One of the running lines from President Donald Trump and other Republican lawmakers throughout the entire coronavirus ordeal has been that Democrats are focused on politics or scoring political wins against him, using the crisis as a means to do so.
Trump himself has questioned Democrats’ motives from the beginning — remember him calling COVID-19 the party’s new “hoax” against him? — but has done so recently as well. In a tweet he issued on April 2, Trump said of Democratic governors that they had “insatiable appetites & are never satisfied” due to the fact that they continued to ask for more medical supplies and life-saving devices.
Requests for the means to save citizens’ lives doesn’t seem political, in my view. Indeed, in my home state of Wisconsin, it’s Republicans who appear to care more about politics, refusing to work with the state’s governor, Tony Evers, a Democrat, in order to find a solution for this week’s spring elections in the wake of a crisis.
The elections feature two statewide races — the presidential primary race between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, and a state Supreme Court election. Beyond that, however, there are more than 6,000 down-ballot races for positions like mayor, school board, city council, and more, across the entire Badger State.
Gov. Evers was, perhaps, late in recognizing a delay in the election was needed to protect people’s health, but he called for an emergency special session on Friday afternoon, to take place this weekend. The session, had it been successful, would have delayed the election until mid-May. It also would have mailed ballots to every single voter in the state, to prevent the possibility of voters getting sick simply by voting, and to protect poll workers, many of whom have said they will not work this coming Tuesday due to fears of coronavirus.
Folks, today I’m announcing that I signed an Executive Order calling the Legislature to meet in Special Session tomorrow, Saturday, April 4th at 4:00 p.m. to take up changes to the upcoming spring election. https://t.co/8m5HpvsRDz
— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) April 3, 2020
The poll worker shortages are so severe that in Milwaukee alone, a city of nearly 600,000 residents, there will be less than a dozen polling places open on Tuesday. Ordinarily, there are 180 that are open.
It’s not just happening in big cities, though: In my hometown of Monona, a suburban community of the state’s capital city of Madison, we typically have two polling places that are open. But now, it’s down to one place to vote for nearly 8,000 residents, the city’s small community center, where long lines and waits are expected to occur, according to the city’s website.
Closures like these and other health concerns of the citizenry are reason enough to call off this election and reschedule it until May. But perhaps because the Wisconsin Republican Party actually likes to disenfranchise voters — passing laws that typically make it harder for people of color to vote, for example — seeing problems such as these, particularly in Milwaukee, may actually make their mouths salivate.
So predictably, Republicans, who control the state legislature, refused to pass Evers’ special session proposals. Heck, most lawmakers in the GOP caucus didn’t even bother to show up.
Their rationale for refusing to take up Evers’ plans was that he was playing politics.
“It’s this type of feckless leadership Wisconsin has come to expect of the governor in the face of this crisis,” Republicans Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a joint statement. “Instead of remaining strong to ensure our representative democracy continues, he caves under political pressures from national liberal special interest groups.”
"If you are concerned about voter turnout becoming a nationwide problem in November’s general election — and you should be — pay attention to what happens in Wisconsin’s benighted primary. Republicans hope it will be a harbinger of our future. "
— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) April 4, 2020
What exactly are those “liberal special interest groups?” Is it people who want to ensure voters can voice their opinions and stay healthy, versus people who want voters to have to choose between those two options? Because it appears to me that Republicans are part of the latter camp of individuals.
It should be noted that Evers has extremely high marks from Wisconsinites in terms of how he’s handled the crisis within the state. Overall, he has a 65-point approval rating, according to the Marquette University Law School poll released this past week (even before this event happened, he had majority support in the state, according to previous polling). And with the coronavirus crisis on its own, Evers’ approval rating is 76 percent.
That on its own, of course, is not enough to convince someone to back his plan. But his ideas made sense as well, providing a means for people to vote without fear of infection or spread of the disease to others.
Republicans don’t appear willing to do the same. Rather, noting that the largest city in the state — and notably, one of the biggest Democratic Party voting areas, too — is set to have huge voting difficulties, and likely low turnout as a result, they’ve decided to sit on their hands and let people across the entire state risk their health, and perhaps their lives, to ensure the vote goes on this Tuesday.
Now you tell me who’s playing politics.
Chris Walker is a freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin, who focuses on news, politics, and analysis of world events. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, since 2005 Chris has reported on workers’ rights protests in Wisconsin, opined on four separate presidential elections and written on a number of other political subjects for a variety of national online publications.