2/9/2018 7:30:00 AM Tim Burns exposes his opponents' nakedness
There's an old saying out there that, if you don't want people to stare at you, don't walk around naked.
It's always been true and, even in a world where it's hard to shock anybody, it's still true.
It probably has something to do with the old Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, in which the emperor shelled out a lot of dollars to con artists for magic clothes that supposedly nobody but wise people could see.
Naturally he couldn't see them because they didn't exist but he walked around naked anyway because he didn't want to admit it and look like the stupid chump he was.
This is a lot like our state Supreme Court races.
They are officially nonpartisan and all the candidates are supposed to be wearing their best nonpartisan garments, only they don't have any because they are all political party hacks of one party or the other.
So they go forth with tons of dollars - otherwise known as political contributions from special interests - to dress up their campaign speeches and ads in nonpartisan magic. Only it's a scam because everybody sees the naked partisanship parading around.
And they stare in disbelief.
Now, this year, along a comes a guy, Tim Burns, who is pretty whacked out politically but who decides to call out the myth of the magic clothes and to dive deep into a partisan campaign.
The other candidates, who are also partisan but still walk around in their majestic nakedness, are absolutely shocked. Shocked! How dare Burns engage in such unethical and inappropriate partisan rhetoric, as the campaign of liberal Milwaukee County circuit court judge Rebecca Dallet called it.
But Burns's campaign rhetoric isn't unethical and irresponsible. It's refreshing, even if his positions are totally off the wall. Like the child in the fairy tale, Burns has essentially said about his opponents, "Why they aren't wearing anything at all!"
Everybody - and we mean everybody - knows and has known for a long time that these races aren't nonpartisan. Everybody certainly knew, if they didn't before, after the recall year of 2012, when justice David Prosser was transformed by the Left into a stand-in for Scott Walker and Joanne Kloppenburg was the progressive, pro-union candidate trying to knock him out.
All totaled, since 2007, according to a 2016 analysis by the Wisconsin State Journal using data compiled by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - itself a liberal group - outside interest groups spent more than $13.2 million on issue ads in the last six state Supreme Court races. Both liberal and conservative special interest groups funneled money into those campaigns.
On the conservative side, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce spent almost $6 million, while on the liberal side the Greater Wisconsin Committee spent nearly $4 million, including $1.6 million in issue ads trying to boost Kloppenburg.
Now there's only one reason why these highly political groups are pouring money into these elections and it ain't because they are just trying to boost nonpartisanship.
It's because they want to elect partisan candidates who think politically like they do, and, hey, there's nothing wrong with that.
Indeed, none of this is to say these justices, once on the high court, will always vote the way the Democratic or Republican parties want them to. It's not to say they won't consider judicial precedent and the rule of law. They often will.
But, given the way they think about the constitution, conservatives are more likely to vote the way the GOP wants them to, and liberals, the way Democrats want them to.
Even Supreme Court justices are human.
Here's how Thomas Jefferson put it in 1820: "To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions (is) a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have with others the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps. Their maxim is boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem (good justice is broad jurisdiction) ..."
So saying you want a nonpartisan judge is like saying you want to see a nonpartisan reporter in the mainstream media: Such a thing does not exist, and never can.
What's wrong about it is the hypocrisy of the other two candidates calling Burns out for his political beliefs, for they are no less partisan, they just think they are hiding it with their magic clothes.
Both of Burns's candidates, Dallet and Sauk County circuit court judge Michael Screnock, are guilty of this hypocrisy, but Rebecca Dallet especially so.
She condemns his partisanship but then gives a speech at the state Democratic Party convention. Yes, she flashed her magic clothes and told them she would be independent - wink, wink - but she also quietly reminded them that she was, after all, progressive.
Funny, she didn't show up at the Republican state convention to assure that audience how independent she was. She didn't, in a campaign ad, hesitate to attack President Trump as racist, a baldly political move that had nothing to do with the Supreme Court election.
So Rebecca Dallet is a liberal, and not only a liberal but a dishonest hypocritical one.
So does that mean we think Tim Burns would be good for the court?
Absolutely not, for while his honesty is refreshing, his politics are not. They are from a decidedly 1930s big government script that advocates a lot of collectivism (government and unions) and little individualism.
His refreshing honesty suggests to us that he would use the Public Trust Doctrine to once again unleash state police power on our citizens to trample down their property and constitutional rights.
His refreshing honesty suggests to us he would oppose voter ID laws.
His refreshing honesty suggests to us he would undo, if he could, all the good accomplished by breaking the stranglehold that public sector unions had on this state.
And his refreshing honesty suggests to us that, while advocating for the political power of those organized collectively into unions - presumably coerced into those unions by legal force, if necessary - he does not believe those individuals organized collectively into businesses have any similar rights, and especially free speech rights.
So thank you, Tim, for the honesty, but no thank you on the politics.
One last word on the big partisan money in politics: Might we get rid of the hypocrisy and the partisanship by going to merit selection of judges and justices?
We're glad you asked. The answer is no.
In truth, merit selection committees are packed with trial lawyers, who are famously liberal and Democratic. That would merely hand what are now competitive elections - with public participation - over to a cabal of lawyer-liberals who would impose their judicial activism under the guise of "merit" selection.
When liberals lose elections, they try to overturn them, or prevent them in the future. That is just what they do, they can't help themselves. That is what the recall was about, that is what the Russia investigation of Trump is all about, and that's what merit selection is all about.
The truth is, everybody knows these are partisan elections, the magic clothes of the naked candidates notwithstanding, so let's just be honest about it and move on.