Republicans had their heads handed to them by voters in last month’s elections. But instead of reflecting on their losses and setting a new course to win voters over, GOP leaders in three states have decided that there’s an easier solution: use lame duck sessions to strip incoming Democrats of their power.
By far the worst offense is underway in Wisconsin. With the defeat of GOP incumbent Scott Walker, Republicans in the legislature have voted to put numerous restrictions on incoming governor Tony Evers, effectively preventing him from carrying out many changes he would otherwise undertake.
The bill, passed by Republicans in a closed-door midnight special session, would limit early voting (which favors Democrats), transfer the right to make appointments to key boards from the governor to the legislature, and prevent Evers from withdrawing from the state’s challenge to Obamacare.
House Speaker Robin Vos is unapologetic about the power grab. “We are going to stand like bedrock to guarantee that Wisconsin does not go back,” Vos said after the election.
Apparently, the voters’ wishes don’t enter into Vos’s calculations.
The GOP’s moves violate all the lessons of U.S. elections that students are taught in elementary school. Indeed, according to Michael Wagner, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “this is a textbook example of how democracies die. That is, when norms about the peaceful transfer of power are violated, we are in trouble.”
Wisconsin may be ahead of the curve, but it’s hardly alone. Republicans who control Michigan’s legislature are considering similar attempts to dilute the power of incoming governor (and Democrat) Gretchen Whitmer.
In Florida, the site of the Parkland school shooting, Republicans want to move control of the state’s concealed weapons permits from the agricultural director to another office because a Democrat won the agriculture director’s race.
North Carolina set the standard for these underhanded moves in 2016, when Democrat Roy Cooper won the governor’s race.
The fact that Republicans managed to hold onto legislatures is testament to another form of their cheating: gerrymandering. By cramming as many Democrats as possible into as few districts as possible, the GOP guarantees itself undeserved success.
For example, Wisconsin voters awarded Democratic state assembly candidates 50 percent of the vote last month, but Republicans held onto two-thirds of the seats.
Of course, Republicans can also resort to even more blatant forms of cheating.
The prime example is in North Carolina, where an operative for GOP incumbent Rep. Mark Harris was apparently collecting incomplete mail-in ballots from voters and filling them in with Harris’s name. Election officials won’t certify Harris’s election, and the state’s largest newspaper is calling for a new election.
Meanwhile, in Florida, newly elected Rep. Ross Spano has admitted to campaign finance violations for borrowing money from friends and then passing it along to his own campaign as if it was his own money. Spano has the unique distinction of facing a federal investigation before he ever gets to Congress.
As bas as all of this is, it could just be a prelude to 2020. Donald Trump said in 2016 that he would “look at” whether he accepted the election results should he lose, instead claiming the vote was rigged against him.
You can only imagine how loudly Trump will proclaim the election results a fraud should he lose re-election. As this year’s actions show, there are plenty of Republican politicians who will gladly back him up.