Wisconsin GOP aims to weaken incoming Democrats
Lame-duck Republican state lawmakers in Wisconsin approved sweeping legislation this week that will strip the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general of key powers, in what Democrats called an assault on democracy. The bills passed by the GOP-dominated legislature limit the ability of Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General–elect Josh Kaul to fulfill campaign promises to protect the Affordable Care Act and boost infrastructure spending. The legislation will also restrict early voting, prohibit Evers from unilaterally making the Capitol a gun-free zone, and lock in a work requirement for Medicaid recipients. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the moves were necessary because Republicans “don’t trust Tony Evers right now,” while Assembly Speaker Robin Vos added that “we are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.”
Evers promised to challenge the bills in court if outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker signs them into law. “We’re not going backwards in time to revote this election,” he said. “I won.” As lawmakers debated and voted on the legislation, hundreds of protesters streamed to the Capitol chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and carrying signs reading “GOP Grinch Stealing Democracy.” Activists accused the Wisconsin GOP of attempting to preserve one of America’s most lopsided gerrymanders: Republicans secured 63 of 99 assembly seats in the Nov. 6 election, even though Democrats won 54 percent of votes.
What the columnists said
Republicans“nakedly anti-democratic actions” are a desperate attempt to forestall demographic reality, said Jay Michaelson in TheDailyBeast.com. They know that a party “wedded to Trumpist white supremacy cannot survive in a more diverse America.” But rather than make the party more palatable, these “sore losers” are instead using the vestiges of their power to force Evers and Kaul “to continue the Republican policies that voters just rejected.”
Wisconsin isn’t the only state where Republicans are trying to rig the game, said Kevin Drum in MotherJones.com. The shenanigans began in North Carolina in 2016, when lawmakers passed bills to neuter incoming Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. A similar lame-duck effort is now underway in Michigan, where the GOP is trying to shift oversight of the state’s campaign finance law to a new commission. The incoming Democratic governor, attorney general, and secretary of state had “promised a crackdown on dark money contributions, and this is an obvious attempt to stop them.”
Republicans are setting a dangerous precedent, said Jonathan Bernstein in Bloomberg.com. The problem with using the law to undermine a rival party is “that once one side does it, the other has a terrible choice.” Democrats can now match their foes violation for violation, and potentially destroy fragile democratic norms, or step back and give Republicans a permanent advantage. Perhaps the GOP will retreat if the backlash is strong enough in Wisconsin. “But I’m afraid that may be wishful thinking.”