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Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013

Republican Assembly of Fools Ends Session by Gutting Voting Rights and Limiting Recalls

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The reason the Wisconsin Legislature has become such a total public embarrassment is the same reason why so many members of hot rock ’n’ roll bands die young.

If people with very little maturity or acquired wisdom achieve sudden success that allows them to do anything without any controls whatsoever, the consequences can be really painful to watch.

The tea party backlash elections of 2010 gave right-wing Republicans total control of Wisconsin government by winning not only the governor’s office but also a majority in both houses of the Legislature.

Ever since then, they’ve been on a rampage much like rock bands destroying hotel rooms, except destructive legislators have the power to smash decades of laws and acceptable behavior.

It was no surprise the Assembly’s final session ended with an infantile early-morning session that one legislator compared to an out-of-control middle school.

Along the way, Republicans refused to vote on a resolution remembering the 26 children and adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School and created a brazenly unconstitutional state license plate carrying the slogan “Choose Life” to funnel state money to an anti-abortion group.

After a while, it becomes really difficult to keep track of exactly how many unconstitutional laws have been passed by this Legislature.

Courts have routinely declared many of its major legislative initiatives unconstitutional at least in part. That includes the destruction of collective bargaining rights for public employees, requiring citizens to show photo IDs to vote and requiring abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Why should Republican legislators limit themselves to doing only what’s constitutional when they have total power to pass whatever they want?

And it was such bad taste for Democrats to bring up the dead children at Sandy Hook just a day after the wounding and arrest of an armed man reported as a potentially “active shooter” at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. 

There already have been so many people committing mass murders in Wisconsin at a temple, a church and a spa that it’s becoming really embarrassing that Republican legislators have absolutely no intentions of doing anything to limit access to deadly weapons in this state.

 

Amending the Constitution

But that doesn’t mean our Republican state representatives aren’t ready to take a strong stand on other important issues in the news.

That’s why the Assembly took swift action to punish anyone who breaks up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and then embarrasses their former romantic partner by publishing naked pictures of him or her on the Internet.

The irony, of course, is that Republicans practically invented the concept of “revenge porn” in the form of passing mean-spirited, obscene laws to punish anyone who disagrees with them.

In its final flurry of legislation, the Assembly began the process of amending the state constitution to remove widely respected jurist Shirley Abrahamson from her position as chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court for not being a right-wing Republican.

Basically, right-wing Republicans don’t believe in democracy. They know the more people vote, the harder it is for Republicans to win. Democrats routinely win Wisconsin in presidential years when most voters turn out.

That’s why Republicans want as many obstacles as possible to prevent people from voting, especially if they belong to groups likely to vote Democratic such as African Americans, Latinos, women, the elderly and students.

The only reason Republicans haven’t passed a law requiring Democrats to undergo vaginal ultrasounds before they’re allowed to vote is they haven’t thought of it yet.

Another law passed in the final days would cut back early voting and eliminate weekend voting. Early voting would be permitted only two weeks before an election during daytime hours on weekdays. That eliminates a whole lot of pesky working class Democratic voters during the day.

Aside from sabotaging elections, the other principal anti-democratic concern of Republican legislators is to prevent voters from rising up to remove them from office for all the rotten things they do.

Recalls have increasingly been attempted by voters in Wisconsin not only against Gov. Scott Walker and Republican state senators for destroying public employee bargaining rights, but going back to the removal of Milwaukee County supervisors and the retirement of County Executive Tom Ament that Walker himself used as a stepping stone to the governorship.

The Assembly passed a law to make sure they couldn’t be removed from office unless they were charged with an actual crime or ethical violation. Being a drunken, crack-smoking, lying public embarrassment would be OK.

That leaves voting someone out in a regular election as the only way to get rid of someone wrecking Wisconsin’s long-standing reputation for clean, progressive politics.

But, of course, if Republican legislators can prevent enough people from voting and keep drawing corruptly gerrymandered districts to thwart the will of the voters, that shouldn’t be any problem at all.