The Wisconsin GOP’s lame-duck power play was not the death of democracy. But it was bad enough: petty, vindictive, and self-destructive. It was, as the saying goes, worse than a crime. It was a blunder.
And for what?
In its arrogant insularity, the Wisconsin GOP became a national symbol of win-at-all-costs, norms-be-damned politics. Cut through the overwrought rhetoric and what did the Republican legislators actually accomplish? Not really a whole lot; certainly not enough to justify the political damage they’ve inflicted on themselves. They have managed to energize the progressive base, expose themselves as sore losers, and undermine crucial democratic norms. And in return … they got extraordinarily little.
Let’s break it down.
Meeting through the night, legislators voted to restrict early voting, an unsubtle response to the massive turnout in the Democratic strongholds of Dane and Milwaukee Counties that helped Democrats sweep the statewide ballot on November 6. But the attack on early voting will likely be struck down by the courts. Indeed, their similar effort in 2016 was ruled unconstitutional.
They also blocked incoming Democratic Governor Tony Evers from withdrawing the state from a lawsuit against Obamacare. But whether Wisconsin is listed on the suit will have no effect at all on the pending litigation, which could threaten guaranteed coverage of preexisting conditions. The GOP then proceeded to dig itself a deeper hole by defeating legislation designed to provide some protection for people with preexisting conditions—should the lawsuit succeed—despite outgoing Republican Governor Scott Walker’s repeated promises to enact such a measure.