Contempt for Democracy.

Author:Conniff, Ruth
Position::COMMENT
 
FREE EXCERPT

At the end of June, the Wisconsin Supreme Court met to discuss its rules and procedures in open session for the last time.

You can catch the meeting on WisconsinEye, a statewide version of C-SPAN. The archived video footage shows right-wing Justice Michael Gableman pushing through a proposal to hold future administrative court proceedings behind closed doors. Gableman's contemptuous treatment of the last two liberal justices on the court, Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley--whom he sarcastically calls "Miss Sunshine"--is stomach-turning. So is his goal, which he accomplished: to make sure there are no more public meetings of this kind.

Gableman's jowly mug is the face of corporate contempt for democracy.

It is also, not coincidentally, the face of sexism. Gableman's dripping condescension toward the two women justices, who are far more distinguished than he is, parallels the ape-like behavior of certain male Republican politicians in Washington, D.C.

Gableman's rudeness and incompetence (some of his conservative colleagues withdrew their support when he first ran, citing his disregard for the truth and cavalier attitude toward the law), not to mention his brazen trampling of the public trust, fit a pattern.

It's the Donald Trump brand!

Gableman, like Trump, proudly stands for crude power that concedes nothing, scorns civility, and pushes to conduct its business in darkness.

But the challenge for citizens at both the state and national level is not just to beat back any one particular office holder, no matter how odious. It is to reverse a corporate takeover of our democracy that has been underway for decades.

Gableman's own elevation to the Wisconsin Supreme Court was a landmark achievement in that process. First elected with a massive infusion of outside money, he won after smearing the reputation of the only African American judge ever to sit on Wisconsin's highest court, in a campaign so dirty and dishonest it made national news. The race was notable both for its sheer ugliness and for the shocking degree to which outside money poured into what used to be a sleepy, low-dollar affair.

Corporate interests have since turned Wisconsin into a laboratory for dismantling democracy.

The state's Judicial Commission recommended that Gableman be disciplined for lying in an attack ad, but the charges failed after his court colleagues deadlocked 3-3 along ideological lines. Through it all, Gableman got free legal help from a law firm that was...

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