Wisconsin's Right-Wing Coup Is About To Be Undone

Wisconsin's Right-Wing Coup Is About To Be Undone

It's going to be so fucking sweet to see the right wing's best-laid plans go to shit in Wisconsin.

Liberal justices on Tuesday night took control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court for the first time since 2008. Janet Protasiewicz’s runaway victory over crybaby right-wing judge Daniel Kelly secures a 4-3 liberal court majority (until at least 2025) expected to move quickly in unwinding years of Republican efforts to subvert democracy both in Wisconsin and the country at large. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say this is among the most important political developments of the past decade.

Fair electoral maps in Wisconsin change everything. This is what we’ve waited for. Good things are happening on the state level – more and more are saying so.

Since 2010, Wisconsin has in no way resembled a democracy. Year after year and election after election, Republican lawmakers made gains or, at worst, maintained their massive majorities, even as Democratic candidates regularly earned more votes. Wisconsin's radicalized Republicans over the past 12 years have eviscerated labor unions, rolled back reproductive rights, destroyed access to voting, removed long-standing powers from the governorship after a Democrat took the office, and a range of other authoritarian, shameless acts that best resemble the actions of a banana republic.

Wisconsin, a state that has voted for Democratic presidential candidates in every election since 1988 – besides, notably, 2016 – has a Republican supermajority in the state senate and a GOP house majority teetering on the supermajority brink. It’s redder than Mississippi. Wisconsin over the past 12 years has been ruled by country's the most vicious, anti-democratic, unapologetically far-right legislators because after the 2010 midterms, Republicans – led by Koch Brother stooge Scott Walker – staged a coup meant to serve as a model for any state Republican party ready and willing to block Democrats from exercising constitutional power.

Support Bad Faith Times with $5 a month and gain access to the Bad Faith Times discord channel

Republicans in 2011 quickly locked themselves into permanent legislative control in an otherwise-blue state won by Barack Obama in overwhelming fashion in 2008 and 2012. The Wisconsin gerrymander is widely considered the most egregious gerrymander implemented by Republican-held legislatures since the party set out to make voting a useless exercise following the 2010 midterms, when it became clear the GOP had become a widely-rejected minority party unable to compete with their centrist rivals. Wisconsin Republicans’ gerrymandered maps are breathtaking in scope, making it nearly impossible for any Democrat to win in state senate or house races.

The Republican gerrymander was so wildly successful that it didn’t matter when a Democrat (Tony Evers) won back-to-back gubernatorial contests. Think of gerrymandered maps as a dam holding back any and all positive developments in the states. Nothing can be done to counter destructive right-wing policy making until and unless the gerrymanders are broken. There is no magical electoral formula – no get-out-the-vote threshold – that can conquer a Republican gerrymander. There is only repeal, only fair maps.

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court justices are as radical as the maniacs wielding power in the state legislatures. They approved Walker’s unconstitutional attacks on labor unions and voting rights. They were the only state supreme court in the US to hear Donald Trump’s legal challenge to the 2020 presidential election results, as Big Daddy sought to nullify more than 200,000 ballots from Wisconsin’s liberal strongholds. And it almost worked. A conservative justice had to side with the court’s liberals in ruling against Trump’s claims, 4-3. But the message was clear: Conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court were willing to play the fascist game and overturn the results of the 2020 election. They were perfectly fine with staging a coup, and with Trump a mortal lock to win the Republican nomination in 2024, they would do it again.

The state’s coup-curious Supreme Court justices surely motivated Wisconsin voters to get out and make sure there’s some kind of backstop to a total democratic backslide. In theory, Protasiewicz and the new liberal court majority will be able to wipe out a pre-Civil War abortion ban that took effect after red-pilled U.S. Supreme Court justices overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, reinstitute labor and voting rights, un-fuck the state’s totally fucked electoral maps, and free the Badger State from authoritarian far-right capture.

In theory.

More Than Anything, Republicans Hate Democracy

Tuesday’s victory for the left was tainted by a state senate win for Wisconsin’s right wing – a relentless force in the nation’s slow and steady descent into full-blown fascism. Dan Knodl, one of 15 seditious Wisconsin lawmakers who begged Vice President Mike Pence not to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory before the Republican insurrection, beat out his Democratic opponent in Tuesday’s special election with 50.9 percent of the vote.

(The state senate race wouldn't have even been close if not for the thankless work of organizations like The States Project, which you should consider supporting).

Republicans now have a state senate supermajority, and Knoll has joined his senate colleagues in advocating to impeach Protasiewicz because she’s a judge who represents an existential threat to Republican power in Wisconsin. Since seizing state-level governments in 2010, Republican legislators have made a sport out of overturning the will of the voters, nullifying the results of ballot measures when voters make the wrong (progressive) choice. You will not be stunned to learn Knol is a fierce supporter of the so-called independent state legislature legal theory, in which state lawmakers would ultimately decide how their state’s electoral votes are awarded in a presidential contest. The bogus legal theory is part of a broad cross-section of backstops designed to reverse-engineer Republican victories. The goal, as you can see, is to make the game un-loseable.

Knol and Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers – again, I can’t stress how wretched these people are – would not hesitate for one second to intervene and kick Protasiewicz off the state supreme court if they have the means.

Support Bad Faith Times with $5 a month and gain access to the Bad Faith Times discord channel

Wisconsin’s sworn enemies of democracy, who have no place in civil society, will impeach Protasiewicz in the senate. That is a certainty. It’s in the house where Protasiewicz – and the state supreme court’s liberal majority – might be saved because Republicans are two seats short of a two-thirds supermajority in the lower chamber.

There is lingering fear among Wisconsin Democrats and liberal advocacy groups that Republicans in the house could stage a stealth vote and ram through an impeachment of Protasiewicz if and when two Democratic representatives are absent from the chamber. Because, see, there are no depths to which Wisconsin Republicans won’t sink. The ends always justifies the means for fascists; in the Wisconsin legislature, that holds true.

Wisconsin, if its gerrymander is undone, would likely go the way of Michigan, where Democrats have complete control of the government for the first time in a generation and have rightfully ignored Republicans in passing vital legislation that had no chance with the shameful gerrymander implemented by Republicans after they took control of the legislature a decade ago. Good things are happening in Michigan not because the left got out the vote, but because fair electoral maps were put into effect and political reality was finally reflected in the state's legislative representation.

The hope for now is that Protasiewicz and the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s liberal majority can quickly destroy the state’s anti-democracy gerrymandered maps and loosen conservatives’ death grip on state power before Republican lawmakers can impeach a judge because they don’t like her politics. Wisconsin Republicans will do anything to maintain the status quo, knowing they will be swept out of power if fair maps come to fruition. Democrats might require a backbone for this fight.

Follow Denny Carter on Twitter at @CDCarter13.