Protesters gather outside the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011.
Andy Manis/AP

Wisconsin Republicans want to ‘maximize their control and minimize yours’

The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/3/18, 9:47 PM ET

Wisconsin GOP rushes to subvert power of new Democratic officials

Rachel Maddow reports on Wisconsin Republicans, protected by gerrymandering from an overwhelmingly Democratic popular vote, scrambling to pass new rules to take power away from the newly elected Democratic governor and attorney general.
After years in which Republicans dominated Wisconsin politics, including Donald Trump narrowly winning the state in 2016, Wisconsin turned pretty “blue” this year. Voters elected a Democratic governor, re-elected a Democratic U.S. senator, re-elected a Democratic secretary of state, and elected a Democratic state attorney general. Even in the state legislature, Democratic candidates easily won the most votes.

As we discussed yesterday, Wisconsin Republicans have responded to the election results with truly radical tactics, scrambling to approve a new power-grab before Dems take office in the new year. The agenda is as brazen as it is aggressive, targeting voting rights, election results, and the powers of state offices the GOP will no longer control.

But as important as the details are, there are principles at stake that have to matter in a healthy political system. The editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tends to be rather conservative, but it published an editorial this morning condemning the Republicans’ over-the-top tactics, describing the GOP’s gambit as a “private power play, engineered in secret, to maximize their control and minimize yours.”

This is about keeping the citizens in charge of their government.

It doesn’t matter which party is coming in and going out of office — we would say the exact same thing. In fact, we would shout it – just as we are now.

Let them know who’s boss. Tell them you are.

The problem with the Wisconsin Republicans’ power-grab is not that it’s anti-Democratic; the tragedy is that it’s anti-democratic.

To hear GOP leaders in Madison tell it, the will of the people matters, unless it conflicts with Republicans’ quest for power, at which point it becomes subservient to GOP demands.

The message has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer: the people of Wisconsin are not in charge, Republicans are. If that means defying election results and rigging state laws, so be it.

In any democratic system, there’s an implicit social contract. There’s a recognition, which often goes unstated and unappreciated, that voters have the final say when they cast ballots in free and fair elections, choosing representatives who will act within the limits of the law to advance the people’s interests.

If and when the people grow unsatisfied, as part of the contract, voters know another election will soon follow, at which time they’ll have an opportunity to make changes to better suit their goals and priorities. Those who earn the public’s trust will get the chance to govern; those who don’t will offer an alternative in the next cycle.

What Wisconsin Republicans are making clear is that they have no use for such a contract. It’s a radical posture, but more importantly, it’s a dangerous one.

State GOP officials may vote on elements of their power-grab plan as early as today. It’s not too late for cooler heads to prevail and for responsible adults to act honorably and realize that the Republican scheme is wrong.


Wisconsin Republicans want to 'maximize their control and minimize yours'