Wisconsin GOP trying to steal power before new governor takes office


Wisconsin Republicans are trying to strip powers away from the state's newly elected Democratic governor and attorney general — and citizens are rising up to protest the right-wing power grab.

Wisconsin Republicans lost big in statewide races this November. Voters kicked out current Gov. Scott Walker and current Attorney General Brad Schimel and replaced them with Democrats, Tony Evers for governor and Josh Kaul for attorney general.

But instead of respecting the will of Wisconsin voters and the direction they chose for the state, Republicans are working to undermine Evers and Kaul and steal their power before they get a chance to take office.

"It's a tantrum because Scott Walker lost," Jon Erpenbach, a Democratic state senator, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It's frustrating because they're not even giving Tony Evers a chance to be governor."

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos are using the legislature's lame-duck session to push through changes that are designed to cement Walker's right-wing policies and priorities — whether Wisconsinites want them or not.

The GOP aims to limit the new governor's powers by taking away Evers' ability to approve major actions by the attorney general — and granting those powers to the Republican-led legislature instead.

Republicans could stop Evers from banning guns from the state Capitol, using legislation that limits Evers' ability to control state agencies.

Republican legislators also want to give themselves, not the governor, the final say over how to handle litigation that challenges state laws.

If Evers and Kaul don't want to defend an unconstitutional Republican gerrymander, or that they want to drop Walker's anti-Obamacare lawsuit, they'll be out of luck under the GOP's new proposal.

Instead, the budget committee for the state legislature, run by Republicans, would get to decide what to do about these cases — and even hire their own private lawyers, instead of the attorney general, to handle them.

Republican legislators are also trying to meddle in the democratic process by reducing early voting, from six weeks before an election in some communities to just two weeks. This would disproportionately suppress the vote in minority communities.

The GOP even wants to help rig a 2020 state Supreme Court election in advance by scheduling it on a separate date from the presidential primary election. This would reduce voter turnout for the Supreme Court race, which would help the conservative candidate win.

The undemocratic power grab has prompted a groundswell of resistance.

Ordinary citizens chanted "Respect our votes! Protect our votes!" at the state Capitol to protest the GOP's changes as they were being discussed in a hearing room.

So many Wisconsinites arrived to protest the unjust legislation that three overflow rooms had to be used to accommodate them as they followed the hearing.

This attempt to subvert democracy echoes attempts by other Republicans to hold on to power despite losing elections.

In Michigan, Republicans in the legislature are feverishly working to gut legislation before the new governor, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, is sworn in.

In 2016, North Carolina Republicans made the same kind of undemocratic push in the legislature despite losing an election.

After years of right-wing rule under Scott Walker, voters resoundingly rejected his politics and the damage he and his party did to the state. Instead of accepting their losses, however, Republicans are trying to cheat and change the rules.

But Wisconsinites will keep demanding that their votes at the ballot box be respected, not ignored.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.