Voter Unhappiness Comes Through in New Law School Poll Results

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“Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”

Maybe the famous line that the comedy team of Laurel & Hardy used in several movies in the 1920s and ‘30s will emerge as a key theme for voter opinion of the 2016 presidential election.

A new round of results from the Marquette Law School Poll, released on Wednesday, offers an eye-catching set of facts about voter unhappiness with both of the presumptive choices for major party nominations for president. In fact, the results suggested that slipping enthusiasm about voting, particularly among Republicans, may become a major factor in the outcome in November.

How unhappy are voters? Here are a few pieces of the bigger picture that emerged from interviews between June 9 and 12 with 800 registered voters across Wisconsin (666 who were labeled likely voters, based on saying they were certain to vote): Read more »

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Donald Trump and the Belief in Law

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Category: Judges & Judicial Process, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Uncategorized
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Donald_Trump_-_CaricatureAmong Donald Trump’s many provocative statements, his recent claims that a specific federal judge with a “Mexican heritage” and Muslim judges in general would be biased against him have apparently struck a special chord.  Even Trump’s fellow Republicans have been highly critical.  Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, for example, completed disavowed Trump’s claims, noting “All of us come here from somewhere else.”

Most of the criticisms deplore Trump’s lack of respect for American diversity and also his racism.  House Speaker Paul Ryan said in this regard that Trump’s comments amounted to “textbook racism.”  However, I wonder if some part of the strong negative reaction also relates to Trump’s challenge to an American belief in law and in the courts’ ability to apply law in a fair and objective manner.

I have argued in several of my writings that a belief in law should be recognized as an important tenet of American ideology, with “ideology” being understood as a normative expression of dominant beliefs rather than as a manipulative falsehood.  Americans have traditionally believed in law, which is presumably understandable, made in public, and useful for one and all.  In addition, law is supposed to be applied without bias, and independent courts in particular are expected to adjudicate disputes fairly and to decide similar cases in similar ways.  “Ideologues” — that is, believers in and promoters of this ideology– routinely assure us that Americans live by the rule of law more so than any other nation. Read more »

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Opposing Views, One Conversation at Session on Milwaukee Education

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Category: Education & Law, Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Until Tuesday, Dale Kooyenga and Lauren Baker had never met. That alone is an argument for why their discussion before a capacity audience in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall was worthwhile.

Kooyenga is a member of the state Assembly, a leader among Republicans pushing for education policies that embrace school choice, and a key figure behind a controversial new law that gives Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele powers to control what happens in some low-success Milwaukee public schools.

Baker is the executive director of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, the union that is an influential force in Milwaukee politics and MPS decision making. The union opposes almost all the plans Kooyenga supports.

Never the twain shall agree? That’s likely, given the adamancy of their positions. But never the twain shall meet? That ended at the Law School event, which was titled “The Future of Education in Milwaukee: One Conversation, Two Viewpoints.” Read more »

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At a Time of High-Charged Events, New Law School Poll Sheds Even-Handed Light

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Category: Marquette Law School Poll, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public
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There are ways in which the volatility of the current political scene seeped into the release Wednesday of the latest round of Marquette Law School Poll results. But there are more ways it didn’t.

An extraordinary time in American politics has brought an extraordinary week in Wisconsin politics, with the state’s presidential primary on April 5 standing as the next major event on the political calendar. All five of the remaining major candidates for president have spent at least two days in the state this week, with several developments of national significance occurring on our home turf.

The passions of thousands attending events with Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, the political drama of the battle (including insults) between Trump and Ted Cruz, the search by Hillary Clinton for ways to build more fire behind her support in Wisconsin, a three-hour “town hall meeting” with Trump, Cruz, and John Kasich, telecast by CNN from Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater – this is just aa partial list of events in Wisconsin this week.

So stakes are high as Wisconsin returns to being a battleground in the presidential race. High stakes bring high tension and high levels of partisanship.

And then there was a release of the poll at Eckstein Hall, with Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, and Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy at the Law School, leading a tour of the new results. Calm. Level-headed. Insightful. Strictly non-partisan. Much the same as several dozen poll-release events since the Marquette Law School Poll started in 2012.   Read more »

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Finally, a Little Good News for Governor Walker

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We’ll leave it to others to analyze the results of the latest Marquette Law School Poll and what they tell us about the April 5 presidential primary.  Instead, let’s focus for a few moments on the other favorite political pastime in Wisconsin: Debating the fortunes of Governor Scott Walker.

His job approval rating remains well under water. But is it possible that the governor could be smiling, even just a little, after today’s release of the Law School survey?

At first glance, it’s yet another poll where Walker fares poorly.  Fifty-three percent of registered Wisconsin voters disapprove of Walker’s job performance.   Only 43 percent approve.  But the numbers are finally showing signs of improvement for Walker.  He hit a low of 37 percent job approval last fall, shortly after his presidential campaign flamed out.  Since then, his job approval number has hovered around 38 or 39 percent in Law School polling.  But the new survey shows Walker back in the low 40’s.   Nothing to shout about, but progress in what most observers see as a long, hard slog back to more solid political ground. Read more »

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County Exec Debate Presents Big Differences in Level-Headed Ways

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Chris Abele and Chris Larson have big differences and their race for Milwaukee County executive is intensely contested.

But their one-hour debate at Eckstein Hall Thursday evening, broadcast live by WISN (Channel 12), was an even-tempered and unflashy presentation of their positions on many of the specific issues and their general approach to what the county executive should do in the next four years. In other words, it was a good way for voters in large numbers, given the television audience, to get a direct view of what the candidates say, as well as some impression of how the two handle themselves.

This is a time when people nationwide have been getting heavy doses of insults, sharp personal attacks, and posturing in debates between the candidates for president. That makes for more entertaining events, “better’ television,” and more lively material for reporters and commentators to write about. But it also leaves many people (count me in) wondering: Has political dialogue come to this?

So consider this praise of the candidates, of Mike Gousha, Marquette Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy who moderated the debate, and of WISN for making serious discussion between candidates the focus of a debate and for making it available to the general public. Read more »

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New Poll Results Illuminate a Year That Goes Beyond “Interesting”

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Goodness, those Donald Trump poll numbers – they do take my breath away. And the Hillary Clinton numbers do much the same.

The release Thursday of a new set of Marquette Law School Poll results brought a wave of interesting insights into public opinion in Wisconsin, as it always does.

But the degree to which Trump and Clinton are polarizing figures, the subject of both great support and great opposition, goes beyond the word “interesting.” It’s vivid history being made in front of our eyes, especially with each in good position to win nomination. A Clinton-Trump showdown for the presidency in the fall – it’s an amazing but somewhat likely prospect. Read more »

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The Senate Must Consider Supreme Court Nominations in Due Course

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Category: Congress & Congressional Power, Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Law, Judges & Judicial Process, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, U.S. Supreme Court
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Ford-Potential-Nominees-to-CourtToday, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, announced the unprecedented decision that the United States Senate will refuse to consider any nominee put forward by President Obama during the remainder of his term in office to fill the current vacancy on the United States Supreme Court.  Senator McConnell said, “My decision is that I don’t think that we should have a hearing.  We should let the next president pick the Supreme Court justice.”

The refusal of the United States Senate to consider any nominee put forth by President Obama is a clear violation of the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution.  Under the Appointments Clause (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2):

The President . . . shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law. . .

The role of the President is to appoint nominees to the United States Supreme Court.  The role of the Senate is to provide their “advice and consent” to the President on the specific nominee.

The meaning is “advice and consent” is clear and uncontroversial.  The Framers of the Constitution recognized that absolute monarchs such as the King of England had abused the power to appoint public officials.  This abuse was due to the monarch’s absolute power to appoint anyone they chose.  In response, the Constitution divided the power to appoint superior public officials and Supreme Court Justices between the Executive (the President) and the Senate.  The Framers of the Constitution diffused the appointment power, just as they diffused several other powers among separate branches of the federal government in order to guard against abuse.

However, the separation of the power to appoint into two pieces is not split 50-50 between the President and the Senate.  Rather, the split is made between the President’s absolute power to select any nominee he or she chooses, and the Senate’s power to accept or reject the nominee.  The intent of the Appointments Clause is to give the Senate a check on the President’s choice, in order to prevent nominations that result from corruption, cronyism, or the advancement of unqualified nominees (i.e., family members).  The Appointments Clause does not give the Senate any role in deciding who or when the President will nominate.

In fact, the Senate has no pre-nomination role at all in the appointment process.  The Senate’s only role under the Constitution arises after the President makes a nomination.  In this regard, it has often been remarked that the power of initiative lies with the President under the Appointments Clause. Read more »

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Ted Cruz as a Natural Born Citizen

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Category: Congress & Congressional Power, Federal Law & Legal System, Political Processes & Rhetoric, President & Executive Branch, Public
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Ted Cruz[The following is a guest post from Professor J. Gordon Hylton, a former member of the Marquette Law School faculty.]

The debate continues over the eligibility of Sen. Ted Cruz for the United States presidency under the Constitution’s “natural born citizen” clause in Article II, Section 1. (Art II, §1 provides, in part, “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President, neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”)

The question is whether the Canadian-born Cruz, whose mother, but not father, was a United States citizen, qualifies as a “natural born citizen.” Unfortunately, the neither the Constitution itself nor the surviving records of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 define the phrase “natural born citizen,” and the Supreme Court has never offered an authoritative interpretation of the clause.

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Senator Johnson Is “More Panicked” About State of the Nation Now Than Five Years Ago

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Ron Johnson says he gets a big smile on his face when the airplane he is aboard lifts off from Reagan National Airport in Washington and he knows he’s heading to Wisconsin.

So why not leave a place Johnson calls a frustrating center of dysfunction, stay in Wisconsin, and go back to the life he loved as a businessman in Oshkosh? Mike Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, posed that question during an “On the Issues” session Feb. 5 at Eckstein Hall with the Republican senator who is in the last year of a six-year term in office

“I can’t quit, much as I’d like to go home,” Johnson answered. “The bottom line is this nation is on the wrong course and we’ve got to correct it. This nation is worth preserving.” Read more »

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Common Ground: Seeking Wins for People at the Grassroots

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Suddenly, Keisha Krumm, a strong, smart, confident community organizer with a record of impact, hit a point where emotion welled up.

Speaking at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Eckstein Hall on Wednesday, Krumm was answering a question about what motivated her to become the lead organizer for Common Ground in Milwaukee.

She said she grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and she was caption of the girls’ basketball team at her high school. They lost every game. She didn’t like it and it still galls her. But there was a bigger context in the circumstances of her life.

“In my neighborhood, we lost,” Krumm said. “When it came to opportunity for our men, we lost. We lost a lot in life.” She paused, looked down at her hands, and continued in a thicker voice.

“I’m sick of losing. And Common Ground teaches people how to win in life where it matters, to get the things done in their neighborhood that if they had a billion dollars, they would never have to worry about. So I’m committed to teaching people how to win in life.” Read more »

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After a Six-Year “Break,” Feingold Makes His Case for Returning to the Senate

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“The people of this state told me to take a break.”

But Russ Feingold wants the break to end, and he used an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Tuesday to convey his enthusiasm for winning a race for a United States Senate seat that is shaping up as one of the most significant in the country this year.

Feingold served as a Democrat in the Senate for 18 years before being defeated in 2010 by a Republican candidate who was then a newcomer to politics, Ron Johnson. This year’s race is slated to be a re-match between the two. The two differ sharply on a wide range of issues and the outcome could be a key to which party holds a majority in the Senate, come 2017.

Feingold conveyed to a capacity audience in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall not only his enthusiasm for returning to office, but the consistency of his positions over the years, with a few adjustments and tweaks as he positions himself for the campaign. Read more »

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