“The Constitution of the United States does not make governing easy. If anything, it makes it harder, because it requires that the majority respect the minority. When the Constitution works as it should, and opposing sides must come together to find an effective solution, it’s amazing what can be accomplished.”
“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”– President Abraham Lincoln, Republican
Unfortunately, the Republican Party of Wisconsin went off the democratic reservation around 2010, indulged in blatant Gerrymandering and, since Trump was in the White House, have gone into overdrive in trashing the principles on which the USA was built in a naked bid to seal their grip on the state indefinitely.
What follows is an edited column from political journalist Heather Cox Richardson’s column Letters from an American of April 3rd which is a forensic expose of Republican contempt for the Founding Fathers and their democratic principles. Trump may be the most odious example of this contempt. But desperate bids to appeal to his supporters means that many Republicans have sold their souls along with him.
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A key fight over democracy is currently taking place in the US Midwest state of Wisconsin. On April 4, voters there will choose a new judge for the State Supreme Court. That judge will determine the seven-person court’s majority, a majority that will either uphold or possibly strike down the state’s gerrymandered voting maps that are so heavily weighted toward Republicans as to make it virtually impossible for Democrats to win control of the legislature.
Political scientists regard Wisconsin as the most gerrymandered state in the country. The state is divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans, although the Democrats have won 13 of the past 16 state-wide elections. But, despite the state’s relatively even political split, the current district maps are so heavily tilted for Republicans that the Democrats have to win the state by 12%, just to get a majority in the assembly: Republicans, though, can win a majority with just 44% of the vote.
The election of Governor Scott Walker and a Republican legislature began the process of taking control of the state. Using granular voting data and sophisticated mapping software, the Republicans gerrymandered the state so severely that they retained control of the assembly going forward, even though Democrats won significantly more votes.
“If the Wisconsin policies were a national model and Act 10 is enacted in a dozen more states, the modern Democratic Party will cease to be a competitive power in American politics…. It’s that big a deal.”—right-wing strategist Grover Norquist
The assembly also passed at least 33 new laws during the Walker years to change election procedures and make it harder to vote. When Democrat Tony Evers won election as governor in 2018, Democrats won 53% of the votes for state assembly—203,000 more votes than the Republicans—but, because of gerrymandering, just 36% of the seats in the legislature.
The Republicans there immediately held a lame duck session and stripped powers from Evers and Democratic attorney general Josh Kaul. Then they passed new laws to restrict voting rights. Polls showed that voters opposed the lame duck session by a margin of almost 2 to 1, and by 2020, 82% of Wisconsin voters had passed referenda calling for fair district maps. They were ignored.
When it came time to redistrict after the 2020 census, the Republican-dominated legislature carved up the state into an even more pro-Republican map than it had put into place before. Ultimately, the new maps gave Republicans 63 out of 99 seats in the assembly and 22 out of 23 in the state senate.
With gerrymandered districts virtually guaranteeing their re-election, Republicans are insulated from popular opinion. In the 2021–2022 session, they ignored the governor, refusing to confirm Evers’s appointees and going nearly 300 days without passing a single bill. They also ignored popular measures, refusing to let 98% of Democratic bills even be heard; refusing to address gun safety issues, although 81% wanted background checks for gun sales; refusing to continue abortion rights supported by 83% of residents.
This Wisconsin assembly this radicalised mattered nationally. When it became a centerpiece of Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Nearly 75% of the Republicans in it worked to cast doubt on that election, despite an audit turning up “absolutely no evidence of election fraud.”
“Republicans should take control of the elections, because Democrats can’t be expected to “follow the rules.”—Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson
By shaping the state maps and limiting the power of Democratic constituencies, Republicans have also taken control of the state supreme court, which sides with the Republican lawmakers’ attempts to cement their own power. Now voters have the chance to shift the makeup of that court. Doing so would make it possible that new challenges to the gerrymandered maps would succeed, returning fairness to the electoral system.
Theoretically, the election is nonpartisan, but Republicans paid former state supreme court justice Dan Kelly $120,000 to consult on Trump’s false elector scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and he was on the payroll of the Republican National Committee until last December.
“Let’s be clear here: The maps are rigged. Absolutely positively rigged. They do not reflect the people in the state. They do not reflect accurate representation, either in the State Assembly or the State Senate.”—Milwaukee County judge Janet Protasiewicz
The race comes down to checks and balances. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has not checked the legislature, which has entrenched one-party rule in Wisconsin.
“This isn’t to say the maps should be redrawn to instead benefit Democrats—far from it. It’s about fairness. If one party isn’t doing their job, voters should be able to do something about it. It’s about crafting a system that is responsive to the state’s voters. We don’t have that now.”—Wisconsin journalist Dan Shafer