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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Destroying Democracy

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A bedrock principle of democracy is that voters have a right to choose their elected representatives.

There can be no more corrupt perversion of that process than to turn democracy on its head by instead allowing elected officials to choose their voters.

Yet that is exactly what Wisconsin Republicans are doing by jamming an unscrupulous redistricting plan through the Legislature at breakneck speed before voters throughout the state can stop them.

It's embarrassingly obvious why Republicans don't want to allow voters to have any input into statewide political redistricting that will affect the lives of every citizen in the state over the next 10 years. Republicans know the extreme laws they've already rammed through the Legislature are repellent to so many voters that in less than a month the public could rise up against them.

The turnout was extremely high for last week's Democratic state Senate primaries in which Republicans ran "fake" Democrats—longtime Republicans dishonestly misrepresenting themselves as Democrats—against legitimate Democratic candidates. Every Republican phony was routed.

Political observers were caught off-guard by the enormous turnout for out-of-season, fake primaries. Suburban voters in Glendale waited in line for more than an hour to nominate state Rep. Sandy Pasch, the Democratic rising star challenging Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling.

And just wait until the real recall elections on Aug. 9.

In fact, the fake Democrats were a desperate ploy by Republicans to hold onto control of the state Senate for just a few more weeks before state voters get an opportunity to vote against six Republican state senators in recall elections.

If Republicans hadn't created the phony primaries, they could already have lost majority control of the state Senate to the Democrats. Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans would no longer have unchecked power to devastate education, abolish rights and lay off workers throughout Wisconsin.

So what is the highest priority for Walker and the Republicans in the few weeks they've bought themselves before the recalls? It is to continue subverting democracy by dishonestly redrawing the boundaries of legislative districts to try to thwart the will of state voters in the recalls.

Consider what would happen if Pasch defeats Darling in the recall election taking place in the North Shore suburbs of Milwaukee.

The voters in Darling's district would have decided they preferred Pasch over the once-moderate Darling, who has moved to the far right in support of the tea party politics of Walker and Congressman Paul Ryan.

But, then, guess what?

Under Republican redistricting, a year from now, in 2012, Darling would be able to run against Pasch in a dishonestly gerrymandered new district eliminating Pasch supporters in Shorewood, Glendale and the city of Milwaukee and adding right-wing Republican voters in Washington, Waukesha and Ozaukee counties.

The redistricting includes numerous examples of district lines being manipulated to add Republican votes.

To rub salt in the wounds, 300,000 Wisconsinites would be shifted into districts represented by senators they didn't elect and would be powerless to vote against them until 2014.

Paving Way for Extremism

It is now commonplace for Republicans to engage in such unethical, undemocratic practices to hold onto power.

We've seen that from their fake candidates, the voting restrictions they've placed on racial minorities and others likely to vote Democratic and a Republican Supreme Court brazenly ruling Republican legislators don't even have to obey the law.

Now Republicans are frantically passing redistricting in a blur without public hearings around the state to destroy democracy in Wisconsin for the next decade.

A recent University of Wisconsin Badger poll shows Walker and legislative Republicans, as a result of their extreme actions, no longer have the support of state residents.

A large majority of 59% disapproves of Walker's handling of his job as governor, and nearly as many, 56%, disapprove of the job of legislative Republicans controlling the state Senate and Assembly.

That's why the Republican redistricting plan manipulates the boundaries of legislative districts to keep Republicans in office who otherwise would be thrown out for their actions.

Not only that, the plan would take away the power of voters to moderate the extremely ugly tone of politics under Republicans.

Even though all voters—Republican and Democrat—consistently call for more compromise and cooperation in politics and less extremism, the Republican redistricting plan would produce just the opposite.

Politicians whose districts include both Republican and Democratic voters can never be too radical or extreme. They have to appeal to all sides.

Under their cynical redistricting, Republicans would hold so many "safe" Republican seats they won't ever have to compromise. They can be as radical and as ugly as they please. They couldn't be removed from office with a nuclear device.

Unless, of course, Republican voters start standing up in support of democracy because they want politics to accomplish something positive for everyone.

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