Republicans Keep On Cheatin', Cheatin' In MI, WI & NC
It's normal for a political party to conduct an "autopsy" after suffering significant electoral losses. However, instead of altering their platform or messaging, Republicans have chosen instead to just dissect democracy as it squirms on the operating table. They've done this in broad daylight, aided by a media that's intent on covering their corruption as simply politics as usual.
The headline for Monday's New York Times article about Republicans' attacks on democracy reads like a press release from the RNC: "Stung by Election Losses, Republicans in the States Seek a Way to Neutralize Democrats." Boo-hoo, voters rejected Republicans in the midterms and they're all up in their feels about it. That's not relevant. What's relevant is that Republicans are cheating. Cheating is not an electoral strategy. This isn't a high-stakes poker game between card sharps.
Right now, Republicans are making efforts to overturn recent elections in Wisconsin and Michigan that didn't go their way. They plan to achieve this through barely legal trickery where they strip the incoming Democratic governors of any executive powers they find inconvenient. This morning, the Wisconsin state Senate approved its power-stripping bill on a 17-16 vote with all Democrats and a single scruple-possessing Republican voting against it.
The long list of proposals Republicans want to consider also includes wide efforts to shore up their strength before Tony Evers, the Democrat who beat Gov. Scott Walker last month, takes office: new limits on early voting, a shift in the timing of the 2020 presidential primary in Wisconsin, and new authority for lawmakers on state litigation. The Republican plan would also slash the power of the incoming attorney general, who is also a Democrat.
These aren't legitimate policy "proposals." They are an obvious reaction to losing with no goal higher or more complex than fixing it so they won't lose again and maybe even didn't really lose the first time. Republicans didn't suddenly get the idea to reduce the governor to a glorified state mascot until a Democrat won.
Democrats appreciate that if the state legislature is Republican-controlled, there are limits to what we can check off our wish list. We have to moderate our agenda. That's why Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Justice Scalia and not the ghost of Earl Warren. Republicans chose not to have hearings for Garland at all because why compromise when -- through unprecedented obstruction -- they can have it all?
Over those eight years, the GOP pushed through major policy changes, ranging from union limits, to voter ID requirements, to redistricting. Now Republicans want to make sure Evers can't upend all of their accomplishments come January.
That's why voters elected Evers! It wasn't because of his dashing good lucks (no offense). He campaigned on a specific platform. He won the race. Republicans are ignoring the will of the people and robbing Wisconsin voters in plain sight. The New York Times really doesn't get this, insisting on covering Republican tactics as if they're clever instead of just crooked.
It is a model pioneered in North Carolina, where Republican lawmakers in 2016 tried to restrict the power of the governor after a Democrat was narrowly elected to the post. That set off a bitter court battle that continues to this day.
Pioneered? This isn't the first successful open heart surgery. NPR even described North Carolina Republicans' craven power grab as "precedent" for what's happening in Michigan and Wisconsin. "I dunno, boss, no one's ever shot a New York police captain before." "Check your mob case law! Corleone v. McCluskey."
Back in 2016, Andrew Reynolds, of the Electoral Integrity Project, argued that North Carolina no longer had the essential features of a functioning democracy. Republicans in the state have continued to live down to this reputation. It's become more and more obvious, like a teenager's acne, that Republican Mark Harris's "win" in last month's House race was not entirely on the up and up. The North Carolina GOP is very concerned about "voter fraud" but less worried about outright election theft. They seem to just want to cover it up.
The GOP would like to codify into law that in election years, every county elections board will be chaired by a Republican. That is just shameless. This isn't politics at its worst. It's a banana republic without any good sales on blazers.
When Brian Kemp cheated his way to the Georgia governor's mansion, the civility crowd advised us to keep a cool head and not in any way, shape, or form imply that he "stole" the election. This is not constructive advice because it just emboldens Republicans when they club us in the electoral knee and we shake their hands and say "good race." If we keep pretending the modern-day Republican party is in any way honest or morally upright, very soon we might not have any more elections at all.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.