Israel Reflections 2015 — The Elections

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I know you are all bereft at the thought of the final Israel blog posts!  I’ll be sharing two from my students this week.  The first is on the Israeli elections.  Our trip was perfectly timed right before the Israeli elections and so we had already been learning about the different political parties in Israel and then seeing campaign posters all over the country.

Student Adam Marshall wrote about his experience:

“As a group of young soon-to-be lawyers, it was unbelievable to experience the last leg of a much-awaited election in Israel.   The country, after coming off of a brief war in the summer with its Palestinian neighbors, was eager to see if there would be a change in leadership or if everything would remain business as usual. While the Israeli election got sucked into the American media due to a congressional visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which sparked a trivial debate between Republicans and Democrats, there was much more meaning to the elections in Israel.

“New elections in Israel meant possible new leadership of the country, which could lead them either closer or further away from peace with Palestine. As a student who arrived in Israel with the goal of studying the conflict, it seemed apparent that this would be the most important talking point in the elections. However, I was shocked to learn that the conflict was in fact not the most important issue in the election. In the end, what seemed to have won Netanyahu his seat once again was his foreign policy, not in regards to Palestine, but rather on Iran’s nuclear program, which was the topic of his controversial speech in the U.S. It seems that the focus on social issues in Israel may have been one reason for the dramatic decline in votes for the Zionist Union [the more liberal party] in the election from what the polls showed.

“The belief going into the election was that the Zionist Union and Herzog would have a chance to beat Likud and Netanyahu, but this was not the case. Instead Likud won 30 seats and the Zionist Union was behind with 24. While talking with different Israeli citizens, this belief that Herzog had a chance of winning remained, even though it was Netanyahu’s face that I saw all over Israel. During our bus rides through the city there were always political ads outside of my window. Whether it was a poster on a light post, a picture on a bus stop, or a giant billboard, there were always political ads in sight. Most of the ads were for Netanyahu, and I presume that is because he had the most money for the campaign, or rather his party did. Israel has a proportional representation voting system so a party runs a list of people with their top politicians at the head of the list. Other parties were represented around the cities, but it was clear that Likud had more area covered.

“One reason why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not have been a major issue in the election is that the people of Israel believe that politics remains a major roadblock to peace with Palestine. That is to say that, without the politicization of the conflict, there might actually be a peace agreement made. It seems to be that the split of political parties and the ever-changing party system creates a political scheme in which it is difficult to find peace. Unlike the U.S., Israel has a multi-party system, 10 of which make up the new Knesset after the elections. Parties change and make alliances after each election and this changes the political nature of the election.   If the parties were able to come together on their views regarding the conflict, there might be an actual peace agreement in the near future.

“It will be amazing to compare how my experience in Israel during their elections may be similar or different to my experience in the 2016 elections in the U.S. I assume it will be very different. I have a higher stake in the U.S. elections, and I can actually vote, but comparing campaigning styles and, more importantly, what issues are the most important will be very interesting. I will never forget my experience in Israel and the political culture there.”

We also visited the Knesset (shown below) and student Nate Hofman shared some details:Knesset

 

“On day three of the journey to Israel, our class was fortunate enough to get a tour of the Knesset. The courtyard was adorned with Israeli flags and a long walkway leading up to an impressive building. Unlike our domed capital building, the Knesset building is more rectangular with a flat roof. Once inside, our tour guide greeted us. Unfortunately, the Knesset was not in session because of the elections taking place a week from the time of our visit. We got to see a replica of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. It was written on a scroll, which seemed very Old Testament Israeli and perfectly fitting.

“The Knesset floor looks similar to the Congressional floor. The members sit in a semi circle facing the speaker on a raised podium. Above the 120 seats of the Knesset floor are two levels of viewing seats. The level closest to the floor, where we sat and listened, is used for invited guests and foreign dignitaries. The furthest from the floor is open for the public to view the Knesset.”

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ACLU Attorney Says Tighter Voting Rules “Not Healthy” for Democracy

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Category: Election Law, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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There was a sea change in the approach to election issues across America in the late 2000s, as Dale Ho sees it. He isn’t sure what the cause was, but he is sure it wasn’t a good development. Ho is director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project, which makes him one of the leaders of legal opposition nationwide to tightening the rules on who can vote.

Ho told an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at Eckstein Hall on Wednesday that voting rights issues had largely drawn bipartisan support for decades.

“We had thought we had largely achieved a consensus in this country around universal suffrage, basic access for everyone (to voting),” Ho said. “Most of the debates about voting rights since the early 1970s were about redistricting – are the lines being drawn fairly for every community, are they being gerrymandered for partisan reasons, things like that. The trend remained toward greater liberalization in terms of ballot access. We didn’t see a lot of fights about registration and ballot access. .  . .

“In the late 2000s, something changed.” Read more »

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Israel Reflections 2015–Day 5: Haifa University and Sulha

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Our Wednesday morning in the north of Israel started with a visit to Yardenit, a site at the base of the Sea of Galilee where it meets the Jordan River near the biblical baptism site. Then we all headed to Haifa University to meet with Professors Orna Einy, Moti Mironi, and Tali Gal–each of whom work in an area of ADR–to learn about their research. After a quick lunch with them, we then turned our attention to a wonderful guest speaker they arranged for us. In a combination of theoretical, spiritual, and academic learning, the students had the great pleasure of hearing Elias Jabbour speak about “Sulha”, or the traditional peacemaking techniques used in Arab villages throughout the Middle East.

Student Molly Madonia retells two of Mr. Jabbour’s stories and recounts his methods to making Sulha:

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Judge Brett Kavanaugh Calls for “Rules of the Road” for Separation of Powers Issues

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Category: Congress & Congressional Power, Federal Law & Legal System, Political Processes & Rhetoric, President & Executive Branch, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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DSC_2573

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh

So Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys leaps for a pass as the playoff game with the Green Bay Packers is about to end. He comes down with ball on the one-yard line. Or does he? Or course, you know the answer—he doesn’t, the referees rule, a call that is hotly debated nationwide (and helps the Packers to victory in the Jan. 11 NFL playoff game).

The referee’s call required making a decision on the spot under great pressure and scrutiny. But to Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit, a big reason the call was made in a way that stood up to later scrutiny was that the rules for deciding what was a legitimate catch were established ahead of time, with thought and clarity.

And that is, in substance, much of the message Kavanaugh delivered in the 2015 Hallows Lecture at Marquette University Law School on Tuesday. The lecture, titled “Separation of Powers Controversies in the Bush and Obama Administrations: A View from the Trenches,” examined five different policy areas where controversies over separation of powers at the top of the federal government have arisen in recent years. In all five areas, Kavanaugh said, it pays off when “the rules of the road” are developed before a crisis comes.  Read more »

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Same-Sex Marriage Referendums: Major Metropolitan Areas Out of Step With Less Populated Regions

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In most states same-sex marriage has become the law of the land by judicial decision. In a smaller number, the institution has been recognized by acts of the state legislature. Although there were numerous public referendums attempting to ban same sex marriage before 2008, in recent years only twice have the voters of a state had the opportunity to vote directly on the recognition of marriages between individuals of the same gender.

Both opportunities came in November 2012, as voters in Maryland and Washington State confirmed their state’s recognition of a new definition of marriage. However, both episodes revealed a sharp divide between the majority views of those who live in major metropolitan areas and those who live in less densely populated areas.

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Paul Ryan Speaks Well of Obama — on One Issue

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Kind words for Democratic President Barack Obama from Rep. Paul Ryan, a leading figure in the Republican Party and chair of the House Ways and Means Committee?

Yes – but on only one subject, the pursuit of trade agreements with countries in Europe and Asia. And a you might include tax reform, where there may be some room for bipartisan cooperation, Ryan said.

In an “On the Issue with Mike Gousha” session at Eckstein Hall on Monday, Ryan discussed a wide range of subjects, from his thoughts on fighting poverty to Obama’s handling of foreign policy (no kind words on that score) to Ryan’s decision not to run for president in 2016. Read more »

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Karl Marx on Religion

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marxReligious people sometimes express disdain for Karl Marx and his philosophies because he supposedly characterized religion as “the opiate of the masses.” It turns out that this isn’t exactly what Marx said. Furthermore, he wasn’t necessarily negative about religion and its role in social life.

Appearing in Marx’s projected but never completed A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy, Marx’s words on religion are of course in German. Read more »

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Immigration Reform and the Challenge of Democratic Self-Government

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Category: Immigration Law, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public
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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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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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