Monday, February 13, 2012

Dispatches from the Front Line of the Teabagger War on America: Voting and Redistricting in Wisconsin

It’s been about a year now since Wisconsin embarked on its adventure of subversion from within by its own government – since a secretive cabal of authoritarian tribal lords decided that they knew better than the Founding Fathers how an American state ought to be run and began a frantic assault on democracy, Constitutional principles, and the rule of law that is the foundation of the American republic.

It’s been interesting to see this happen from the inside, in a liberal arts sort of way, the way three-headed frogs are, you know, interesting.

Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) has now been recalled, in a display of revulsion unparalleled in American history – 46% of the electorate was so appalled by his actions that they were willing to sign petitions to get him removed from office, a far higher number than in either of the two other campaigns that successfully recalled a governor in the US. Considering how much it takes just to get people to vote in the first place, this is an astonishing number.

Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) and his minions have tried to dismiss this, noting that it is approximately equal to the number of people who voted for his opponent in the last election, but seriously – if the Democrats could get every person who voted for them in the last election to sign a petition that would be a feat of superhuman political organization, and if there is one thing the Democrats are not known for it is organization, superhuman or otherwise. Far more likely that it is a general sign of widespread disgust with the man who has single-handedly transformed a peaceful and productive state into a Gilded Age political wasteland. A lot of Republicans have also been very unhappy about what this nitwit and his band of merry pranksters have done to their state, much as he does not want to admit that.

Add to it the recalls of all four sitting Teabagger state senators who were targeted – and not a single recall of any of those opposing the Teabaggers, despite grand talk from the far right – and you have a fairly stern rejection of the extremists who have taken over this state.

But not a total rejection, for all that.

There are still a grotesque number of people in this state who have no interest in their liberties, who support the Koch Industries agenda, and who are willing to go to great lengths to see it implemented. Most of them are at the top, since those are the ones who will benefit from it, but they have their minions, dupes and hangers-on to back them up, make terroristic threats against recall workers, and write semi-literate comments on news websites as well.

By the way, if you ever want to disprove the entire notion of evolution, of the survival of the fittest, or the ideas of progress and human decency, go read what the Teabaggers write on any public website. Just saying. It’s like Mos Eisley in there.

The latest installment in the story of the Teabaggers' flailing grip on absolute power falls under the general category of the War On Voting.

Remember, folks – the Teabaggers really do not want you to vote. They do not believe in democracy in any meaningful way. They are in charge by the grace of their version of God, an angry and small-minded deity who – purely by coincidence I’m sure – endorses every single paranoid fantasy and violent antipathy toward deviance from strict orthodoxy that so aptly describes the Teabagger worldview. For anyone to question this, whether through exercising the right of free speech enshrined in the Constitution or by daring to think that their voice deserves to be heard in free and fair elections, is tantamount to blasphemy in their eyes.

I would urge the Teabaggers to read the New Testament, among other religious documents, for a rather different view of God, or the Constitution for a rather different view of how the United States is supposed to function, except that I know full well that such urging would be a waste of time. Teabaggers don’t need no book larnin’ – they know they are right because they know they are right and how dare anyone suggest otherwise?

This is why I drink. That, and a good whiskey sour can make your taste-buds just sing. But I digress.

The War on Voting is ongoing and widespread – Governor Teabagger certainly didn’t come up with it all by his own self, as he’s neither that clever nor that brave. Throughout this republic, wherever the Republican Party is in power, laws written by ALEC are being rammed through the state legislatures (sometimes without even bothering to remove the stage directions written by ALEC staffers, sad to say) in an effort to deny the suffrage to American citizens. If this doesn’t make you angry then you have no real idea what it means to be an American.

Thus we get the Voter Suppression Act of 2011 here in Wisconsin – a blatant attempt to keep the poor, the non-white, and the young – indeed anyone statistically not likely to vote the Teabagger ticket – from voting, and a clear violation of the US Constitution in that Wisconsin residents now have to pay a poll tax in order to possess the requirements to pass muster at the voting booth. This was billed as an attempt to stamp out voter fraud, except that there is no significant voter fraud – even our own Teabagger attorney general couldn’t find any after two years of investigation at tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars. The only fraud you get at election times these days comes from Teabagger officials, not voters.

But that’s old news.

Here in Wisconsin, the most recent problems stem from the decennial exercise in shabbiness known as redistricting.

Most times when this happens the party in power tries to arrange things to their advantage, much to the annoyance of the party out of power, and eventually it ends up in court. It’s not like we’re expecting much from this process, historically speaking, and this year was no exception. Even with the bar set that low, however, the shenanigans this year were ramped up to an unprecedented degree – one that may yet see the entire Republican cohort of the State Senate jailed.

Now that would be new.

The redistricting effort was conducted last year with a thoroughly unseemly haste, one that rode roughshod over state laws regarding who should have input (i.e. local governments and citizens) and how long this should take, and suggested nothing less than a desperate attempt to ram through flawed and unwise legislation before the citizens of Wisconsin had time to react. It was sort of like the budget bill last year, now that I think of it.

Huh – what do you know? A pattern.

Not surprisingly, the result of this exercise in rectally-produced legislation was so rigidly partisan, so blatantly gerrymandered, and so clearly in violation of all tenets of responsible government, that a federal court has now three times ordered the Teabaggers to turn over all documents relating to the process and stop wasting the court’s time with “frivolous” delays. I don’t know if they have complied with this court order – Teabaggers consistently refuse to admit that laws apply to them, so in this case as in so many others they may simply see the court’s order as a suggestion for mere mortals and not for Righteous ‘Merrkins such as themselves – but I do know that some of those documents have come out anyway.

The Teabaggers had good reason not to want those documents to come to light, it turns out.

The documents clearly show a deliberate attempt to prevent Wisconsin residents from ever finding out how a process that is by law supposed to be open and transparent happened to work. It is clear that the Republican Party had no interest in receiving input on redistricting from citizens, concerned groups, or anyone other than the small conspiracy that put this plan together. This is in violation of Wisconsin state law as well as all principles of good government, American democracy, and simple morality. Any input was to be ignored if received and avoided if possible.

The documents clearly show that despite the fact that the Republicans were spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on private, unelected consultants to help them make their plans, the elected Democrats in the legislature were not even allowed to attend the sessions where redistricting was hammered out, let alone do what the state constitution requires them to do and represent the citizens of Wisconsin in their government.

The documents clearly show, in a set of talking points that explicitly declared that information given to the public was to be disregarded if it conflicted with the deals done behind closed doors, that lying to the citizens of Wisconsin about their voting rights was both premeditated and considered acceptable practice by Republicans.

The documents clearly show the Republican Party paid a private law firm thousands of taxpayer dollars to develop this plan and then had each one of the Republican state senators sign legal agreements never to discuss the process with their citizens who paid for it. The sheer gall of this is enough to take the breath away from anyone who values the republic set up by the Founding Fathers. Those agreements have now been published, by the way – you can download the entire set and see for yourself. It sort of makes the insistence by Teabagger senators that such documents did not exist rather ridiculous, but there you go.

Facts are stubborn things.

What I find at least somewhat amusing about this is that the conspirators involved didn’t even trust their fellow Teabaggers, as it has now become clear that many Republican state senators were threatened into signing those agreements. One of the senators has admitted that he was shown two redistricting maps, one favorable to him to be used if he signed the non-disclosure agreement, the other unfavorable to be used if he didn’t sign. That’s called extortion.

The entire lot of them should be stripped of their offices, jailed at once, and horsewhipped as an example to the American people of what happens when zealots think they are above the law and the sovereign people.

Apparently there’s more good stuff still waiting to be released, too, and the Teabaggers are now strenuously arguing that they should not be forced to continue releasing taxpayer-funded documents that were produced as part of the public business of running a government of the people, by the people and for the people, because dammit those documents are THEIRS, THEIRS, THEIRS and the rabble have no business knowing anything at all about how their rulers function. At! All! None, as in “get back to the muck pit, peasants, and be glad we haven’t had you flogged.”

Nice to know where we stand.

The kicker of all this?

Governor Teabagger’s (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) lead minion in the Senate has now challenged his recall because the signatures were gathered in his actual district rather than the newly revised district that he and his buddies shoved through to the governor’s desk. This despite the fact that both the nonpartisan board that runs elections in this state and the Teabagger attorney general have publicly stated that the old district was the proper area to gather signatures.

Because rules don’t apply to Teabaggers.

Because they don’t want you to vote, and will do everything to nullify it if you do.

Dark times indeed.


John the Scientist said...

Whaddaya expect? Your state and its Republican Party gave us Tailgunner Joe fer cryin' out loud. You've been slinding downhill since McCarthy beat LaFollette in 1946.

Not to mention the 1974 U.S. Labor Party shennanigans. I've always associated Wisconsin with LaRouche for that reason (and don't ask me how I know about those nutjobs, I never had any relatives with a subscription to The Spotlight, no sir, not me). o.O

What I'm getting at is that the signs that Wisconsin is nuthouse central have been there a loooong time. :p

David said...

Wisconsin's a strange state that way, no doubt about it.

We brought you Tailgunner Joe and Fighting Bob LaFollette.

Teabagger darling Paul Ryan and liberal hero Russ Feingold are practically neighbors.

You've got crunchy 60s liberal left Madison, Milwaukee's history of outright Socialism, a broad swath of Reagan Democrats, an even wider swath of northern Bible Belt, and a deep well of Bircher crazy that seems to have been channeled directly into the Tea Party.

Never a dull moment in Wisconsin politics, anyway. ;)

John the Scientist said...

What's with the "we brought you"? You're from the city that issues parking tickets to cars that have never graced its streets*. :D

* I heard about this scam in the late 1970s, and it's depressing to see that 40 years later the city is still at it.

David said...

Hey - I've lived in this state since 1995. I've never lived anywhere longer than the house I live in now. At some point I suppose I'm here now.

But you're right, Philadelphia and its environs will always be home. It's a city that has had maybe two decades of good government since 1682 - when I was a kid the City Council meetings routinely devolved into fistfights and I was sort of surprised when I got older to discover that being jailed was not the standard way for political careers to end.

I think that's one of the reasons I am so disappointed in Wisconsin. The bar for "good government" was set so low for me, and they have still fallen short.

We. I'm here now. We.

beatrice in Paris said...

The documents clearly show the Republican Party paid a private law firm thousands of taxpayer dollars to develop this plan and then had each one of the Republican state senators sign legal agreements never to discuss the process with their citizens who paid for it.

Good news for the recall, though.
Over here, the president just started his re-election campaign. Two months before!