What The Wisconsin Political Power Play Means For American Democracy

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Then-Democratic candidate for Wisconsin governor Tony Evers speaks at a rally Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, in Milwaukee. (Morry Gash/AP)
Then-Democratic candidate for Wisconsin governor Tony Evers speaks at a rally Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, in Milwaukee. (Morry Gash/AP)

With Jane Clayson

The Wisconsin GOP’s lame-duck power grab — what the political slugfest means for democracy.


Shawn Johnson, capital bureau chief for Wisconsin Public Radio. (@SJohnsonWPR)

David Leonhardt, Pulitzer Prize-winning Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times. (@DLeonhardt)

From The Reading List

New York Times: "Opinion: How Alarmed Should We Be About Wisconsin?" — "I called Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, the authors of the recent book 'How Democracies Die,' with a question last week. Levitsky and Ziblatt are political scientists, and their book has gotten a lot of attention lately. They argue that the biggest threat to democracy in much of the world today is not a military coup but elected leaders 'who subvert the very process that brought them to power.'

"My question to Levitsky and Ziblatt was: How alarmed should I be about the recent event in Wisconsin, where Republican legislators are trying to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general?

"Their answer: Alarmed."

New York Times: "Wisconsin Republicans Defiantly Move to Limit the Power of Incoming Democrats" — "When Wisconsin Republicans pushed through a sweeping set of bills Wednesday to limit the power of the state’s newly elected Democrats, it was another hardball maneuver by a man who has played a key role in driving the state sharply to the right.

"In the days after the Republican governor’s stunning loss last month — the end of eight years of one-party control of the state’s government — Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the Assembly, was defiant.

"'We are going to stand like bedrock to guarantee that Wisconsin does not go back,' Mr. Vos told local reporters after the midterms.

"Mr. Vos became the first official to publicly suggest that Republicans consider reining in the authority of the incoming Democratic governor, Tony Evers. 'If there are areas where we could look and say, "Geez — have we made mistakes where we granted too much power to the executive," ' he told reporters, 'I’d be open to taking a look to say what can we do to change that to try to rebalance it.' "

The Hill: "Ex-Wisconsin GOP governor calls on Walker to reject measures curbing Dems' power" — "Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum (R) is calling for Gov. Scott Walker (R) to reject some of the measures the state legislature passed to limit incoming Democratic officials' authority.

"'It appears completely political, (like) a power grab,' McCallum told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Saturday, before adding that Walker has the chance to avoid the 'appearance of sour grapes.'

"McCallum, who served as governor from 2001-2003, noted that Walker should be 'open and transparent and reach out in a very public fashion' to discuss the lame-duck legislation with incoming Gov. Tony Evers (D).

"Evers defeated Walker in the Wisconsin gubernatorial race in November."

Washington Post: "Opinion: Are Republicans abandoning democracy?" — "Especially after last week’s court filings in the ongoing investigations of President Trump, his critics have good reason to focus on the threats he poses to democracy and the rule of law. But the president is not alone in his party.

"In case after case, Republicans have demonstrated an eagerness to undercut democracy and tilt the rules of the game if doing so serves their ideological interests. The quiet coup by the GOP-controlled legislature in Wisconsin is designed to defy the voters’ wishes. It reflects an abandonment of the disciplines that self-government requires.

"In November, Wisconsin’s electorate ended eight years of Republican dominance in state government by choosing Democrats Tony Evers as governor and Josh Kaul as attorney general. Democrats also won races for secretary of state and state treasurer."

Gretchen Voss produced this show for broadcast.

This program aired on December 11, 2018.


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