A Dark Day for Democracy: Wisconsin GOP dismantles the rule of law and enshrines autocrats
Completing what critics have denounced as a “legislative coup,” Wisconsin’s outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Friday signed into law a series of bills that will dramatically weaken the authority of the newly elected Democratic governor and attorney general, enhance the power of the Republican-dominated state legislature, and significantly roll back voting rights.
“This is the kind of thing autocrats do,” Mother Jones journalist Ari Berman declared on Twitter. “A very dark day for democracy in Wisconsin.”
“Today, Governor Walker chose to ignore and override the will of the people of Wisconsin. This will no doubt be his legacy,” Democratic governor-elect Tony Evers said in a statement. “The people demanded a change on November 6th, and they asked us to solve problems, not pick petty, political fights. The people of Wisconsin expect more from our government than what has happened in our state over the past few weeks.”
Walker’s decision to sign the GOP’s lame-duck power grab into law came after Wisconsinites engulfed the state capitol building to denounce the raft of legislation as an overt attempt to overturn the midterm election results.
While Walker attempted to justify his decision to sign the legislation by calling protests against it “hysteria” and presenting a Venn diagram suggesting that Democratic governor-elect Tony Evers will not lose any powers, the details of the bills show that Wisconsinites have called the measures a “naked power grab” for a reason.
Among other sweeping changes, the legislation would drastically roll back Evers’ power to implement new rules and transfer significant power over the state’s legal affairs from the attorney-general’s office to the Republican legislature.
In a statement on Thursday, the One Wisconsin Institute announced that it plans to take legal action against Walker for signing a bill that restricts early voting to no more than two weeks before an election.
“This attack by Republicans in the legislature is not just unprecedented — it’s undemocratic, it’s unconstitutional, it’s un-American,” declared Scot Ross, executive director of the One Wisconsin Institute. “Scott Walker, Robin Vos, and the Republicans have targeted the voters who went to the polls in record-setting numbers by attacking the right to vote. Record-setting early voting isn’t an emergency, it is democracy.”
As MoveOn.org’s Ben Wikler noted as the bills were moving through the state legislature, “what happens in Wisconsin doesn’t stay in Wisconsin. The GOP and Kochs use the state as a petri dish for terrible hard-right ideas. If this works, it’ll spread elsewhere.”
As various media outlets have reported, the Wisconsin GOP’s attack on democracy is being replicated by Michigan Republicans, who are moving ahead with legislation that would weaken the powers of the state’s newly elected Democratic governor, attorney general, and secretary of state.