Since you asked
I’ve been reluctant to comment on the Gableman vs. Butler race for state supreme court for a number of reasons, but mostly because I have yet to see an ad on TV. It may shock you, but I rarely watch regular broadcast stations and the local news anymore. There are some nights I don’t even turn the TV on.
But I’ve been asked, believe it or not, by both sides to comment on this television ad.
The ad has been attacked as racist and unfair.
Look, any ad that has an African American criminal in it is going to be attacked as racist. That African Americans commit a disproportionate amount of crime gets lost in the debate, even as those on the Left complain about the numbers of African Americans in prisons. The Gableman campaign cherry-picked a terrible crime, child molestation, which is in the news constantly stoking the fears of middle class voters regardless of race. There’s a reason communities all over the state are trying to figure out how to drive child molestors out of town or back to prison, and it’s not because they don’t like black people.
My favorite complaint is that they featured Justice Butler’s face in the ad, reminding voters he is an African American. The best is Brew City Brawler:
The Brawler doesn’t want to say Gableman is playing the race card — but why does the ad keep Butler’s face on the screen longer than Mitchell’s? And why are two scary black guys on the screen longer than pink Mike Gableman?
Given the color scheme used for the Butler picture, I thought he looked more like Reince Priebus than Clarence Thomas. The Gableman campaign is going to have to do a better job reminding voters Butler is an African American, as if that’s a disqualifier for the State Supreme Court.
For this ad to be racist, Gableman’s critics would have to have a lower opinion of the voters than Barack Obama did when he won Wisconsin. Someone should remind the political Left that we’re not the residents of Rockridge from Blazing Saddles. And if the Butler campaign is uncomfortable with his face appearing in an opponent’s attack ads, African American leaders in the community might want to ask the first African American State Supreme Court Justice why he wants to hide his racial origin.
Now is the ad fair?
I think it’s fair to remind the voters that Butler was a public defender. Here’s an ugly little secret. People don’t like defense lawyers unless they need one. Then they’re thanking whatever deity is at hand. Now, I like defense lawyers. I like all lawyers unless they’re sitting on committees trying to control an election or, even worse, sitting on an election board. But I’m the exception. Most people root for the prosecution. Why do you think Law and Order is so popular? Do you think it would still be so popular if the public defenders ran circles around Arthur Branch?
If being a public defender was popular with the public, there would be more of them on the public payroll and they would be paid more.
I even think it’s fair to run an ad that reminds the voters what kind of people the public defender defended as part of his career path. Heck, if I were Darrin Schmitz (Gableman’s campaign manager), I’d pull out the whole portfolio and ask at what point did Butler no longer want to be a public defender. After this murderer? After this rapist?
If you don’t like it, don’t choose becoming a public defender as a career path.
On the other hand, I think the ad completely crosses the line when it says Butler is responsible for the criminal getting out of jail and re-offending after he served his sentence. The criminal served his sentence and then he was released. If the Gableman campaign is so concerned about the sentence this criminal received, don’t blame the defense attorney, blame the judge. Find someone to run against the judge involved in the case.
The verdict: the ad is deliberately misleading, but not racist.