Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Liberal activist" moniker produces worthless dialogue

Walker's language of vitriol hurts the process overall

As I said yesterday, I'm in no position to comment extensively on the judicial ruling this past week that found Wisconsin Act 10 -- the law that restricted collective bargaining rights for state workers -- unconstitutional. Judge Juan Colás found that the law violated state and federal constitutional standards related to free speech and association rights that were violated under the law. You can read the full ruling here (PDF).

With that said, I do want to take a moment to criticize a comment made by Gov. Scott Walker regarding Colás's decision.

Walker responded to the decision with bravado that has become his typical response to rulings that undermine his policies. This time, however, Walker took it a bit further, calling Judge Colás a "liberal activist judge"

John Nichols has pointed out that this type of name-calling is ridiculous for Walker to make:
Instead of responding with a constitutionally grounded defense of a law that legislators and lawyers warned last year would not stand judicial scrutiny, the governor engaged in cheap-shot invective that is as ignorant as it is shameful.
Indeed, Colás isn't a "liberal activist." Though he was appointed by Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, Colás spent 15 years working for the Department of Justice in the state, working under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

In fact, part of Colás's decision actually sided with the Walker administration -- for example, the plaintiffs alleged that Walker had unconstitutionally passed the law during a special session. Colás disagreed, siding with Walker on that one.

The governor definitely took the low road in his comments following the ruling. What irks me most about his comments, however, isn't that Walker disagrees with it, or even that his ally in the DOJ, JB Van Hollen, already plans to appeal the ruling. That's the process that these things go through, and it isn't exactly a surprise.

Rather, what bugs me is the fact that Walker, instead of defending his law, goes on the attack on the person instead of the decision the person made -- that is, the criticism wasn't based on the ruling itself, but on the character of the duly elected official who issued it.

We're used to this sort of diatribe, of course, especially during a presidential election year. We hear "liberal this" and "conservative that," idioms that are meant to deride the person or persons involved in the debate but add nothing to the discussion itself.

If Walker wants to have a reasoned debate over the constitutionality of the law, he should do so. His administration is set to do just that in the impending appeal. Yet, calling a person an "activist," a purposeful shot meant to incite anger and vitriol, isn't the way to start things off.

The right thing to have done in Walker's shoes would have been to have explained calmly and collectively why he disagreed with the ruling made by Judge Colás, or even to have offered no comment other than he planned to appeal. Instead, he took the easy (but dirty) way out, resorting to kindergarten-type dialogue that produces no worth whatsoever towards the debate.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reactions from Act 10 court ruling

State leaders, lawmakers, bloggers react to repeal of contentious law

I'm unable to publish an analysis of the recent court ruling striking down Wisconsin Act 10, the law that removed bargaining rights for state workers and prompted an unprecedented backlash throughout the state. I'm on vacation -- so my time online is limited.

But here's a few reactions that I thought were worth taking note of:

From Blogging Blue:
While Judge Colas’ decision is certainly good news, I don’t expect his ruling to last, given the conservative bent to our State Supreme court. No doubt Justice David Prosser will have another opportunity to prove that he is in fact an excellent complement to Republicans in the Legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
From Cognitive Dissidence:
The corporate special interests and the plutocrats started this round of class warfare, but they really should take some history lessons to see how that kind of ruling style usual ends up.
From Mike Tate, Chairman of the Wisconsin Democrats:
Today is a great day for Wisconsin workers. Now, we have the opportunity to go back and do things the right way, the Wisconsin way -- where everyone has a seat at the table and where we work together to find commonsense solutions.
From Scott Walker himself:
The people of Wisconsin clearly spoke on June 5th. Now, they are ready to move on. Sadly a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backwards and take away the law making responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process.
It will be interesting to see what the final outcome will be. An appeal is certainly coming -- and if done through the state courts, will ultimately make its way to the state Supreme Court, where the conservative majority will likely side with Gov. Walker.

But the federal aspects of the ruling also make it a possibility that an appeal could be made in federal courts, where the outcome would be less certain. The legal process for this act, which divided the state so severely (and helped contribute to the job losses our state witnessed during Walker's first year in office), will be long and drawn out -- and that's likely the only thing we can be sure of at this point.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering September 11 -- Unity.

We remember today as an anniversary of a terrible event that claimed the lives of thousands. The attacks of September 11 woke up our nation, brought to our attention a threat we had previously minimized. They united us in our common pursuit to bring about peace and justice to those whose actions brought us sorrow and confusion.

Political pundits and talking heads complain today that that unity is lost, that in all of the political vitriol and mud-slinging we are witnessing today we no longer have that feeling of shared purpose. But I disagree; political differences aside, we are a nation united by a common thread, of purpose that goes beyond simple retribution even for the attacks we saw 11 years ago today.

Our purpose is defined in our founding documents -- the pursuits of life, liberty, and happiness. Yet, even those without historical understanding of our nation's beginnings can tell you that we are indeed a country united. The ideal of America is stronger than any other force on this planet -- and no amount of political bickering, nor any physical attack, can bring our nation down, so long as the American dream endures.

We must be careful in our reflections not to deify ourselves; ours is a nation of imperfections, and we must always strive for better days. Yet, we're also a nation of great promise. It took us more than two centuries to get where we are today, but we have passed the tests, lasted through many great challenges, and remain a beacon of hope to millions around the world.

Today we reflect on those we lost, on the attacks that cost thousands their lives and millions more their peace of mind. We must never forget what happened -- and we must continue moving forward from that event, this day, and many others to come.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

DNC speeches will top RNC nonsense

"Highlights" of Republican convention leave Democrats low bar to contend with

The Democratic National Convention is set to kick-off tonight, with several speakers to speak during the next few days and in prime time (tonight, Michelle Obama will speak). President Barack Obama will accept the party's official nomination on Thursday night, with Wisconsin's own Tammy Baldwin speaking earlier in that evening as well.

The DNC could potentially upstage the Republican convention held last week, for a few reasons. First, it's the latter of the two conventions, meaning the president's speech later this week will be fresher in the minds of voters come time for the debates and the election itself.

Second, and more importantly, the GOP didn't deliver a "knock-out punch" during its own convention. It didn't even deliver a decent haymaker (OK, enough with the boxing terms). In fact, the highlights of the RNC included whether a hurricane would drastically hit the event (and the inappropriate comments that followed the storm's departure), blatant racism on the part of some delegates, a speech delivered by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan that was riddled with inaccuracies, and a confusing conversation between Clint Eastwood and a chair.

Those "highlights" are problems for Republicans for many reasons, but chief among them is the fact that presidential nominee Mitt Romney's speech wasn't as remarkable as everything else that went down last week. And when your presidential candidate can't pull off a remarkable performance at his own nominating convention, it spells problems for your party when November rolls around.

Indeed, the Republican convention only netted Romney a 1 percent bump, according to The "improvement" is within the statistical margin of error, meaning it's possible that no "bump" even exists at all.

The Republicans in effect gave President Obama a huge gift by having one of the worst conventions held in recent memory. The president need only to have a speech that is memorable in order to come out ahead of Romney before the debates. That shouldn't be too difficult of a task for Obama to carry out.