Melanie Conklin

Is Wisconsin a ‘Failed State’?

The Guardian questions if state can perform its core job, "protecting people’s basic security.”

By , Wisconsin Examiner - May 20th, 2020 12:57 pm
Art from the ceiling in the governor's rooms reads "The will of the people is the law of the land." Photo by Melanie Conklin/Wisconsin Examiner.

Art from the ceiling in the governor’s rooms reads “The will of the people is the law of the land.” Photo by Melanie Conklin/Wisconsin Examiner.

Distance can offer a perspective that synthesizes familiar, intractable problems into a blunt gut punch.

An opinion column Tuesday in The Guardian — a highly regarded outlet based in Britain but with a United States bureau and many American readers —  took a look at Wisconsin politics from a 30,000 foot level. And the author, Nathan Robinson, put forward this conclusion summed up in the title: Wisconsin is starting to resemble a failed state.

A failed state, he asserts, “can no longer claim legitimacy or perform a government’s core function of protecting the people’s basic security.” He rejects the perspective promoted by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, many Republican state legislators and others that letting a deadly virus spread unchecked equals freedom.

The evidence Robinson puts forward focuses on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, starting with the April 7 election —  because ensuring citizens can vote without risking their lives is the government’s job.

“Because voting in person is clearly risky during a pandemic, several states delayed their primaries to make sure everyone was able to mail in a ballot instead of having to go to a polling place.

“Not so Wisconsin,” he notes, where Democratic Gov. Tony Evers urged lawmakers to back legislation creating an election by mail only, and they rejected this. “Then the governor issued an order postponing the election. Republicans challenged it, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with them. The primary went forward, but was a disaster…”

He labels the court tossing out the Safer at Home order as even worse. Noting that the court, in this and other situations, has taken a stance decidedly counter to public opinion. Which is not always wrong, but in this case and the undemocratic Electoral College and gerrymandering, he opines, is not only wrong, it’s destructive to state institutions and governance.

The result he decries: “Wisconsin’s Republicans have succeeded in capturing power in the state even without having to capture popular approval … In a supposedly democratic country, this should be an outrage. How can a government claim legitimacy if it does not require the people’s support?”

Robinson answers his own question in conclusion: “What respect do people owe a government that cannot protect them and cannot claim democratic legitimacy? Very little. The more that Wisconsin Republicans act to impose their will unilaterally without regard to the safety or will of the people, the less we should treat Wisconsin as a functional government.”

Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.

3 thoughts on “Is Wisconsin a ‘Failed State’?”

  1. blurondo says:

    The digital age is, in part, responsible for this. It has created social media which has devastated print media. Individuals are swayed and manipulated by knee-jerk reaction rather than thoughtful consideration.

  2. frank a schneiger says:

    Wisconsin is not a “failed state.” You know a failed state when you see one. Instead, Wisconsin has become something else: a pseudo-democratic, populist/white supremacist plutocracy. It has become these things in a relatively short period of time. And, in this regard, it is a near certainty that Scott Walker will be seen as one of the most important – if not the most important – public figure(s) in the state’s history.

    Walker found a way to use white racial resentment and victimization – skillfully employing his Milwaukee County observations – and dark money to gain office. And then, in one of the nation’s best previews of Trumpism, he proceeded to turn the state over to his far-right sponsors (the Kochs, Menard, Hendricks, ALEC, the far right foundations and think tanks). In the process, he transformed the state from a national leader in many areas – race being the glaring exception – into a corrupt, bitterly divided, bottom feeder.

    The state that led the nation in areas such as honesty and transparency, the environment, higher education and voting rights now supplies the Trump administration with former members of the Walker wrecking crew. The nationalization of Walkerism came just as the consequences of his Wisconsin policies that degraded the environment, further neglected an infrastructure in dire need of investment, pissed away enormous public resources on the Foxconn and other scams, undermined improvements to the health care system, and intensified the “otherization” of anyone who wasn’t a white conservative Christian all became increasingly undeniable.

    One link between a “failed state” and the plutocracy that Wisconsin has become is the specter of a legitimacy crisis.
    This is something that may occur with this year’s elections, which seem to hold the likely outcome that whoever loses will say it was illegitimate and refuse to accept a peaceful, establishment solution. In a state as divided as Wisconsin – for example, it is hard to find another state with two senators as different as Baldwin and Johnson – this will be a recipe for real trouble.

  3. kaygeeret says:

    Both the article and the comments seem to me to support the conclusion that we are indeed a failed state. In fact frank schneiger’s comments reinforce the central conclusion – in my opinion.

    At minimum we are a state of minority rule which seems to be the road to facism. If I remember Iraq under Hussain was a minority rule state. Nothing good comes from this.

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