Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Scott Walker's War Against Democracy Itself


A couple of weeks ago, Wisconsin's far right governor, Scott Walker, warned that Patty Schachtner's upset win over state Rep. Adam Jarchow in a deep red state Senate district was a "wake up call" for the GOP. And he's now figured out how to answer that call. He's refusing to allow special elections to fill vacant seats in the state legislature. I kid you not! As John Nichols explained in The Nation last week, Scott Walker works for the Koch brothers, not Wisconsin working families. And if there's one thing the Koch brothers and the other plutocrats who dream of making Walker president really hate, it's democracy. Walker and his right-wing allies in the legislature "redrew legislative district lines to prevent competitive elections, enacted multiple measures that made it harder for Wisconsinites to vote, and dismantled the state Government Accountability Board that used to provide nonpartisan oversight of elections and ethics issues."
But it turns out that Walker and his cronies were just getting started on a project that in recent weeks has seen embattled Wisconsin Republicans upend new commissions that were supposed to promote fair elections and responsible governance, while the governor has refused to call elections to fill legislative vacancies in districts that might be won by Democrats.

As the onetime Republican star who crashed and burned as a contender for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination prepared to deliver his annual State of the State message, Republican state senators denied the confirmations of the directors of Wisconsin’s ethics and elections commissions and Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, a close ally of the governor, said he wanted to force out employees of the commissions who had participated in investigations of Republican wrongdoing.

After Walker’s Republicans effectively voted to oust Ethics Commission administrators Brian Bell and Michael Haas and began talking about reclassifying positions at the commissions as part of a partisan purge of nonpartisan oversight agencies, Democratic state Representative Jimmy Anderson blasted his Republican colleagues for undermining “the integrity of our electoral process as well as the vital role that these watchdogs play in regulating lobbying and campaign activity. Wisconsin has a long-standing tradition as a leader in nonpartisan election administration.”

Anderson is right. But nothing the legislature has done so undermines the integrity of the electoral process as what Walker is doing personally.

The governor is deliberately denying Wisconsinites representation in the legislature by refusing to call special elections to fill open seats in the State Assembly and the State Senate.

In doing so, he is rejecting the clear intent of Wisconsin’s statutes, which declare: “Any vacancy in the office of state senator or representative to the Assembly occurring before the 2nd Tuesday in May in the year in which a regular election is held to fill that seat shall be filled as promptly as possible by special election.”

So what’s up?

It may be that Walker is refusing to schedule the special elections because he is scared. The results of special elections held last Tuesday were disastrous for Walker and his Republican allies. The party lost a State Senate seat in western Wisconsin’s 10th District, as a 26-point Republican advantage in November 2016 shifted to an 11-point Democratic advantage in January 2018. And the GOP came closer than anyone expected to losing an Assembly seat in overwhelmingly Republican Washington County, where a Democrat won 43 percent of the vote. Even the governor admits the loss of the State Senate seat represents a “wake-up call.” And Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, argues that: “Governor Walker is running scared and is playing politics with people’s right to be represented in the State Capitol. He is clearly feeling the heat and scrambling to boost lack luster polls and the Republican brand, but voters are wide awake and aren’t buying it.”

It may be that Walker-- who has run his campaigns with massive infusions of money from outside Wisconsin, approved such extreme gerrymandering that the federal courts have intervened, and backed restrictive voter-ID laws, assaults on early voting, same-day registration, and a host of other assaults on voting rights-- really is as willing to sacrifice Wisconsin democracy on the altar of his many ambitions as his critics suggest.

Whatever his reason, the fact remains that Walker has refused to call special elections to fill the seats of former state senator Frank Lasee, of De Pere, and former state representative Keith Ripp, of Lodi, a pair of Republicans who quit the legislature in December to take posts with the governor’s administration. The governor wants to leave those seats open until January 2019-- denying tens of thousands of Wisconsinites representation for a full year.

When the governor initially refused to call the special elections, his aides claimed that it would be a waste of money to hold them because the legislature wouldn’t be all that busy in 2018-- but the state Senate has already been quite busy, as the assaults on the elections and ethics commissions confirm.
Goal ThermometerState Senator Chris Larson, the most progressive political leader in Wisconsin, and the guy who started the process of recruiting Randy Bryce to run against Ryan, told me that "Walker and Republicans know the voting public has lost patience with them. They cut education to historic lows while dealing up the largest corporate giveaway in the country’s history. Instead of changing course and actually serving the people, they are instead setting the table for a very shady election cycle. It starts with denying special elections from happening, add in their sabotage of the election and ethics commissions, and layer that all on top of their known past shenanigans of restrictive IDs for voting, gerrymandering, and coordinating with outside special interests. Democrats can and will win seats in Wisconsin this fall, including beating Speaker Ryan and electing a Democratic Governor. But these ardent Trump apologists aren’t going quietly into the night. More than ever, we need bold progressives to run for office who are willing to get out and fight for their neighbors."

Lasee's district, Senate District 1-- east and south of Green Bay-- is made up of Door and Kewaunee counties and bits of Brown and Calumet counties. What frightens Walker is that the heart of the district, the Door Peninsula, voted for Trump in 2016 but for Obama in 2012. Also in the 2016 primaries, Bernie beat Clinton in the district and got more votes that Trump to boot.

Keith Ripp's Assembly district 42 includes most of Columbia and Dodge counties and small bits of Dane, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, and Marquette counties and the cities of Columbus, Fox Lake, Lodi and Waupun. Columbia, the heart of the district, went for Trump in 2016 but strongly for Obama in 2012. During the primary, Bernie didn't just beat Hillary 6,455 (60.5%) to 4,183 (39.2%), but also got more votes than Trump (4,413). Bernie crushed Hillary in every part of Ripp's district. Voters wanted change, when the Democrats gave them an avatar of the status quo, they went for Trump and the GOP. That walkup call Walker heard ringing was Wisconsin voters swinging back towards the Democrats, very, very strongly.

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At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Hone said...

ow this guy got reelected in Wisconsin is beyond belief.

Hey, Trey Gowdy is resigning! Great news. Another Republican POS.

At 12:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three different times Cheeseheads had a chance to retire this schmuck, and three different times they let the rest of the nation down. They will suffer consequences because of this.

One of the biggest employers in WI is Harley-Davidson, which is terminating 800 jobs in Kansas City to save about half of that number in PA. When there is no more fat to trim in PA, WI will be hit next.

I once loved WI and it's people, but they drank the Kool-Aid and went to hell. I only feel sorry for the innocents: the elderly and those too young yet to make a difference.

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone, read 12:50. It's fucking WI. Those people are stupid, gullible and tending toward mean. They're mostly white, which is being redundant.

WI along with MN used to be pretty liberal places that took care of those who society has decided to grind down. Not since the turn of the century. Now, not even Feingold can win an election there. Talk about shitholes.

If I lived there, I'd move. And yesterday!


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