Immigration Reform and the Challenge of Democratic Self-Government

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Mortar_of_Assimilation_Citizenship_1889News reports indicate that President Obama will soon announce how he plans to use Executive Orders to implement some aspects of Immigration Reform, due to the failure of Congress to address the subject legislatively.  I recently had the opportunity to participate in a program on Immigration Reform at the Law School on November 5, 2014, along with Stuart Anderson, the Executive Director of the National Foundation for American Policy and an Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute.  The event was sponsored by the Law School Chapter of the Federalist Society, the Marquette Immigration Law Association, and the International Law Society.  I want to thank Mr. Anderson for sharing his insights with the law students.  Interested readers can click here to find a recent article by Mr. Anderson.  What follows are my prepared remarks.

I have a daughter who is turning 21 next month.  When a child reaches that age, parents start to ask themselves questions.  Will my daughter bring someone home with her one day, and announce that she is engaged?  How will I react if the person she brings home belongs to a different faith?  How will I react if he is of a different race?  How will I react if “he” is a “she?”

These are questions that tap into deep emotions, even if my rational brain tells me that the answers to these questions don’t matter.  I know that my response to such a situation should be compassionate, and loving, and focus on my daughter’s happiness.  But I also know that I may feel threatened or hurt or disappointed, without consciously wanting to.  Maybe part of the problem is that I can’t control who my daughter brings home.  To a certain extent, who becomes a member of my family is her choice, not mine.

Immigration is about membership in our national family.  It raises the same deep emotions that marriage raises within the family.  And just as we can’t always choose who our children will marry, we also can’t always control who joins our national family.  And Immigration policy needs to be rational, data-driven, and compassionate, and not based on knee jerk emotions.

Simple answers to complex social and economic problems don’t work.  One challenge we face as a nation is that we share a longstanding geographic connection with Mexico.  U.S. employers have turned to Mexican citizens for seasonal labor needs for a very long time.  People have established migration patterns that persist through generations of the same family.  These behaviors won’t change just because we tell people to stop.  We need to address the underlying incentives and motivations for these behaviors. Read more »

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Here’s What We Don’t Know About Election Day

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By now, we’ve seen the ads.  We’ve heard the talking points. We have at least some idea of which policy positions Scott Walker and Mary Burke favor or oppose.  But with only hours remaining before the votes are counted, there is still plenty we don’t know about the 2014 gubernatorial election in Wisconsin.

Some of it has been hashed over pretty thoroughly.  Turnout, for instance.  Simply put, the Burke campaign needs less-likely Democratic voters to go to the polls in numbers that more closely resemble a presidential election, or at the very least, the 2012 recall election for governor.  Three million people in Wisconsin voted in the November 2012 presidential contest.  Two-point-five million voted in the June recall election.  If turnout looks more like the governor’s race of 2010, when 2.1 million people went to the polls, the Burke campaign will face enormous odds, given historically strong turnout by Republican voters in the state.  But turnout is hardly the only “great unknown” Tuesday.  Here are a handful of others to consider.

1) Do Democrats return to the fold?  Exit polling data from the June 2012 recall election suggests a number of Democrats voted for Governor Walker because they didn’t agree with the recall. Even AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told me recently that some of his members supported Walker in 2012 because of their discomfort with the recall.  And Trumka is hardly a fan of the governor.  Walker acknowledges that those voters exist.  The question is will they stick with him in this election, or return to their Democratic-voting ways.  Read more »

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Independence of Voters Yields Surprises in Law School Poll Results

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It probably shouldn’t be such a surprise that independent votes would show their independence. But the Marquette Law School Poll results released Wednesday in an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at Eckstein Hall clearly caught people in the room, as well as far beyond the room, by surprise. Independent voters were largely the reason why.

Two weeks ago, the poll put Republican Gov. Scott Walker ahead of Democratic challenger Mary Burke by five percentage points among likely voters. This time, the two were in such a dead heat among likely voters that the exact same number of poll respondents picked Walker and Burke (380 each). That made for a 47%-47% tie, with the scattered responses making up the remainder.

What changed? Among voters who labeled themselves independents, Walker led in the prior Marquette Law School Poll, conducted late September, by 53% to 40%. But in the new poll, conducted from Oct. 9 through 12, Burke was favored by 45% of independents and Walker by 44%. Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, considered that a significant shift and an indication that there were still voters out there who are persuadable by either candidate – potentially enough to decide the election. Read more »

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Attorney General Candidates Raise Profile of Low-Key Race in Eckstein Hall Debate

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Category: Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Wisconsin Law & Legal System
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Near the end of an hour-long debate Sunday between the two candidates for Wisconsin attorney general, moderator Mike Gousha asked if either wanted to bring up something that hasn’t gotten enough attention during the campaign.

Democrat Susan Happ, the district attorney of Jefferson County, answered first and talked about consumer protection.
Republican Brad Schimel, district attorney of Waukesha County, answered that the entire race hadn’t gotten enough attention. It’s an important race, he said, and there should be more awareness of it.

Indeed, the race has not sparked widespread public attention. A Marquette Law School Poll released on Oct 1 found that about four out of five of those polled did not have an opinion of either Schimel or Happ. Overall, the race was close, according to the poll, but people expressed an opinion on who they would vote for only in response to a question that identified each candidate by party.

With a little over three weeks to go until the Nov. 4 election, the debate Sunday, in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall, may have helped give awareness of the race a boost. The debate, co-sponsored by Marquette Law School and WISN-TV, was broadcast live across Wisconsin. The candidates are scheduled to take part in two more debates. Read more »

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The Marquette Law School Poll’s Version of the Sounds of Silence

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The big story coming out of the release Wednesday of a new round of results from the Marquette Law School Poll was that Republican Gov. Scott Walker had opened up a bit more distance over Democratic challenger Mary Burke that was seen in recent rounds of polling. Among likely voters, Walker was supported by 50% and Burke by 45%. As Professor Charles Franklin, director of the poll said, this is still a close race. But there were indicators of some trends in Walker’s direction.

Both in the news media (for sure in Wisconsin and, in some cases, nationally) and within the world of political activists, the poll results will be analyzed carefully to see what people are saying. The Marquette Law School Poll has become the principle source of information on Wisconsin public opinion on major issues, especially political races.

But instead of focusing on what people are saying, permit me here to focus on what people are not saying. Politics, even in the midst of a heated election season, is not of interest to everyone. So here are a few examples of non-involvement: Read more »

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New Marquette Law School Poll Puts Enthusiasm of Voters in Spotlight

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How important is enthusiasm among voters in determining the outcome of an election? Very, and the closer the election, the more important enthusiasm usually is because it indicates who will actually turn out to vote.

So how important are the “enthusiasm” results in the Marquette Law School Poll released Wednesday? That remains to be seen, starting with keeping an eye on the remaining rounds of polls that will be released before the Nov. 4 election.

But it is a sure bet that people working in the campaigns of Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, are paying close attention to the new results. While the poll showed that the race for governor remains essentially tied, there was an uptick in how enthusiastic Walker supporters are and in the percentage of people who identified themselves as Republicans.

Overall, the poll found that Walker and Burke are tied at 46% each among registered voters. Among those considered likely voters (people who said they are registered and are certain to vote), Walker was supported by 49% and Burke 46%. In both cases, the outcomes were within the poll’s margins of error.

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The Likely and the Less Likely — Insights from the New Law School Poll

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The Registered and the Likely – maybe that could be the name of a political soap opera, although I doubt it would attract high ratings in the general public. But it would attract high ratings among those involved in election campaigns and those eager to understand those campaigns and politics overall.

New results from the Marquette Law School Poll, released Wednesday, put the Registered and the Likely in the spotlight. Among 815 registered voters across the state, Republican Gov. Scott Walker led Democratic challenger Mary Burke 47.5 percent to 44.1 percent in the race for governor. But among 609 participants in the poll who were labeled likely to vote in November, Burke led Walker, 48.6 percent to 46.5 percent.

So who’s ahead, Walker or Burke? The best answer is that it’s too close to say – by both measures, the race is within the margin of error of the poll. Read more »

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Prox and the Poll

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Senator ProxmireHe died more than nine years ago, but the spirit of the late U.S. Senator William Proxmire lives on in Wisconsin. The proof can be found in the latest Marquette Law School Poll, which suggests that someone like Proxmire, a political maverick if there ever was one, might play well in Wisconsin today. More on that in a moment, but first a couple of thoughts on what this latest survey tells us.

Today’s Marquette Law School Poll tends to complicate the national narrative about Wisconsin: that we’re a hyper-polarized state with voters split almost equally between Republican red and Democratic blue. While voting patterns certainly seem to support that claim, the poll results point to an electorate with a considerably more nuanced view of the world, replete with mixed messages that are sure to cause a lot of head-scratching among political pundits. Case in point: the poll finds that 54 percent of voters feel the state is moving in the right direction, which for the last three-and-a-half years, has been a distinctly conservative one. But on a number of key issues, Wisconsin voters agree with positions favored by Democrats. They support a hike in the minimum wage and accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid. They don’t like outsourcing. They think tax cuts favor the wealthy. They want to know more about whose deep pockets are funding political campaigns. Past polls have also shown majority support for repealing the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

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The Rest of the Story

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The story will be the horse race. It always is. Governor Walker and likely Democratic challenger Mary Burke are in a dead heat.  But there are a couple of interesting subplots in the latest numbers from the Marquette Law School Poll.

Like many Democratic candidates, Burke fares especially well with younger voters, and with those who are single (never married, widowed, or divorced).  Governor Walker, the Republican, scores best with those who are middle-age and married.  This is essentially the same voter behavior we saw in the 2012 presidential election.  But in a non-presidential year, the question for Burke will be whether those in the demographics who like her most will show up at the polls.

While the Burke campaign is undoubtedly pleased that the race appears close, one of the poll’s results may be cause for concern for her — 49 per cent of voters say they still don’t know enough about Burke to have an opinion of her.  That spells opportunity for the Walker campaign, which has unleashed a series of ads recently, rushing to define Burke before she defines herself. Read more »

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So What Do You Think of Mary Burke?

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On one level, the results released Wednesday of a fresh round of the Marquette Law School Poll did not contain much new. As Charles Franklin, professor of law and public and policy and director of the poll,  said frequently during the “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” event at which results were presented, there was not much that was statistically different from the poll two months ago. The big headline – and it did, indeed, make big headlines – was that Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke are essentially tied. That was the central result of the May poll as well.

I would suggest two important points that the little-changed results suggest:

One: The May results caught many people by surprise. There seemed to be a perception that, while the race was close, Walker was leading. The Law School Poll is the most closely watched and respected measure of public opinion in Wisconsin, and for the results to show a tie changed the perception of the race. But, as Franklin said on Wednesday, there were suggestions that the results might be a one-time matter, an “outlier.” To have almost identical results two months later should put to rest that notion. The only reasonable conclusion is that this really is a race that is tied at this point. The intense level of campaigning, more than three months before the November election, shows that the candidates themselves are operating on the understanding that this is an intense, highly competitive election that either could win. Read more »

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R.I.P., Gabriel Kolko (1932-2014)

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gabriel-kolko-tnI was saddened to read of the recent death of prominent historian Gabriel Kolko. He suffered from an incurable neurological disease and relocated to the Netherlands. He then took advantage of that nation’s legal euthanasia option and died in Amsterdam on May 19.

When I was an undergraduate, I read and found immensely provocative Kolko’s “The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916” (1963). Kolko argued in the book that big businesses of the early twentieth century actually wanted the federal government to regulate them in order to avoid more restrictive legislation from state legislatures. Self-styled “Progressive” reformers, in Kolko’s interpretation, were wolves in sheep’s clothing. They worked in sneaky ways to preserve corporate power and to short-circuit efforts to rein in exploitative corporate profit-seeking.

In the later stages of his career, Kolko turned increasingly to American war-making and foreign policy, and his works included: Read more »

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Close Poll Results = Hot Campaigning Ahead

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There was audible reaction in the audience of about 100 who were present when Professor Charles Franklin unveiled the primary finding of the new round of the Marquette Law School Poll: The race between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke is essentially a dead heat as of now. That strong reaction echoed across the Wisconsin political world and beyond with its clear signal that this will be a close race that will likely pick up additional energy and attention now.

But in addition to the highlighted results – Walker and Burke each drew 46% support among registered voters and Walker led by a narrow 48% to 45% among those who say they are “absolutely certain” to vote in November – there were interesting indications of the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate. Those carried implications for what strategies the campaigns will pursue over the remaining five-plus months of the campaign for governor.

In brief, results of the new poll, and comparisons with prior polls, show Burke gaining strength among women and younger voters, while Walker remains strong among men and older voters. Burke does better than Walker on an “empathy” question – does a candidate care about people like you – and Walker does better on a question about whether a candidate is someone who is “able to get things done.” Read more »

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