Alan zendell, April 5, 2023
In normal times, the election of a state Supreme Court Justice in a mid-western state would either pass unnoticed or soon be forgotten by most of the country, especially if the justice’s name looked impossible to pronounce. That will not be the case for Janet Protasiewicz, the judge who won Liberals their first majority on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court in fifteen years, but the victory has far greater significance than that. Wisconsin was to have been the first domino to fall in a nefarious plot funded by right wing billionaires, Charles and David Koch.
The goal was to assure long-term political control for Republicans in more than a dozen states, the next step in right wing activist Grover Norquist’s blueprint for assuring that the wealthiest Americans pay little or no taxes, and that power at both the federal and state levels remain in Conservative hands indefinitely. The plan had multiple phases: first, maximize gerrymandering favorably to Republicans to assure that Democrats never hold majorities in those states again; second pack the courts with friendly judges committed to supporting the election district maps that result from the gerrymandering effort; third, when the first two phases result in complete Republican control of the states’ legislatures, immediately pass new voting laws to restrict the opposition party’s ability to get out their constituents’ votes, with the assurance that the now-friendly courts will support those laws.
Massive conspiracies like this one often make considerable headway initially, because most voters take a wait-and-see attitude toward dire predictions of doom. Moreover, our media are so dominated by political spin and the media outlets’ lust for profits, it’s often difficult for voters to know who to believe. A nation as large and powerful as the United States has enormous inertia – unless we see killer asteroids or enemy ICBMs on an unavoidable collision course, we’re slow to enact major changes, and in most situations, that’s a good thing. Economic stability and public safety require that our leaders avoid knee-jerk responses.
Over time, however, if we judge by results, American voters are both resilient and smart. They usually do a pretty good job of re-adjusting when either party appears to dominate policy for too long. British historian, Lord Acton, accurately warned over a century ago that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Human nature is such that power is addictive, creating a perpetual need to expand and strengthen itself. Over time, then, when voters see the negative effects of one-party dominance, they become the court of last resort to restore balance.
That’s why most midterm congressional elections tend to shift power back toward the party that lost the last presidential election, and it’s why voters in ruby-red Kansas voted to preserve a woman’s right to an abortion in their state constitution after the shocking overreach of the right-wing Supreme Court that reversed Rowe v Wade. That’s why Israeli voters are turning on Prime Minister Netanyahu after seeing the result of decades of corruption and sabotaging efforts to achieve lasting peace with their Arab neighbors. And that is why Wisconsin voters went to the polls and said NO to those who would steal their democracy, yesterday, by a ten-point margin in a state where Democrats hold a three percent edge.
How significant was Janet Protasiewicz’s victory? Because Wisconsin’s voters scuttled the Koch brothers’ long-term scheme, right-wing extremist Ali Alexander predicted that Republicans would never have a voting majority in the foreseeable future. In normal times, that would concern me. No matter which side you support politically, it’s always dangerous when one side holds too much power for too long. But because Donald Trump shattered the traditional Conservative movement, replacing it with his philosophy of greed, bigotry, misogyny, and white supremacy, the traditional rules had to change to preserve our Constitution and our republic. At least until the Republican Party puts itself back together and re-asserts its support for our Constitution, the country needs Democrats to win.
The MAGA crowd have ruled by intimidation, threats, noise, and a complete disregard for laws, either those that maintain order or those prescribed by science and nature. They have sucked all the air out of most rooms for seven years, dominating our attention to such a degree that concern over ratings brought CNN and other cable networks to a new low of journalism, yesterday. Not since 1991, when a nation of soap opera-addicted housewives sat glued to their televisions watching the LAPD follow O. J. Simpson along Los Angeles’ freeways had we seen such an imbecilic spectacle. While Wisconsin was setting the nation back on track, television viewers were treated to endless replays of Trump’s motorcade taking him home after he was arraigned in New York on thirty-four felony counts.