Mourning for Democracy in Wisconsin: A Short Howl of Outrage

There is more than a little bit of irony on this day of mourning for an ex-president widely reputed for his decency and placing love of country above party and partisanship, when in Wisconsin and Michigan, just as occurred in North Carolina in 2016, those values are being systematically trashed by the very party he led.

A news item from PBS:

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Republicans moved quickly Monday with a rare lame-duck session that would change the 2020 presidential primary date and make sweeping changes to the duties of the governor and attorney general’s offices.

The changes being sought would shift power to the GOP-controlled Legislature and allow outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker to make one last major mark on the state’s political landscape after he lost re-election in November.

Republicans forged ahead despite threats of lawsuits, claims by Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and others that they were trying to invalidate results of the November election and howls of protest from hundreds of people who showed up for a public hearing.

The lame-duck maneuvering in Wisconsin is similar to what Republicans did in North Carolina two years ago and is being discussed in Michigan before a Democratic governor takes over there.


It is impossible to overstate the outrageousness of these actions. Shameless, vindictive, dishonest, nefarious, underhanded, devious, undemocratic, immoral, indecent, and simply wrong in every way. It makes a travesty of representative government and makes me both furious and deeply sad, fearful for the very future of our country.

This is what we are faced with: There appears to be no bottom to the outright treachery of one of our major political parties. The rot is showing through clearly from the very top with a con man president, and it is percolating right down through various statehouses the party controls—in many cases due to blatant gerrymandering.

Why are there not at least a few Republican legislators in these states who will not be party to this latest perversion?

Where are the party’s voices on the national stage? The John McCains, the George H.W. Bushes of today? Is every shred of the entire party’s decency gone?

These actions make a mockery of this “national day of mourning” for a figure who is being hailed on this very day as an honorable and bipartisan public servant. By today’s Republican standards, he was a fool and a patsy.

Watch, though: Solemn, misty-eyed words about his fidelity to democratic values and humane governance will be spoken by multiple speakers today whose silence on this rapacious behavior taking place in the states will speak louder than anything else they say.

Protesters have descended on the Wisconsin capital of Madison, just as they have in Lansing and did two years ago in Raleigh. The outrage and denunciations have been full-throated, both from citizens and Democratic lawmakers. But for all their righteous passion, today’s protesters will likely be as effective as they were in Raleigh, or as my own howl of outrage is here now.

Which is to say, not at all.

But howl we must.

Streets have been burning recently in the City of Light as protesters decry what they see as a government blind to their plain-as-day struggles. Their government does not see, understand or represent their interests, they claim.

One wonders whether the repeated trashing of democracy and decency in this country will one day beget the same.

Leonard Cohen’s hopeful note on U.S. democracy, despite its faults laid bare. At least today, I wish I shared his optimism…
I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene


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9 comments to Mourning for Democracy in Wisconsin: A Short Howl of Outrage

  • Angela  says:

    I am so glad you wrote this post.

    Here is what I can add to the conversation: I am so pissed off, just colossally PISSED OFF at these robber barons. Their smug hypocrisy and outright thieving is reprehensible. THIEVERY!!!!!

    Thank you for being more articulate and focused than is currently within my own grasp. It’s great to have words visible beneath this seeing-red steam.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Glad to be of service, Angela, though my own impetus for this post came at dawn this morning when I found myself snarling at my laptop screen, suppressing the volume on my multiple epithets not fit for publication in what I mostly try to maintain as a G-rated blog site…

  • Kevin Feldman  says:

    Thanks Andrew – timely and eloquently raving!! I’ve been working with educators the last 3 years in the Madison area, lovely city in a great state – they have been fleeced by Scott Walker and his ilk and were encouraged by the election… now this… I sent your blog to a friend in WI and here is her reply:
    “Thanks for sharing! He is spot on…it’s like he was eavesdropping on our conversation during dinner last night. The term they use to describe this power grab is “extraordinary session”. Unfortunately the eroding of our democracy is feeling more ordinary. We will continue to work against this chicanery and hope that lawsuits can stop the corrupt laws passed during this session from being enacted.”

    * Where are the GOP leaders with the “character”, so justifiably celebrated in HW Bush?

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      I take “extraordinary session” to mean an additional, previously unscheduled session to deal with emergencies that have arisen since the legislature adjourned, or crucial matters that had been left unresolved. Budget crises, natural disasters, that sort of thing. But in Republican eyes, it is an emergency when Democrats win elections (or can fill a Supreme Court seat), which they interpret as an invasion by a hostile force and compels them to do everything possible to prevent it. Basically war without guns. Quite a legacy Governor Walker is leaving in his wake.

      Tell your Madi friends we at Traversing honor their good fight and empathize with what they have endured these past years. Though that line—”Unfortunately the eroding of our democracy is feeling more ordinary”—strikes me as haunting, describing as it does not just Wisconsin over the past eight years, but the daily reality of the entire country over the past two.

  • Robert Spencer  says:

    About 175 years ago Alexis de Tocqueville wrote (I paraphrase to the best of my aging, somewhat cloudy recollection) that nothing is quite so corrupt as a political party which has lost its power. He went on to say that whatever morality it once possessed is lost, perhaps permanently, and has become nothing more than a host of revengeful, vindictive maladies which cling to it like worms to a corpse. Whether the Republican Party becomes fodder for a hearse remains to be seen. However, I’m sure old Alexis is looking down on Wisconsin now and reveling in the prophetic veracity of this particular American observation.

  • Jay Helman  says:

    Thanks again, Drew, for bringing justifiable and merited outrage to the page and, like Angela, we can rest assured that we are not alone in our horror and our anger. I have been texting a simpatico sister-in-law in Michigan over the Republican power grab there, and we have been venting with one another over the power thievery in the Great Lakes State that joined Wisconsin and NC. NYT columnist Paul Krugman wrote brilliantly, in my view, today of the Republican endgame to completely dismantle democracy in the name of partisan power. Most shocking to me is the extent to which Republican judges have cynically turned to uphold and, in some cases, initiate bold moves to usurp the powers and values foundational to our democracy.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Jay, I suspect you’re referring to the judge who declared Obamacare unconstitutional the other day in a decision that seemed to appall as many conservative legal scholars as it did liberals. In case you didn’t follow Krugman’s link to that story, the piece is signed by both a conservative and liberal judge and just rips that decision to shreds, strongly suggesting it will have a tall mountain to climb on appeal.

  • Jay Helman  says:

    Most appalling to me is the increasingly evident partisanship of the Judiciary at all levels. It is our last bastion of hope—– or, at least, it was.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Jay, this piece from one of our most acute Court observers may (or may not) provide you some solace. John Roberts’s recent overt rebuke to Trump’s attacks on the judiciary reflects some interesting stirrings on the right, which are further dissected here.

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