Divided government could work in the people’s favor.
Wisconsin has muddled through with a dysfunctional state government since Democrat Tony Evers edged out Republican incumbent Gov. Scott Walker in 2018.
Republicans controlling both houses of the legislature showed no more interest in working with Evers than they did in rooting for the Bears over the Packers. The hostility appears mutual.
The 2020 election left the status quo intact, when Republicans were unable to capture a veto-proof majority. So, like before, the legislature can act and the governor can veto. Stalemate.
That’s not all bad. Divided government prevents the zealots of either side from doing what they long to do, which is imposing their will and bossing everybody around. In the current climate people of good will on both sides can either find a way to seek common ground, or the government can limp along doing basic functions with no particular direction. Again, not all bad, especially for those who prefer limited government.
Some things, however, cannot be avoided. One of those is the constitutional mandate, based on the decennial census, to draw new district boundaries for state legislative and congressional seats.
Readers will remember, after the 2010 election and census, Republicans swept into power in both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office. District boundaries were drawn in complete secrecy. Democrats not only had no voice, they weren’t even allowed to see the plan until the last minute when it was ready for a vote. The result, fair-minded people believe, was a plan that locked in a lopsided advantage for Republicans.
For perspective, we always urge readers to remember that Democrat-run Illinois used the redistricting process to make sure Republicans were disadvantaged.
All that proves is the partisan point referenced earlier, that zealots on both sides will choose power over people every time.
The stage is set for the Republican-controlled legislature and Evers to block each other when it comes to redistricting. The options will be for those who are reasonable—assuming any such creatures remain—to engage in the necessary give-and-take of democracy to draw lines, or for the courts eventually to do it for them.
Either way, there’s at least modest hope for fairer legislative and congressional districts to result.
Eventually, when and if the political climate is right, nonpartisan reforms should be enacted to minimize shenanigans in legislative reapportionment. That, unfortunately, seems a long way off.