Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Free speech applies in judicial races, too


Hey, great minds think alike. Or else Patrick McIlheran and I can both read a calendar. McIlheran comments on the Gableman ethics case and says it’s really just an effort to undo Gableman’s election two years ago.

Fine, an appeals judge, argues – I think convincingly – that the complaint against Gableman should be dismissed. The state’s rule prohibits misleading campaign ads and sets up judicial authorities to decide what is misleading. That, argues Fine, cuts too close to the very thing the First Amendment was built to protect: political speech. “The only tribunal that may assess whether campaign speech is true or false is the electorate,” he writes.

Tellingly, Gableman’s foes were just as upset that the ad brought up Butler’s defense-lawyer background in the first place.

Forget the ad’s faulty causation; commentators argued it was illegitimate to even bring up the idea that Butler had a soft spot for crooks. They pointed out, correctly, that defense lawyers do legitimate work. They then said, incorrectly, that voters shouldn’t notice it. Some were so unhinged as to reflexively claim the ad was racist, the sort of unreasoned mendacity that reveals a mistrust of voters.

That’s what’s happening here. The voters acted in a way that one side, in this case political progressives, didn’t like. That side tried to undo the vote.

My own column on the Gableman ethics case appears in tomorrow’s Waukesha Freeman, still just a couple of quarters in the newspaper box.

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