Monday, November 19, 2018


By Dominique Paul Noth

Is Scott  saying: "Even if you beat me, Tony, I'll find a way to screw you."
Basking in the mammoth November election victory and preparing for a festive holiday season, the Wisconsin public is little in the mood to think of politics or the degree of mischief the Republicans are contemplating in the 40 odd days before Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes are sworn in as Democratic leaders January 7.

This is just the sort of lull the GOP loves to pounce in.

In this time, it will be particularly hard to galvanize the outrage and march on Madison that Wisconsinites were eager to do in 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker and his GOP legislature sprung Act 10 on them, limiting worker bargaining rights and wresting important areas of local control away from communities. 

Those protests made national headlines, planted seeds that grew in 2018, but did little else. It took years before the full dual price of those actions caught up with Walker. (The gerrymandering the Republicans imposed in 2011 still has a hold.)

There are still people around who try to defend Walker and Act 10, but it was one of several moves that cost Walker the 2018 election -- because seven years later the truth had finally landed.

He traded temporary financial savings for long term loss of continuity, control and effectiveness of local government and education. You could argue that all his desperate borrowing and deal-making actions since 2011 stemmed from what he considered a success then and that the public would continue to fail in acting against him. Surviving one recall and one re-election made him confident that our blindness would continue.

The 2018 election was a bigger disaster for Republicans in many states outside Wisconsin, yet all the states where the GOP  still exercises some level of government control are seeing the same sort of sabotage as emerging here.

Look next door in Michigan. Before incoming Democrat Gretchen Whitmer can take over as governor, the Republicans in the legislature are trying to weaken an improved minimum wage proposal they passed to lessen her impact. 

There’s terrible irony here for the GOP dominated legislature in Michigan. In September they pre-empted the minimum wage and sick time improvements intended as ballot initiatives by approving them to soften the voter anger.  It didn’t. Now they intend to use that pre-emption so that a simple majority vote in their chambers can prevent any amendments or improvements by the public.

Similarly, North Carolina Republicans – already facing court action over election maps – are plotting to change a voter ID constitutional amendment before the legislature loses its supermajorities.  With that loss, impending next year, goes away the ability to unilaterally override vetoes by a Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, who was elected in the summer of 2017.

But it is in Wisconsin the GOP hopes to cause the most damage in the weeks before Evers takes over and in the few weeks after that before his new team can take hold.

Evers is promising a governorship unlike Walker who made public war on the Democratic governor he succeeded, Jim Doyle, forcing Doyle by his incoming veto threat to back away from promises for high speed rail, expanded health care and other improvements.

Evers has pledged a cooperative reign, but the Republicans seem born suspicious and are acting aggressively against him.  They are trying to gather enough votes among their majority – with some balkers who may soon give in – to curtail Evers’ powers as governor and strengthen the GOP legislators’ say in the freedom of action of the Democratic executive staff.

They couldn’t find enough GOP votes for a key Walker corporate welfare plan -- to supply Kimberly-Clark the giveaways the company wanted. Maybe this was a minor rebellion against the departing Walker, but the Republicans are also listening hard to leaders like Rep. Robin Vos, who was poised to run for governor until Walker decided on one last time.  Now they now sound more convinced that they can impose a new legislative session before the end of 2018.

They are openly exploring how to dilute Evers’ ability to appoint staff and tinker with what actions the governor can propose – a sudden concern about executive power they never expressed in public when Walker was in office.

Indeed, Walker is not out of the picture.  Though in public he claims he will be hands off and let Evers work his own magic, privately he is encouraging frequent allies to handcuff the new governor.

The Republicans are actively seeking ways to prevent Evers from blocking work requirements on Medicaid participants (a Walker scheme).  They would also make changes to diminish Evers’ role in the University of Wisconsin system.

And they are openly talking 2020 and divorcing a state Supreme Court election that year (technically nonpartisan) from the spring presidential primary.  It would be moved to March rather than April. Why?  The fear is that Democratic fervor will work against a GOP pet that the public has never spoken on, Daniel Kelly, appointed to the high court by Walker in 2016.

Alberta Darling lets the cat out of the bag.
GOP state Sen. Alberta Darling, often used to float GOP trial balloons in advance of aggressive action, openly discussed moving the state Supreme Court election so that the true feelings of the populace wouldn’t interfere. March would also bring far lower turnout.

The GOP also lives in fear of what will happen in April of 2019 when Shirley Abrahamson’s seat is up on the high court and the much touted and experienced progressive candidate is appeals judge Lisa Neubauer, highly regarded by both sides and running against a Walker holdover, Brian Hagedorn. In fact, if progressive judges win in 2019 and 2020, there goes the conservative dominance on the high court.

The Republicans clearly hope that the naïve public will not look ahead to the games still left their legislature ahead of Democratic takeover and even long afterward into 2020.  They have thrived on residents’ indifference to what they can do under the surface.  Will that still hold?

“This is exactly the brand of politics that that was rejected by the voters, who really selected Tony Evers to move away” from such behavior, commented Democratic assembly minority leader Gordon Hintz on the same TV show where Darling floated GOP plans

The big question remains. How woke is the public to such shenanigans during the holiday season?

The next two weeks are precisely the time when fully activated crowds descending on Madison and warning the legislature to let the new people alone would have an enormous impact.  It is doubtful that such a level of protest can be stirred up.

Those with long memories will remember the holiday season of 2010 when it was clear impending new governor Walker was going to take away high speed rail while denying to labor leaders that he would take away collective bargaining from public workers (a clear sign, to anyone who understands such political denials, that he was leaning that way) and preparing to borrow to the hilt on the state dime to keep his pledge not to raise taxes.

Wisconsin fell for it then. Why should anything be different now?

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee.  

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