Recent Judicial Race in Wisconsin Highlights Media Bias
By: Robert E. Meyer
The recent race for Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice between Annette Ziegler and Linda Clifford, provided yet another illustration of the double-standard, left-leaning bias so prevalent in contemporary media.
The staff editorials in 9 out of 13 larger market Wisconsin newspapers favored Clifford’s election. Only three endorsements went in favor of Ziegler. While this was supposed to be a non-partisan election, I don’t have to tell you who the conservative candidate was based on the distribution of the advocacy above.
Close to the home front, the Appleton Post-Crescent offered an unpersuasive endorsement for Clifford that left me laughing aloud and shaking my head. One plank of their rationale was that they didn’t like Ziegler’s record, and since Clifford had no paper trail at all, the lot should be decided in favor of the unknown commodity. Besides, Clifford has a broad range of non-judicial legal experience that would make her more valuable to the high court, or so they reasoned.
Just imagine running a sports team with that kind of operating logic. The Green Bay Packers ought to bench Brett Farve and start some quarterback they pick up in the sixth round of this year’s NFL draft. Why you ask? Well for starters, Farve has thrown a lot of interceptions the past two seasons, whereas the new guy hasn’t thrown any interceptions in pro football games. Not a single errant pass has he thrown–it works for me. Who really cares about pro football experience anyway? The new guy lettered in several sports in high school, and thus provides a broad range of athletic ability necessary to the position of quarterback.
The P-C highlighted Ziegler’s alleged “conflicts of interest,” only to sheepishly admit their own conflict of objectivity, based on the confession that they had benefitted from past legal representation by Clifford’s husband.
I can forgive all the nepotism and jousting with innuendos, but what grieves me most is that little is ever mentioned about the judicial philosophy of the perspective candidates. Clifford is a proponent of the concept recognizing a “flexible constitution”–one where meaning of clauses can change with the times at the pleasure of the ones adjudicating the issue. This is a euphemism for legislation from the bench. Ziegler, on the other hand, is a strict constructionist, who believes the role of judges is to interpret the statutes and constitution clauses through the principle of original intent. Unfortunately, media outlets do little to educate their readership about these important distinctions. A “flexible constitution” implies that there is little constructive need for an amendment process, thus removing an important check by the people against potential judicial tyranny.
Another thing that was conveniently left out of the discussion was the current composition of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Currently there are three reliable conservative votes, three reliable liberal-leaners, with one remaining swing vote. Justice John P. Wilcox, who will retire this summer (and whose vacancy Ziegler will fill), will be a net conservative loss by the court. Which media outlets suggested that an endorsement of Ziegler was essential for maintaining ideological balance in the Wisconsin Supreme Court? Little concern over the need to balance the composition of the court occurs when a conservative leaves.
Now imagine if it was a liberal justice retiring from the court. We would hear from the media that another conservative jurist would threaten the delicate equilibrium of justice. There would be shrill warnings about the court implementing a theocracy here in Wisconsin. Notice that the media never worries about a court tipped too far toward the liberal side. For example, do you ever hear the media chide the U.S. Ninth District Court of Appeals, regardless of the lunacy that proceeds from their hallowed liberal chambers, along with their propensity to be overturned?
Another pattern all too common in elections like this is failure by the media to inform you which constituencies are backing a given candidate. We did hear that Ziegler was friendly toward business, and that Clifford was supported by a former Republican governor from an era gone by–who was never very conservative to begin with. In my opinion, this was an attempt to make it appear that Clifford had bipartisan support, while Ziegler was in the pocket of big business.
In reality, Clifford was the darling of the iconic liberal constituencies; the current Democratic governor of Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. Interestingly enough, Ziegler’s margin of victory, 58 percent, was almost identically the same margin by which the Wisconsin Marriage Amendment was passed last November. Overlay the two groups of voters and I’m sure you will find uncannily similar ideological profiles. Dane County, where Madison, the citadel of Wisconsin “progressivism” is located, voted nearly two-to-one in favor of Clifford. By strange coincidence, they voted in a majority against the marriage amendment, also. A question the media might have broached is how the byproducts of Clifford’s judicial philosophy, might have eroded or circumvented the will of the people regarding the passage of the amendment.
November presented a bitter election aftermath for conservatives in Wisconsin. Hopefully this is the start of a new trend–no thanks to our media.