Last week was one for the history books. Members of the state Republican Party, in an effort to thwart the decision of voters in Wisconsin’s November general election, drastically blurred the lines of separation of powers. In the cloak of night and simultaneously illuminated on a national stage, we watched them make good on bad bills, intended to weaken the new governor-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General (AG) Josh Kaul.
The actions of Republican legislators, led by Rep. Robin Vos (R – Rochester) and Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R–Juneau), are an outright assault on democracy. It was retaliatory and small. In an effort to maintain control over the last eight years, Scott Walker and members of the state GOP have demonstrated a willingness to use every tactic known to get their way. Gerrymandered districts, voter id, limitations on early voting, and other voter suppression methods have become common schemes for them. The creation of distrust based on false claims of voter fraud, calls for the state National Guard on Election Day, and dog-whistle politics that sounded more like a bullhorn were employed. All of this was done to hold onto their power.
Vos argued 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.” Fitzgerald said, “Law written by the legislature and passed by a governor should not be erased based on the political maneuvering of an incoming administration.” However, that’s exactly what they did, maneuver in such a way to maintain power and attempt to erase the wishes of voters.
Those beliefs are not limited to Wisconsin, but are a part of a broader GOP hymnal. And they are all singing the same tune: protect the Republican Party at all costs. However, what we saw in the state capitol on Tuesday and Wednesday, was more cynical and dangerous than many may realize.
Far too many of us missed the early signs in 2016. In that year, the Republican-controlled North Carolina state legislature introduced a series of bills to cut some of the powers of the newly elected Democratic governor. Sound familiar? It should because that is exactly what is happening right now in Michigan and Wisconsin. During this final period, between the recent November election and the swearing-in of Evers, Republicans passed sweeping bills that seek to grab control of money, by moving decisions from the Attorney General to the legislature; interfere in some state-related lawsuits, hire private attorney’s instead of using the AG; and prevent Gov.-Elect Evers and AG from pulling Wisconsin out of the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act and protection of pre-existing conditions.
The bills that went to Walker’s desk were intended to hamstring the Governor’s ability to control his cabinet picks, appointments to committees, and councils; to remove his power and influence over some agencies, like the state’s top job’s agency; change the makeup of select committees; provide them expanded power; reduce the number of early voting days; and so much more.
The fight to stop these policies will continue. It was evident in the continued constituent calls to my legislative office, and protests at both the capitol and Rep. Vos’ home since last weeks’ extraordinary session. Stay tuned, because the fight to protect our process and the will of voters is going to be fought until the bitter end.