eirias: (Default)
[personal profile] eirias
Headline in the New York Times today: Wisconsin Election is Referendum on Governor
Unfortunately, the headline isn't strictly true, because we're actually electing a Supreme Court Justice. But you know, careful deliberative justice, grassroots partisan political movement, what's the diff?

A recurring theme in my thoughts lately is: when you're in a game with rules you dislike, how do you choose your move? Do you act according to your own principles? Or do you choose the move that will best serve your interests, given the rules as they are?

Left to my own devices, I try to construe my self-interest broadly: I much prefer to act in accordance with general principles that make my conscience quiet than to act in a way that gives me short-term gains, but presupposes long-term losses. In the case of the Supreme Court race, the long-term losses are twofold. I hate judicial elections because judgments ought to follow the Constitution, not popular will. (Anyone who is a minority of any kind -- which is, I suspect, most of my readers -- should be conscious of this.) And I hate this one in particular because the circus that surrounds it is a reminder of what happens when that is not true: leaders think it's OK to ignore court orders, and their base agrees. Judicial impartiality, like human rights generally, is a collective delusion; but if we lose the delusion, I don't see how we can preserve a decent society.

Nevertheless, I can't change the game by pretending I'm playing a different one. The rules of the judicial game in Wisconsin, and the stakes in this particular election, both encourage a partisan view. Prosser has not done much in the last year to win my affection; he hasn't written any recent opinions and he seems to vote with a bloc whose decisions, on balance, I don't like that much. He issued a press release in December allying himself with Walker, which is not really appropriate for an ostensibly nonpartisan campaign. The court itself is reportedly contentious and dysfunctional and he is rumored to be a large part of that; at one point last year, in a dispute related to official court business, he admits to calling the Chief Justice a bitch and threatening to destroy her. (Today's research at least taught me that I DO like the Chief Justice -- she is a scholar and her opinions show it.) I gather Prosser is not the only inappropriate person on the bench, but changing the lineup sounds wise and he's the one whose term is up. Overall, I think that my short-term self-interest will be served in two ways if Prosser is removed.

But it doesn't have to stop there. Years ago, apropos of I-don't-know-what, [livejournal.com profile] dolohov reminded me that democracy doesn't end on election day. Perhaps a gentle curmudgeonly rant about judicial elections is in order, for some place more public than here.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-06 12:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dolohov.livejournal.com
To be fair, I was probably talking about ballot-tampering.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-08 01:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eirias.livejournal.com
Damn it! (http://dane101.com/current/2011/04/07/wisconsin_supreme_court_election_long_dark_night_before_this_thing_is_done)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-06 04:26 am (UTC)
cos: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cos
"Do you act according to your own principles? Or do you choose the move that will best serve your interests, given the rules as they are?"

This is only a conflict if your principles oppose making the best choice available given the current rules. Why would your principles be like that, though?

The fact that you "can't change the game by pretending I'm playing a different one" is part of it, but it's an understatement. It'd be more complete to say that you can only change the game by recognizing what it currently is and working with that. Pretending you're playing a different one isn't a form of neutral ineffectualness, it's a way of acting against changing the game.

For example, I'm committed to having all elections financed publically rather than privately. However, current rules require private financing of elections for the most part, and you usually can't win an election without having enough money... and we can't change the rules without winning elections. So my principles, which call for trying to get public financing, also call for raising private money because that's the path to the goal. It's not like we advocates of public financing can somehow make the world better by declining to raise private money - because as long as we do that, elections will continue to be privately financed anyway, so what good would we be doing? We'd only be standing in the way of positive change with such misplaced "principles".


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