Essay: Wisconsin’s Assault on Democracy

Less than a month after the midterm elections, Republican state lawmakers in Wisconsin are working to limit the powers of newly elected Democrats in statewide office. The efforts represent a disgusting failure of morality becoming increasingly evident in Republicans across the country.

Just two days after the Nov. 6 election in Wisconsin, when Democrat Tony Evers beat two-term Republican Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said a lame-duck session agenda was already taking shape.

Lawmakers are set to vote on a number of bills that would limit Evers’ authority when he’s sworn in. Fitzgerald says the party isn’t trying to undermine the new governor, “That’s not the case at all. I think there’s some stuff that’s going to be reasonable.” SOME stuff? The galling effort gained national attention for its audacity.

Lake Michigan's Left Coast logo, 11x14, Elizabeth G Fagan, art and essays on, Lake Michigan's Left Coast
Lake Michigan’s Left Coast logo, 11×14, Elizabeth G Fagan, art and essays on, Lake Michigan’s Left Coast

Republicans in Wisconsin have enjoyed control of the government—between the governorship and both chambers of the statehouse—during Gov. Walker’s entire administration. Over those eight years, the GOP pushed through major policy changes, ranging from union limits, to voter ID requirements, to redistricting. Now Republicans want to make sure Evers can’t upend all of their accomplishments come January.

But many voters don’t seem happy about that. During public hearings Monday, Republican lawmakers faced protests both inside and outside of the Capitol as they met to discuss the proposals to restrain Evers’ power.

Shouting “respect our vote,” a large and loud group of demonstrators reminded lawmakers that it was the voters’ will that got Evers into office in the first place.

The scope of the bills is wide. One would ensure that Evers wouldn’t be able to modify Wisconsin’s voter ID law. “We feel strong about it. We think that all the rules associated with that should be in statute,” Republican Sen. Fitzgerald said just days after the election.

Another proposal would restrict Evers’ control over the state’s job creation agency. Evers had campaigned on abolishing that public-private venture and re-establishing the state Department of Commerce. The soon-to-be-governor would also be hamstrung in his campaign promise to withdraw Wisconsin from a multistate federal lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin are also looking to limit early voting to two weeks before an election. This year voters in some areas were able to cast ballots six weeks in advance.

Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee says she was shocked when she read the bills, “It’s such an assault on democracy.”

“This is not the Wisconsin way, this is Walker’s way,” she says. “And the GOP, what they’re doing is completely pathetic.”

She called the Republican tactics “disgusting” and says while she and other Democrats plan to vote against the legislation, she believes it will pass.

Meanwhile, Gov. Walker has indicated support for the bills.

Gov.-elect Evers says he hopes Walker would keep in mind the will of the voters.

“His legacy will be tied to this,” Evers said on Sunday. “As he thinks about signing this bill, or whatever ends up coming to his desk, I hope he thinks about how he could govern under those circumstances and how this will impact his legacy.”

Evers has vowed to take “any steps possible,” including legal action, to prevent the plan to dilute his powers.

Based on a story published on, Milwaukee Public Radio, December 4, 2018

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