Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The race card

The Capital Times plays the race card in explaining why the first African American State Supreme Court Justice was only able to get 49% of the vote. Just blame whitey and damn the philosophy.

So why did Butler lose? Those attack ads by the Gableman campaign distorted the incumbent's record and flashed images of an African-American justice next to those of an African-American child molester.

There was no subtlety to the Gableman campaign. It was explicitly racial in its messaging. The point was to stir fear and resentment. And, with an assist from the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce corporate lobby, it worked.

I had to laugh today when listening to Charlie Sykes on WTMJ-AM read e-mails from listeners that did not know Justice Butler is an African American. I'm laughing because I actually know someone who quite sincerely told me the same thing. As I pointed out at the time, the color scheme used in the Gableman ad gave Butler a skin color "closer to Reince Priebus than Clarence Thomas".

But aside from that. You mean to tell me that the state that has two Jewish US Senators, a governor with African American children, and just recently gave Senator Barack Obama a huge win over the WASPy Hillary Clinton is really a state that has a voting majority of bigots? Seriously, do the Cap Times and others really have such a low opinion of Wisconsin's residents? Do they really hate us that much?

Perhaps that explains why they are so willing to figure out ways to limit participation in democracy. The Cap Times calls for more campaign finance reform (as if that's a cure for racism) while the other liberal newspaper in Madison calls for doing away with elections for judges altogether.

Again, I'd like to remind those who are frustrated with democracy that the voters once before rejected Justice Butler, and that it took an appointment by Governor Doyle (the method prescribed by the Wisconsin State Journal) to foist Butler onto an unhappy electorate. Electing Supreme Court Justices is a check on potentially the most powerful branch of the government. Jeff Mayers of WisPolitics.com was absolutely right when he said even an election as rough as this one was a small price to pay for electing someone to a ten-year term.

I'd also like to point out that the Gableman ad was something of an "own goal." As Daniel Suhr reminds us, it was roundly condemned by the right and was used to club the Gableman campaign at every opportunity. Had the Gableman campaign not run the ad, the margin of victory may have been wider. Given the results of the Van Hollen election and the Ziegler election, I suspect Suhr is right, and even argued this point before the election results were known.

So spare me the complaint that Butler lost because he was a minority. If anything, it should have been an asset in driving up inner-city vote turnout.