Why Won't Democrats Work Across The Aisle????
With Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin refusing to concede he lost yesterday's election to Democrat Andy Beshear, who received 5,000 more votes, and Donald Trump proclaiming the Kentucky election a huge success for the GOP, we're beginning to wonder whether this marks a new tool for Republicans to add to their bag of tricks: In addition to using gerrymandering and voter suppression to impose minority rule, why not just start ignoring the outcomes of elections altogether?
For a case in point, let's look at Wisconsin, where yesterday the state Senate ousted the Democratic agriculture secretary, months after all five Republicans on the Agriculture committee had voted to support his nomination. Why? Because the Republican leader of the state Senate wanted to teach Democratic Gov. Tony Evers that despite beating Scott Walker in 2018, Evers isn't really in charge. Republicans may have gotten only 46 percent of the statewide vote that year, but thanks to gerrymandering, they kept 64 percent of the seats in the state Assembly, and actually added a seat in the Senate. It's just one more example of Republicans' contempt for the state's voters, which started when they used their lame-duck session to limit the governor's power before he took office. And Evers better not forget it.
Under Wisconsin law, state cabinet secretaries can serve as soon as they're appointed by the governor, without being confirmed first. Brad Pfaff had been heading up the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection since his appointment by Evers in January, but yesterday's party-line vote in the state Senate meant he was fired, and had to clear out his desk. Pfaff had run afoul of Senate Republicans in July when he excoriated them for refusing to release $100,000 in funding for mental health programs aimed at Wisconsin farmers. The funding had been approved in the state budget passed by the Lege and signed by Evers, but to actually spend it, the legislature's Joint Finance Committee had to vote to release it. Which they did not.
In a statement, Pfaff accused Republicans of playing politics with farmers' lives, because the dairy industry has been in a serious downturn, what with falling milk prices and whatnot (not to mention a certain "president's" tariffs).
There's no two ways about it: Republicans have chosen to leave farmers behind. To help with the stress our farmers and their families are experiencing, Governor Evers proposed significant investments in mental health resources for Wisconsin's agriculture communities across the state. The Joint Finance Committee agreed, and included that funding in the final budget the Governor signed. Now, they're going back on their word and abandoning our state's farmers in the process.
He pointed out that the program was down to its last five vouchers to provide counseling to farmers, and asked,
"If the Joint Finance Committee doesn't want to move this funding forward immediately, then they have a choice to make: Which five farmers will it be?"
Predictably enough, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald took great offense, because how dare Pfaff make such "offensive and unproductive" comments about the state's noble farmers? You know who's really trivializing the struggles of farmers? YOU, YOU TERRIBLE DEMOCRAT:
"Your flippant comments yesterday referring to farmer suicide is beneath your position and makes light of the seriousness of suicide," Fitzgerald said. "Mental health can be something that people struggle with for years, if not their whole lives, and your statements about 'abandoning our state's farmers' and 'which five farmers' should be saved does nothing other than to create division on a subject that matters to all legislators."
Eventually, in September, the Finance Committee coughed up the money, and added an extra $100K from another program, but Fitzgerald needed to teach Pfaff and Evers about getting out of line. Which is why yesterday the Republican-controlled Senate voted to reject Pfaff's appointment. The official reason Rs gave was that Pfaff had supported a rule that would set new regulations on manure storage, so that neighbors of farms wouldn't constantly smell animal shit. Oh, that's burdensome and bad for already struggling farmers!!!!!! the Rs all moaned. Which might at least have sounded like normal GOP talking points, except that the rule had originated under Scott Walker's ag secretary, and Evers had been willing to work on the rule with the regulation.Yeah, Scott Walker, father of burdensome regulation.
Gov. Evers took the unusual step of sitting in on the Senate floor during the debate yesterday to watch the vote, not that it helped. Afterwards, he said Pfaff was punished for standing up for farmers, and worried that other unconfirmed members of his cabinet might be careful not to speak their minds.
"It's a message (Republicans are) sending to all other secretary-designees," Evers said in the halls of the Capitol minutes after the vote. "Stay in your place, folks. You can't challenge people. You can't speak. ... To think they're going to have to keep their mouth shut for the next, who knows, four years, in order to get approved by the Senate, that's absolute bullshit."
When Republicans drew gerrymandered districts in 2011, they locked in an electoral advantage for years, meaning that GOP-held legislative seats are essentially election-proof. Democrats received 205,000 more votes for the legislature than Republicans in 2018, but the unequal maps led to Republicans winning 27 more seats in the Assembly, and actually gaining one new seat in the Senate. For Democrats to actually win control of the Lege back, they'd need to beat Republicans by nine or ten points statewide.
And don't expect any help from the Supreme Court, which in June ruled it would give no fucks ever about rigged electoral maps. As our Liz Dye put it, the Roberts Court gave "Republican legislatures a thumbs up to ratfuck electoral maps forever," because after all, "the Framers anticipated gerrymanders and failed to do anything about them," so hey, unfair elections were exactly what America is all about. (Again, time to remind y'all to read Adam Serwer's brilliant essay on how the Roberts Court is taking us back to the Bad Old Days following the dismantling of Reconstruction, when "rights" and "liberty" were for those in power, not anyone else.)
This is probably all for the better. Republicans have always claimed they love America and the Constitution the most, and they love to remind us that this isn't a democracy but a REPUBLIC, so why not take the logical next step and make sure their vision for a government that reflects the majority of Republicans isn't threatened by any actual voting? Voters are too fickle to be trusted with elections. Shouldn't be too much longer before Republicans who lose elections start complaining that Democrats are trying to "steal elections" through the nefarious strategy of getting more votes.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.