Our view: GOP power grabs show con­tempt for vot­ers


Elec­tions, it is of­ten said, have con­se­quences. The strong show­ing of Democrats in 2006 and 2008 paved the way for pas­sage of the Af­ford­able Care Act, aka Oba­macare. The elec­tion of Don­ald Trump in 2016 meant, among other things, the el­e­va­tion of Neil Gor­such and Brett Ka­vanaugh to the Supreme Court.

But a month af­ter the 2018 midterm elec­tions, Repub­li­cans in a num­ber of states are do­ing their damnedest to limit, even re­verse, the ver­dict ren­dered by vot­ers.

Ground zero in this ef­fort is Wis­con­sin, where vot­ers reg­is­tered an un­equiv­o­cal de­sire for change af­ter eight years of uni­fied Re­pub­li­can rule. They ousted GOP Gov. Scott Walker. They chose Democrats for every other statewide of­fice and, in the ag­gre­gate, gave an eight-point mar­gin to Demo­cratic can­di­dates for the state assem­bly.

How has the Re­pub­li­can-con­trolled leg­is­la­ture re­sponded? By ram­ming through lim­its on early vot­ing and re­stric­tions on the pow­ers of these newly elected Democrats. A not-so-chas­tened Walker has sig­naled that he will sign these mea­sures.

If signed, the mea­sures would re­strict the ways newly elected of­fi­cials could craft rules and reg­u­la­tions im­ple­ment­ing pub­lic laws. Most galling, the of­fi­cials would be pro­hib­ited, at least in the­ory, from with­draw­ing the state from a Re­pub­li­can law­suit against Oba­macare. Both the in­com­ing gov­er­nor and in­com­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral were elected on plat­forms that in­cluded with­draw­ing from that suit.

In neigh­bor­ing Michi­gan, mean­while, law­mak­ers are con­sid­er­ing mea­sures that would strip newly elected Demo­cratic of­fi­cials of pow­ers to lit­i­gate on the state’s be­half and en­force cam­paign-fi­nance laws.

Both states are fol­low­ing North Carolina, where a lame-duck Re­pub­li­can leg­is­la­ture pushed through re­stric­tions on Demo­cratic Gov. Roy Cooper af­ter he was elected in 2016.

These bla­tant power grabs show a con­tempt for vot­ers. For decades, even as the po­lit­i­cal de­bate has grown more caus­tic, law­mak­ers of both par­ties have shown an ad­mirable rev­er­ence for pop­u­lar sovereignty, demo­cratic elec­tions and grace­ful tran­si­tions of power. Now, that is very much in doubt.

Lame-duck ses­sions should be used to tie up loose ends or en­act leg­is­la­tion with broad bi­par­ti­san sup­port, not to ram through par­ti­san mea­sures that do not re­flect the will of the vot­ers.

Mak­ing mat­ters worse, the ma­jori­ties in Wis­con­sin, Michi­gan and North Carolina, as well as nu­mer­ous other states, are built on grotesque ger­ry­man­der­ing in­flicted like a can­cer on the body politic af­ter the 2010 elec­tion.

In Wis­con­sin, for in­stance, the Re­pub­li­can ma­jor­ity that swept into of­fice in 2010 drew the leg­isla­tive and con­gres­sional bound­aries for the next 10 years. (Democrats in Mary­land used sim­i­lar tac­tics to re­draw dis­tricts there in their fa­vor.)

It’s hard to see how these pub­lic ser­vants can even look them­selves in the mir­ror — or imag­ine how they would feel if the ta­bles were turned. There’s a fa­mil­iar term for them: sore losers.


At the Wis­con­sin Capi­tol in Madi­son on Mon­day.

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