“You rig the system when you win and you rig the system when you lose,” Wisconsin Democratic state Rep. Chris Taylor said of the Republican legislation. “How is it that you have more power when you lose?” (Photo: Michelle Stocker/Capital Times)
“They are terrified that democracy is returning to Wisconsin. They are terrified that 2018 is not the end of anything, but only the beginning.”
By Jake Johnson / 12.04.2018
As Wisconsin Republicans voted to plow ahead with a sweeping package of legislation that would allow outgoing Gov. Scott Walker to strip significant authority from Democratic governor-elect Tony Evers, outraged Wisconsinites flooded the state capitol Monday night to denounce the GOP’s brazen attempt to subvert the will of the voters and “undo democracy itself.”
“This isn’t a bill. This is a coup,” Randy Bryce—aka the “Iron Stache”—said before Wisconsin’s Joint Committee on Finance, which deliberated and ultimately voted along party lines to advance the Republican plan, which seeks to transfer many of Evers’ crucial executive powers to the GOP-dominated legislature. A final vote on the plan is expected as early as Tuesday.
Apparently lacking the courage to speak on behalf of their legislation—or fearing the immense grassroots backlash—the bill’s Republican sponsors didn’t bother to show up to the lame-duck hearing.
Unlike some of their representatives, thousands of Wisconsinites braved the freezing weather and turned out in force, crowding the inside of the capitol building with chants of “Respect our vote!” and rallying outside to denounce the Republicans’ last-ditch power grab.
“They are terrified that democracy is returning to Wisconsin,” The Nation‘s John Nichols, a Wisconsin native, declared in a speech from the steps of the capitol building. “They are terrified that 2018 is not the end of anything, but only the beginning.”
“The only way they can pull this off is if nobody finds out about it,” Ben Wikler, another Wisconsin native and MoveOn.org’s Washington director, said at Monday night’s demonstration. “I was texting right before the show with some national reporters. They can’t believe people are coming out in this weather once they hear how cold it is. We’re proving them wrong right now. This is what democracy looks like.”
If approved by the state legislature, the Republican plan would force Evers to implement Wisconsin’s Trump-approved Medicaid work requirements, stop him from banning guns in the state capitol, and restrict both his ability and that of newly-elected Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul to execute the state’s legal affairs.
The GOP’s sweeping legislative package would also severely restrict early voting, limiting it to as little as two weeks before an election.
Walker, who has just weeks left in office, told reporters on Monday that he would sign the legislative package if it reaches his desk.
With governor-elect Evers vowing to pursue legal action if the plan passes the legislature, Wisconsin Democrats continued to voice their outrage at the GOP’s patently anti-democratic plan, which mirrors ongoing efforts by Republicans in Michigan to effectively overturn November’s election results.
“You rig the system when you win and you rig the system when you lose,” Wisconsin Democratic state Rep. Chris Taylor said of the Republican legislation. “How is it that you have more power when you lose?”
UPDATE 12.05.2018 BELOW:
After hours of debate and secret negotiations that dragged on into the early hours of the morning amid a backdrop of mass protests, Wisconsin’s Senate on Wednesday approved a Republican plan to strip power from Democratic governor-elect Tony Evers and transfer major authority over the state’s legal affairs from the incoming Democratic attorney general to the GOP-dominated legislature.
“Democracy dies in darkness… or perhaps in the early morning light,” wrote The Nation‘s John Nichols, a Wisconsin native, after the measure passed the state Senate and headed toward an Assembly vote, the final hurdle before the legislation reaches outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s desk. The plan is expected to easily sail through the Assembly as early as Wednesday morning, and Walker has said he will sign it.
It’s official. The power-grab bill cleared the Wisconsin State Senate before sunrise. Just now, it passed the State Assembly. The only step left is Scott Walker’s signature, which—if he signs it—will seal his legacy as an enemy as democracy and a friend only to his own power. https://t.co/SbLzjy6WI4
— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) December 5, 2018
Described by Mother Jones journalist Ari Berman as a “lame duck legislative coup,” the sweeping measure would dramatically curtail Evers’ power to implement new rules and require the Republican legislature—rather than the incoming Democratic attorney general—to approve any attempt to withdraw from federal lawsuits.
The measure also attacks voting rights by restricting early voting to no more than two weeks before an election. A similar measure passed by Wisconsin Republicans in 2016 was ruled unconstitutional on the grounds that it disproportionately harmed minority voters.
“This is outrageous abuse of power and should be huge national scandal,” Berman declared.
Though Wisconsin Republicans and Walker attempted to downplay the scope and significance of their legislation, Wisconsinites saw through the GOP’s rhetoric and turned out to the state capitol in force, flooding hearing rooms and rallying outside the capitol building in the freezing weather to denounce the legislation as an attempt to “undo democracy itself.”
“Scott Walker may be on the way out of office for the first time in a quarter century,” said One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross, “but his corrosive brand of politics lives on in his fellow Republicans.”