In the Spirit of the Constitution: Comment on a Local Political Race

Today in the mail I received campaign literature from Mr. Joe Voiland, who is running against Ozaukee County Circuit Court Judge Tom Wolfgram. His argument for qualification:  despite having been appointed by former Republican governor Tommy Thompson in 1994, despite having been re-elected repeatedly ever since, despite having the endorsement of every law enforcement agency in the county and a reputation for fairness and wisdom, Mr. Voiland argues that Judge Wolfgram is unqualified for office solely because he signed the Recall Governor Scott Walker petition last year. And there, printed in Mr. Voiland’s campaign literature, is an enlarged reproduction of Mr. Wolfgram’s petition signature.

This is as astonishing demonstration of ignorance. To argue that the Judge is unfit for office simply because Mr. Voiland disagrees politically with the petition which Mr. Wolfgram, exercising his rights and duties as an American citizen, signed in good faith, demonstrates both a lack of understanding of the true purpose of our constitution, as well as a careless attack upon it.

Our founding fathers, steeped in the history of Western civilization which proved repeatedly that consolidation of power always leads to corruption, understood the inherent weakness and fallibility of mankind. They understood how easily we, and by extension our governments, succumb to temptation. So they brilliantly designed the system to check and share power, to prevent its consolidation, automatically.

One important check is our Bill of Rights, which brings the weight of law to protect the exercise of inalienable, God-given gifts. By empowering individuals to keep watch on our leaders — to speak freely, to assemble, to petition our government, to bear arms when necessary, to regulate our militia, to vote–we actively participate in preventing corruption, which is the purpose, the spirit, of the Constitution. Our union, still becoming after two centuries ever “more perfect,” recognizes the universality of these principles: unalienable rights continue to be recognized with the law expanding to protect the free exercise thereof by an ever-widening circle of individuals, regardless of various petty differences in the eyes of God.

Mr. Voiland would encourage people to break the spirit of the law by engaging in blacklisting, which is in fact a type of corruption. Indeed, the publication on the internet of the names in the petition, promoting access and use of the list in just the bully-like way Mr. Voiland has done, creates a chilling effect. By the spirit of the law, petition signings should be as sacred as the secret ballot — the purpose of secrecy being to prevent just such abuse. The McCarthy-like blacklisting Mr. Voiland has demonstrated discourages others from petitioning in the future–thereby dismantling an important check on power, undermining our Constitution, and leading to further corruption.

That Mr. Voiland does not understand this Constitutional design, purpose and function, nor the danger to our union inherent in his careless political strategy, demonstrates how un-fit for judgeship he is.

I encourage everyone in Ozaukee County Tuesday to re-elect Judge Wolfgram, and demonstrate your belief in the wise spirit of our Constitution, recognizing the universality and unalienability of rights for us all — even those with whom we may, even vehemently, disagree.

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