Dahlberg and Kaardal Published in Strib
Freedom of speech and judicial elections, when combined, will erode an overreaching bureaucracy.
By TOM DAHLBERG and ERICK KAARDAL
The Star Tribune, in its Feb. 4 editorial on judicial elections, supports the elitist ambitions of former Gov. Al Quie to take us backwards into the authoritarian appointment of judges by the elite bureaucratic class. This clearly demonstrates that the Strib editorial board, like Quie and his bevy of self-proclaimed experts, has no sense of history.
Look at how pretentious and passé the implicit and explicit arguments are for having the elites appoint our judges rather than letting the people choose.
We live in the "post-modern" era. The old-school appeal to the notion that legal judgments can be, even in principle, perspective and value neutral, should either cause us to pat Mr. Quie on the head and smile for his innocence or arrest him for truly criminal naiveté. In the latter case, an elected people's judge would send him home, recognizing that a law persecuting precious naiveté deserves to be nullified. An appointed judge would let him off because he's a crony. As neopopulists, we prefer the former.
The ugly truth about this campaign to let the elites appoint our judges is that it is an ideological will to power, invoking, inauthentically, the myths of objectivity, expertise and the greatest good, all of which the "best and the brightest" believe they have a corner on whenever it's of rhetorical use. That is, the elites are perfectly willing to exploit these absolutist myths about objective judgment when that suits their agenda, and post-modern relativism when that suits their agenda.
The people make no ideological bones about it. They, quite rightly, just want the power. When judges make decisions that transfer more and more power to the government, the people are going to throw them out. The simple truth about freedom of speech for judicial candidates, established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Republican Party of Minnesota vs. White case (when our state Supreme Court refused to do so) and the right of the people to elect judges, is that it is deliciously dangerous to overbearing government, directly linking the judicial branch to the people, rather than the executive branch.
As an extension of the executive branch, by appointment, the judiciary is much more likely to serve the bureaucracy than the people. The elites who would appoint our judges know in their bones that freedom of speech and judicial elections, when combined, will produce a populist acid strong enough to erode an overreaching modern bureaucracy.
Pathetically, the only weapons they can bring to bear on this ineluctable, populist trend, are the old saws about their wisdom, their objectivity, their expertise. But this rhetoric will no longer hide their will to power. The elite hypocritically tell us that there is no moral authority to impose on our public schools and then base our system of selecting judges on their moral authority.
Quie and the Strib will no doubt cry that this populist rejection of their noble intentions was rough and nasty. But, of course, nothing is prima facie nastier than their elitism or rougher than stripping the people of their franchise. Anyone who takes himself more seriously than he takes the people has no moral authority with the people. Anyone who loves himself more than he loves the people has no moral authority with the people. When you try to transfer power from the people to yourself and your elite friends, the ugliness is so blatant we must graciously attribute it to stupidity instead of rottenness.
Take any old political hero in Minnesota, Republican or Democrat, and describe to him a wholesale neopopulist rejection of his self-imputed good will, and you will see total disorientation. He has been looking in the mirror at a nice guy for so long that he cannot muster the moral depth to recognize the corruption. After all, he has always, by his lights, been nice to the people, cared for them, looked upon them as his own children. Children should have the very best, very brightest judges, appointed by the very best and very brightest political heroes.
This narcissistic tradition, created by the elite class, prescribing its wisdom, good will, superior knowledge, objectivity and expertise, is passé bunk. Neopopulists don't believe in the best and the brightest or totally objective judges. Neopopulists demand their transcendental right to define justice by the lights of their own moral authority by electing their judges.
Tom Dahlberg, a Shorewood resident, is chairman of the board of Neopopulism.org. Erick Kaardal, a Hamel resident, is general counsel of Neopopulism.org.
You are all invited to Rule of Law day at the State Capitol rotunda at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, February 11, 2008. Please visit the website neopopulism.org for more information.