About That Republican Victory
Voters rejected Democrats for the Assembly, Robin Vos declares. Er, not exactly.
Earth to Robin Vos.
Across the nation it’s now clear the election was a blue wave, with a seven point margin in the vote for Democrats that may yet rise to 7.5 percent. That’s bigger than the last two Republican waves, the 6.8 percent margin of 2010 and 7.1 percent in 1994. Democrats have now won 34 House seats, the most since their post-Watergate wave of 1974. And that total may get as high as 39 seats, and would be even higher if not for so many districts so badly gerrymandered by Republicans.
In Wisconsin the Democrats swept all four statewide offices, including governor, attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state, for the first time since 1986. And the unofficial results for the 99 assembly seats in the state show Republicans were well behind, getting just 1.1 million, or slightly less than 46 percent of the 2.4 million votes cast for those seats.
“The reality is that the voters of Wisconsin have chosen divided government,” he declared. “The state that elected Tony Evers as governor also chose 64 hardworking and passionate Republicans to represent areas throughout our great state.” So the election “cannot be seen as any kind of mandate for change.”
It’s true the Republicans won 63 of 99 Assembly seats. How is that possible when Democratic assembly candidates won slightly more than 54 percent of the vote? Because Vos and the Republicans passed a 2011 redistricting plan that packs Democratic voters into a minority of districts so that hundreds of thousands of their votes are wasted. The maps are “intentionally skewed” to create non-competitive districts, charged Dana Schultz, Executive Director of Wisconsin Voices, which supports redistricting. “We must redraw the district maps and bring fairness and balance back to our state legislature.”
To that end, Democrats will be re-filing a case with the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping it ultimately agrees with an earlier federal court ruling that found Wisconsin’s gerrymandering is unconstitutional.
But for now Vos can continue to insist the world is upside down, and 54 percent of the vote is actually a defeat for Democratic policies. Vos has defiantly warned that Evers had better not try to roll back any of the changes passed by Walker and Republican lawmakers in the last eight years.
And because Vos thinks voters didn’t want any change, he and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) intend to pass laws to reduce the governor’s powers in a lame-duck session before Evers takes office.
“I don’t want him to be able to walk in on day one and with the stroke of a pen undo things that the vast majority of the public supports and the Legislature and the governor signed into law,” Vos declared.
Two examples he noted were the Foxconn deal and voter ID rules.
But Marquette Law School polls have consistently shown voters are lukewarm about Foxconn, with 55 percent saying they don’t believe it will benefit their communities. They would probably welcome a reduction in the $4.1 billion subsidy promised to a Taiwanese company.
As for Voter ID, a majority of voters do support it and Evers has no chance to overturn the law. But he could change some rules quietly implemented on voter ID by Gov. Scott Walker, which were never the subject of public hearings.
Vos and Fitzgerald want to roll back the governor’s power to make sure Evers can’t overturn rules passed by Walker. Apparently such rule making can only be trusted to Republican governors. That inconsistency was noted by state Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), who told The Associated Press, “The optics probably look bad.”
Or as Democratic state Sen Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) put it: “If Republican leaders think that a lame-duck power grab is what Wisconsin asked for, they just aren’t listening” to voters. If Republicans are so worried about too much power for the governor, he added, they had eight years to address that problem and didn’t.
Vos has also warned that the legislature won’t support increasing school funding, though the MU poll showed voters supported more school spending over property tax cuts by a margin of 55 percent to 40 percent.
What we’re seeing here is a legislative tyrant used to ignoring the majority of voters on many issues, knowing he is protected by gerrymandered districts, and assuming Walker could never lose. And so Vos and the Republicans gave the governor powers they now regret.
Vos and company also ended the civil service system, which for more than a century assured that governors of either party couldn’t simply hire party loyalists to serve in state agencies. This, as I’ve argued, was by far the most radical and repugnant law passed in the Walker era. And I hope Ever pushes to overturn it.
But if he instead decides to use it as Republicans did, he will have Vos and Fitzgerald to thank for handing him the ability to run a Democratic spoils system.
Meanwhile, Vos and Fitzgerald must depend on lame duck Gov. Walker to aid and abet their nefarious plan to nullify the results of the election and reduce the power of the man the voters just elected.
Will Walker do this? His predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle urged him to carefully consider. “There’s some obligation on a governor in that situation to not just be a partisan player anymore and be a protector of the office, and I hope the governor does that,” Doyle said. “I think that’s how many governors would see it.”
For Walker is about to join the ranks of Wisconsin’s ex-governors, where his sole claims are now on history. Does he really want to leave office with the stench of this legislation befouling his legacy?
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