Power Grab in the Midwest

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Power Grab in the Midwest

Zavier Jobe, Staff Writer

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The 2018 election resulted in a democratic wave across the Midwest that was seen as a referendum on president Trump, who’s approval rating was seen as a negative for many republican candidates in the region. Democrat Tony Evers defeated incumbent republican governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, democrat Gretchen Whitmer picked up the open seat for governor in Michigan vacated by term-limited governor Rick Snyder, and democrats won the Attorney General race in both states and the Secretary of State race in Michigan.

These results are similar to the 2010 midterm election in which president Obama also suffered major losses in the Midwest. In fact, both Walker and Snyder rode into office on the republican wave that crashed on the shores of the Midwest that year.

After the elections in 2010, power transferred from the outgoing democratic administration to their republican successors with ease and civility. However, such was not the case this year as republican legislatures in both Wisconsin and Michigan have moved to curtail the power of incoming democrats during the “lame duck” session in between the election and the swearing in of the elected officials in January.

This move started in Wisconsin with the republican controlled legislatures moving to cut back on powers of the incoming democrat Tony Evers, as well as moving to scale back early voting in the state, which tended to favor democrats.

Republicans in Michigan followed shortly after the announcement by the legislature in Wisconsin with bills of their own that would greatly weaken the governor and attorney general in their state. The legislators also moved to water down ballot measures passed by the voters last month that would create an independent redistricting committee and help to expand voting access. Michigan governor-elect, Mrs. Whitmer, responded to the legislatures actions on a statement made last Thursday: “This legislation needlessly divides and won’t deliver results. It won’t clean up our water. It won’t improve literacy or fix the roads.”

This is not the first time that a republican led legislature has moved to reduce the power of an incoming democratic governor. After the 2016 election, the republican controlled legislature in North Carolina moved to curtail the powers of the newly elected democratic governor, Roy Cooper. One example of the bills passed is a reduction in the number of state employees that the governor can appoint, a power that the republicans had just recently expanded under then republican governor Pat McCrory.

Republicans in the state legislatures of these states are denying that these moves represent a power grab. Michigan republican state senator Dave Robertson responded to the criticism of the bills by stating:  “This has been discussed for quite some time,” It is important to note, however, that these proposals, that have been “discussed for quite some time,” were only proposed after eight years of a republican governor, and are only being rushed through the legislature before the democratic governor, who would be able to veto the legislation, takes office in January. The democratic floor leader in the Michigan House, Christine Greig, notes this when she states “It’s a last grasp at power.”

These moves led by republican led legislatures are blatant power grabs. They are thinly veiled attacks of the will of the voters who elected these representatives only one month ago. One of the main reason why republicans feel so emboldened to take such actions is the fact that they have gerrymandered themselves into a majority in all three of these states. The fact that most of these representatives sit in safe seats where they do not have to fear the backlash of voters, especially in the polarized era that we live in today, only makes them more brazen in their actions. To prove this point, simply look at the fact that democratic candidates for the Wisconsin State Assembly won 53 percent of the vote this year, but only captured 36 percent of the seats (a one seat gain).

Until these highly polarized maps are redrawn after the census in 2020, republicans in these three state legislatures will continue to feel emboldened to strip power from the democratic governors who were elected to represent the people of their state.

In times like these of high polarization it is good to consider, if you are on the other side of the aisle, if the shoe were on the other foot. For example, what if it were the republicans that were having their power stripped from them by democratic legislatures in the lame duck session? There would be outrage over that scenario as well, as there should be, because a power grab is not justifiable in either scenario, no matter which party does it.

The power grabs that are currently occurring in both Wisconsin and Michigan strike at the heart of American democracy, as it undermines the will of the voters, and puts party over country. Representatives take an oath to serve the Constitution and the people when they take office. Politicians in these states should be reminded that it is not a game that they are playing, there is not a scoreboard to measure the wins of democrats versus republicans. Instead, every decision they make impacts the lives of every citizen in their state, whether it is in regard to school funding, infrastructure spending, or environmental regulation. Protests in Madison and Lansing that have been ongoing since the announcements of these bills are helping to do just that.

The functions of government are best achieved when the democratic principles set forth by our constitution are able to work without the impediment of partisanship. The tensions that republicans in the legislatures of Wisconsin and Michigan are creating now only hurt the people of their state. Furthermore, if these representatives truly believed that their ideas are what is best for their state, then they would be wise to stop the partisan games being played here, and actually debate the ideas on the floor of the legislature as a democracy should work. If there ideas are truly better, and they succeed in making Wisconsin and Michigan flourish, then they should not be worried about winning back the governor’s mansions in the next election, because that is how a democracy works.