Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers launched a new mask mandate only one hour after the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to end the prior mandate.
Less than a week later, a prominent GOP donor is already pushing for the Supreme Court to end this new mandate. This back-and-forth stalemate between the legislature, the GOP and the governor is not new, but its continuation makes Wisconsin residents the casualties of the political battle.
The state legislature, led by Republican Speaker Robin Vos, has challenged Democratic Gov. Evers since he took office in 2019. Early signs of the deadlock came with the passing of the state’s budget in summer 2019. Legislators cut Evers’ requested budget by two billion dollars. Evers, in turn, cut 78 items from the GOP’s proposal before finally signing the legislation.
2019 also marked the first use of the Supreme Court as a means to curb the power of the governor. Republicans pushed through multiple pieces of legislation at the end of 2018, prior to Evers taking office. These included stripping the governor of his power to modify state laws on right-to-work and voter ID legislation — both being key points of the modern GOP platform.
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The court sided with the GOP lawmakers and set the stage for a series of court cases in 2020 which would shape the state’s response to the coronavirus, as well as change the state’s role in the presidential election.
With the COVID-19 pandemic at the global forefront, it is no surprise the issue sparked further divide within the state government. Gov. Evers’ statewide ‘stay at home’ polarized the Legislature and Wisconsinites, to say the least.
In May, the state capitol bore witness to one of the largest anti-lockdown protests in the nation. With many Wisconsin residents now demanding the state reopen, legislators worked along with the conservative controlled court to end the stay-at-home order and curb Evers’ ability to act on any future public health emergencies.
Upon the 2020 state primary, Evers was quick to request the election be pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic — a request quickly rejected by state legislators. With thousands of poll workers unable to work the election due to the pandemic, cities around the state had to reduce polling locations significantly. Milwaukee only offered five sites.
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The election controversies in Wisconsin continued as the 2020 presidential election narrowed. Wisconsin legislators quickly challenged the legitimacy of the democratic win in the state.
Speaker Vos launched a campaign to investigate alleged voter fraud days after the election. Following Vos’s inability to substantiate claims, outside Republicans sued the state, demanding the Wisconsin legislature vote to determine the state’s electors’ allegiance.
All the while, Gov. Evers continued to uphold the legitimacy of the results, finally confirming them at the end of November.
Throughout his tenure, Gov. Evers has shown a mild-mannered approach to governance and — specifically throughout the COVID-19 era — made promises to protect the health and well-being of Wisconsinites. Republican legislators have yet to make those same promises.
The GOP has taken every opportunity to limit the power of the governor and block his legislative goals since before he took office in 2019. If the Republicans are so willing to limit the power of the governor, they need to step up and start offering some kind of leadership.
If they are unwilling to work off of Democratic proposals and policy, they need to be the ones to start reaching across the aisle to spark bipartisan legislation. Taking power from those you disagree with is not how the government should operate, but if the Republicans are so insistent on holding power, they need to step up and start showing some responsibility to their state.
Ryan Badger ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.