It’s hard to argue that there’s just one person responsible for the Republican Party having gone entirely off the rails of democracy. It’s been in process for decades, after all, arguably predating Richard Nixon’s resignation but definitely fueled by that in the past half-century. But if you want to find the person most responsible for using and abusing the levers of the systems the founders put in place to undermine democratic rule, look no further than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
His handiwork has reduced the Senate to the massive roadblock to progress that it is today. He was the first lawmaker to decide that something as once unimaginable as threatening to breach the debt ceiling could be used as a bargaining chip. He has made the filibuster business as usual for the Senate, forcing every single piece of regular legislation—however uncontroversial—to go through the arduous process of multiple procedural votes just to be considered on the floor. He refused to do one of the most sacred duties of the Senate—seating a U.S. Supreme Court justice—because he could.
The outgrowth of his brazen dismantling of norms is seen in what’s been happening in Wisconsin for the last several years, where a number of appointees of the former Republican governor, Scott Walker, are simply refusing to recognize Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and are refusing to step down, months after their terms have expired.
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Mary Williams’ term on the Technical College System Board expired in May 2021 and Evers named her replacement. But the former Republican state representative refuses to leave. So do two other members appointed by Walker: Kelly Tourdot and Becky Levzow. Asked about it, Williams said, “All you have to do is see what the Supreme Court did.” When asked why she is squatting in the job when others have left, she answered, “Because everyone’s an individual. Now I’m going to hang up, and I don’t want you to call me again.”
She, and a number of other Republican appointees on her board and others, are taking the route of Frederick Prehn, who has remained on the state’s Natural Resources Board—at the urging of Walker—despite the fact that his replacement was named months ago. He’s sticking because the state Supreme Court’s conservative majority said he could. Sound familiar?
The court ruled that sitting members can stay on these boards until their successors have been approved by the state Senate. Which is controlled by Republicans. There are 164 Evers nominees who have not received Senate votes. Republicans, who assume they will hold the Senate, have been holding off on these 164 nominees on the assumption that they will keep the Senate and that Republican candidate for Gov. Tim Michel will win in November. At which point all of those nominations would be withdrawn.
It sounds very familiar, doesn’t it.
“There’s two different things going on here,” Miriam Seifter, an associate professor of law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-director of the State Democracy Research Initiative told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “One is the situation where individuals assert the power to stay in office after the term has expired. The other is the Senate refusing to confirm appointees. If either of those things happen in isolation or rarely, neither one is democracy-altering. If these happen systematically and across the board … you would start to see the constraints of gubernatorial power.”
And you see the erosion of democracy, where the will of the people, the voters, is ignored. “Gov. Evers appointed highly qualified, dedicated Wisconsinites for the (Technical College System) and DNR Boards, and Republicans’ continued efforts to prevent basic, fundamental functions of our democracy is radical partisanship at its most dangerous,” said Evers spokesperson Britt Cudaback.
It’s the McConnell playbook in action, and a cautionary tale for 2022. There’s little reason to believe that Republicans in any state in which they gain majorities and take governors seats—and state supreme courts—won’t do the same. There’s little reason to believe they wouldn’t take the next step and do everything they could to make sure that Donald Trump was installed as president again in 2024.
For that matter, there’s little indication to believe McConnell would really fight that eventuality, for all the attacks he’s endured from Trump. When he had the chance to cut off Trump’s path back to the White House with an impeachment conviction, he voted no. He urged his conference to vote no. He would do it again.
This is it. This is the election to stop Wisconsin extremism from infecting more states; to stop McConnell from taking the nation to that level with a Senate majority; to stop the House from going to Republicans who would threaten everything.
That’s why Daily Kos has engaged both broadly and deeply this cycle, with candidate slates at every level. You can learn more about all those endorsements here, and determine if there’s a slate—or even an individual candidate—that speaks to you, your volunteer time, your dollars.
It doesn’t matter how much you give, it matters that you do, and that you engage and help us defeat the fascists.
On this week's episode of The Downballot we get medieval on the traditional media for its appalling display of ableism in the wake of John Fetterman's recent NBC interview; recap the absolutely wild goings-on in Los Angeles, where City Council President Nury Martinez just resigned after a racist tirade was caught on tape; dive into the unexpectedly close race for governor in Oklahoma; and highlight a brand-new database from Daily Kos Elections showing how media markets and congressional districts overlap.