exceeded by naturally-occurring ozone.
The shower police should resolve any doubt about losing individual liberty. Did we mention disabling the economy?
We guess some of our friends on the Right wanted so badly for Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress to sound “Churchillian” that they keep calling it that, even though it wasn’t, particularly.
What it was, was a superb example of straight talk about a subject in desperate need of straight talk, to a nation that has heard not one syllable of straight talk from its leader over the past half-dozen years. In that sense, it was Barack Obama’s worst nightmare, which explains almost entirely the sophomoric displays put on by congressional Democrats, before, during, and after the speech.
Stated more directly, with an attractive lineup of Republicans already auditioning for a shot at the presidency and their own party saddled with Hillary Clinton as a presumptive nominee, what could possibly be more frightening to Democrats than Americans getting a glimpse of how things might look if the United States had a leader watching out for the safety of this country?
The reaction of Nancy Pelosi and company to Netanyahu’s address was an absolutely necessary defensive reaction from people whose ignorance has been illuminated by the harsh spotlight of truth.
We’ve been thinking it might be fun to get one of those “I’m ready for Hillary” bumper stickers, but it strikes us how few we’ve seen in and near the Liberal beehive of Madison.
We’re far from the first to remark about the lack of fire among Democrats heading into a presidential race in which their nominee seems predetermined ahead of the starting gun. The people who proved their virtue in 2008 by voting for the first black President get to prove their virtue in 2016 by voting for the first woman President. It appears not so much a charge as a trudge.
Keep that in mind, and the recent flurry of Clinton-adverse headlines is more readily seen for what it is: not a sudden outbreak of journalistic integrity but the turnout for a five-alarm fire threatening to immolate Liberalism’s substantial gains since 2009.
Hence the media boomlet for Martin O’Malley and his tryout for Obama version 2016, defined as a Liberal with an undistinguished record in state government, catapulted onto the national stage as the Left’s next big hope.
If neither O’Malley nor any more doctrinally pure Liberal catches on, expect the New York Times and all the rest to return quietly to Hillary-worship and the treatment of all her likely felonies as old news. Clip and save the stuff that comes out between now and then.
Today a group of unions filed suit in Dane County court claiming the recently passed Right to Work law, which prevents workers from being forced to join a union, is an unconstitutional “taking of property.” We think they have it backwards.
Meanwhile, we were surprised by the otherwise bland response of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. Nobody would mistake their words for compliments to Governor Walker, but realistically, the union bosses’ reaction to the bill-signing was the kind of thing they could type up in their sleep. It bespeaks resignation.
Wisconsin Citizen Action, which might learn something by paying closer attention to the AFL-CIO, is still down for the struggle. On a web page still featuring pictures of protest demonstrations that happened four years ago, Citizen Action rants that Walker chose to sign the legislation at a company that—gasp!—has outsourced jobs!
Evidently Citizen Action hasn’t figured out the symbolism thing: Maybe with voluntary instead of mandatory union membership, some outsourced jobs can be sourced back in?
More sophisticated reaction came from the East Coast. Safely ensconced in Boston, the Christian Science Monitor used Wisconsin’s law as an excuse to mount the Left’s newest hobbyhorse, income inequality, a non-starter except for those hoping income somebody else earned will be transferred to them. Income is equally zero for people who can’t get a job when forced unionization makes it more appealing to hire in a different state or country.
But the more pertinent point is the obvious rhetorical exhaustion of the Left. Compulsory union membership drives away young people the Left imagined it had locked up. Insist too strongly on this issue, and the next generation of Democrat voters heads for the exits.