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Wisconsins downward ethical spiral
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In Wisconsin’s April 5 election, 52 percent of voters chose a Republican ballot while 48 percent chose a Democratic ballot.  For the election to the state Supreme Court, Justice Rebecca Bradley received 52 percent of the vote and Judge JoAnn Kloppenburg received 48 percent of the vote.  Election to an office that was supposed to be nonpartisan was anything but.

Shortly before the election it was revealed that Bradley had engaged in hate speech toward people who held views on sexual orientation, women’s right to choose, and environmentalism that differed from hers.  She had published her hateful comments in the Marquette Tribune in 1992.  Judging from the April 5 election, those comments offended Democrats but were applauded by Wisconsin Republicans.

Republicans claim they forgave Bradley for comments she made as an adult 24 years ago, but that is not the whole story.  Wisconsin Republicans probably voted for Bradley because the biased views she expressed were compatible with the views they hold, as indicated by recent Republican legislative actions.  To Wisconsin Republicans, publication of Bradley’s hateful comments served more as good advertising than harmful politics. Wisconsin Republicans wanted someone with those hateful prejudices to be our Supreme Court justice.

It is one thing to forgive someone for remarks made 24 years ago, but it is something else to elect them to the state Supreme Court.  The public may forgive former Republican U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert for molesting young boys when he was a high school wrestling coach, for example, but we probably would not want him to head the Wisconsin School for Boys.  The same logic should apply to a person who has engaged in hate speech and later runs for justice of the state Supreme Court.

If Bradley was not disqualified for her hate speech, she should have been disqualified for not recusing herself from an earlier custody case involving a man with whom she was having a romantic relationship, and for her lack of judicial experience.  But that did not bother Wisconsin Republican voters nor did it bother Gov. Walker when he put her on a fast track by appointing her to three judgeships in three years, including appointing her to a vacancy at the Supreme Court prior to her election to that position.

Walker’s appointing Bradley to the State Supreme Court was consistent with other Walker appointments.  Competence has never been an important factor for Walker appointees.  For example, Walker appointed a person with no training or experience in natural resource management to head the Department of Natural Resources.  Walker also tried to appoint a lobbyist for a mining company, which had proposed a huge mine in Wisconsin, to the position of deputy secretary of the DNR.  In that case, however, Walker’s unethical attempt was stymied by a federal law barring conflicts of interest.  Walker has had a problem with ethics throughout his career, a curious corollary to his claim that God was behind his ill-fated presidential campaign.

Walker’s lack of regard for intellectual competence may have something to do with his shortcomings in that regard.  He demonstrated to the nation during his short-lived presidential run that he is no intellectual giant.  His intellectual shortcomings may also have something to do with the fact that he eliminated many scientific positions from the Department of Natural Resources.  Walker wants control, and he is threatened by those who are intellectually superior to him.

Walker and the Republicans have demonstrated a lack of confidence in support for their proposals by passing a voter registration law that was clearly an attempt to keep people with opposing views from voting.  A Republican member of the U.S. Congress recently stated that Wisconsin’s chances of going Republican in the November presidential election have increased since voter registration was passed.  If Republicans want to continue claiming that the act was passed to thwart voter fraud, let them show us the amount of fraud before and after the act was passed, now that we have had an election under the new law.  Republicans are always demanding accountability.  Let’s demand accountability for voter registration.

Wisconsin now has more political corruption than it has ever had in my 69 years.  If this situation had occurred during the 1960s, there would have been demonstrations on every college campus in the state, but we seem to have since become a state of mice.  We cannot point the finger at anyone.  We elected these people.  We have only ourselves to blame.  It is our own ethics that are at fault.