WISCONSIN’S Republican-controlled legislature sprinted Tuesday to pass a hastily drafted package of bills that would strip power from the governor and state attorney general. Michigan Republicans are trying a similar maneuver. The reason: Democrats won elections last month, and Republican lawmakers will have to share power with them come January.
But sharing does not seem to be on their minds. Refusing to accept their fair-and-square electoral losses, these GOP legislators instead want to keep their hold on power by changing the rules. Does anyone really want this to be the standard practice after a party loses a governor’s mansion?
With the final package in flux, Wisconsin Republicans were considering stopping the new Democratic governor and attorney general from pulling the state out of an anti-Obamacare lawsuit, though the two won the election with a promise to do so. GOP lawmakers might empower themselves to appoint lawyers to defend state laws, usurping the role of the attorney general. And the governor’s powers over the state’s voter-ID law, economic development board and benefits programs could be limited. The legislature could also cut early voting, seen as helping Democrats, while the current Republican governor is still in power.
Michigan Republicans are considering similar end-runs around democracy. And they are looking to use their lame-duck session with a duplicitous end-run around voters on a minimum-wage law. They passed the law earlier in September, when it was poised to be on the November ballot, preventing voters from considering the policy. Now they are moving to weaken it, which they can do with a simple majority in the legislature because voters did not impose it.
Scott Fitzgerald (R), Wisconsin’s Senate majority leader, admitted Monday that Republicans would not be trying to limit the governor’s powers if outgoing GOP Gov. Scott Walker had won a third term, explaining that Republicans do not trust the incoming Democrat. It does not matter if they trust the next governor. Wisconsin voters chose to do so.
The GOP’s underhanded dealing in Wisconsin and Michigan is just the latest in a trend of Republicans upending principles of good government and democratic accountability for political gain. The party’s massive resistance to President Barack Obama culminated in a debt-ceiling fiasco and an improperly denied Supreme Court seat. Republicans in state after state have imposed new election rules designed to deter Democrats from voting. North Carolina Republicans stripped powers from the governor after they lost the 2016 gubernatorial election, a dirty play that has poisoned the state’s politics. There’s a common thread: Unable to change voters’ minds, they choose instead to change the rules.