Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Wisconsin Dems trying to change rules as they’re losing the game


Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Aug 12, 2010; Section: Opinion; Page: 8A

Wisconsin Dems trying to change rules as they’re losing the game

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

If you’re wondering which party is going to do well in Wisconsin’s elections this November, just watch how the Democrats are behaving.

Democrats in the state Legislature gave the game away when they finally got around to trying to take the power of appointing the DNR secretary away from the governor. The effort failed, but the Democrats were reluctant to even try until it became clear Governor Jim Doyle’s successor will probably be a Republican.

Watch the Democrats and their desperate attempt to try to make high-speed rail impossible to stop. As the MacIver Institute reports, Doyle’s administration is signing as many contracts as quickly as they can to try to tie the hands of the next governor. Meanwhile, they brought in Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to say that Wisconsin will get high-speed rail whether we want it or not.

None of this would be necessary if the Democrats thought Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a supporter of high-speed rail, is going to be elected governor.

Now we have evidence from Barrett himself. Barrett has proposed changing the redistricting process so that the Legislature is compelled to make as many “competitive” legislative and congressional districts as possible. Of course, they are to do this while maintaining minority-majority districts as well.

If the Legislature is unable to come up with a plan that meets these standards, then Barrett would turn the process over to the Government Accountability Board.

Why would Barrett make such a proposal? Republicans have a real chance at taking both houses of the legislature this year and the governorship. If they do, they will be in complete control of redistricting in 2012 after the decennial census. They can draw the legislative and congressional boundaries to make more seats competitive for Republicans. Barrett and the rest of the Democrats would not be happy with this outcome.

Barrett himself suffered during the last redistricting when his congressional district was combined with Congressman Jerry Kleczka’s district. As the odd man out, Barrett launched his first run for governor in 2002 and lost to Doyle.

Now Barrett would want to tie the hands of a likely Republican government to prevent many of his fellow Democrats from going through what he faced in 2002.

Barrett’s plan would have the added benefit for the Democrats of keeping the balance of power tilting toward the Democrats. With the protection of very Democratic racial minority-majority districts, if the rest of the seats break 50-50 Democrats will retain their majorities.

Of course, putting the Government Accountability Board as the final authority will only help the Democrats, too, since those Doyle appointees have been consistent in their support of the Democrats’ election agenda.

There is a reason why redistricting was left in the hands of the politicians. They are the ones that are ultimately answerable to the public. If the public is truly upset with how the district boundaries are drawn, they can throw out members of the Legislature in the next election, earlier using the recall method. If a district is overwhelmingly tilted in favor of one party, like Congresswoman Gwen Moore’s district, then that’s what primaries are for. Or it would give the opposing party an opportunity to speak to new voters, if not an obligation.

Barrett and the Democrats should make a case why they should be allowed to participate in the redistricting process rather than try to hide behind a smoke screen “reform” proposal that is designed to preserve a Democratic advantage. If the Democrats cannot make that case, if the voters decide to entrust the Republicans with majorities in both houses of the Legislature and elect a Republican governor, then elections have consequences and the Democrats will just have to live with them.

Right now three Democratic congressional seats have serious Republican challengers. Congressman Paul Ryan’s district should be competitive but Democrats failed to recruit a solid candidate. Congressional seats are more competitive in Wisconsin now than ever before. Meanwhile, both houses of the Legislature just need a few seats to change for them to both switch control. We have competitive elections.

If the Democrats don’t like the results of democracy, they shouldn’t be allowed to change the rules to protect themselves from it.


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