REFLECTIONS/Jonathan Gramling

Jonathan Gramling

Defending Democracy

Democracy and voting have always been very important to me because, in part, they meant something to my father — a traditional conservative Republican — and my mother — an in-the-closet Democrat for marriage purposes. We participated in congressional campaigns as kids and I would later write a paper for an independent study — my final UW-Madison undergraduate credits — on electoral politics in Mississippi based on my experience with the campaign of independent Congressional candidate Evan Doss in 1978.

Through these experiences, I learned that democracy was important because it forced elected officials to listen to their constituents and to compete for their votes. Now that did lead to some unequal listening as some parts of Madison were very active electorally and other sides were not politically engaged. And that did influence how elected officials allocated resources.

But as imperfect as it was, elected official had to appeal to the electorate if they wanted to get elected. Competition is key to good government and the health of democracy.

Now the Wisconsin Republicans did something detrimental to Wisconsin’s democracy and I would submit to the long-term health of their own party when they redistricted the heck out of Wisconsin’s electoral districts — what is called gerrymandering — so that they would remain in power in Wisconsin’s legislature no matter what they did or didn’t do.

And so while they listened to their narrow constituencies who resided in all of their safe districts, the Republicans no longer had to listen to the people of Wisconsin and so they have become an isolated minority that has rigged elections so that they don’t have to compete for African American and Latino votes in Milwaukee. They don’t have to compete for a lot of votes and so their ideas and what they think is best for Wisconsin has been replaced by what they think is best for the minority Wisconsin Republican Party.

And it has made them lose the ideals that serve as the underpinning of the foundation of the Republican Party. While my father was  a generous person, he was a fiscal conservative. And I’m sure that he would be appalled by the kind of spending the Republican Party is doing these days.

As The Wisconsin State Journal emphasized in a recent editorial, Speaker Robin Vos is kissing up to former President Donald Trump with taxpayer money. Trump criticized Vos and the Republican Party for not saying and doing enough to “prove” that the 2020 election was rigged and that Trump was actually “elected” instead of President Joe Biden.

Instead of realizing that they are under the thumb of a narcissistic, selfcentered egomaniac who claimed in 2016 that he could shoot someone on Fourth Avenue in New York and no one would do anything and who kissed up to North Korea and Erdogan of Turkey because he is a dictator wannabe and then distanced themselves from him, Vos is actually spending our, the taxpayers, hard earned money — public funds — to further a partisan assault on democracy. He hired former Supreme Court Justice Gableman who lasted one term to lead a partisan Republican investigation to “discover” that Trump actually won in Wisconsin. Gableman will be aided by former law enforcement officers who will also be on the public dole.

This is another problem with gerrymandering. Vos is so secured in his rigged district that he does anything he wishes, things that he would never get away with if his was a competitive district. Perhaps Gableman should investigate districts like Vos’ for rigged elections. I wouldn’t be surprised if such an investigation would uncover lots of corruption. Again Vos has been drifting out of the reach of the voices of the Wisconsin electorate. And when you are out of touch with reality, you can do all kinds of crazy things.

And the Republicans are seeking to allow themselves to become even more out of touch with the people of Wisconsin. During the past few months, 14 bills have been introduced in the Wisconsin legislature on restricting access to the ballot. Instead of competing for the votes of people of color, creating policies and initiatives that will appeal to at least 51 percent of the electorate — a majority that must include some people of color with Wisconsin’s demographic and voting trends — they have chosen to become a minority that holds onto the levers of power by not letting the full electorate vote. If that isn’t antidemocratic, then I don’t know what is. This comes amidst a false cry that the national election was stolen from Trump — the only conclusion that Trump’s narcissistic ego could come to — through election fraud.

Now I have a degree in political science and fell three papers shy of getting a master’s in it and have been engaged in local to national elections. And I can’t remember an election that was recounted and audited and reaudited so many times and still not finding election fraud on a scale that would have changed the results of the election. Sure there are individual instances of fraud, but Trump and his minions take the one exception out of a million and turn it inside out to claim that it is representative of wide scale fraud. And they use these claims to rob people of their right to vote and use taxpayer money to “prove” allegations where nothing exists.

We must fight this movement to save democracy for if Trump has his way, he will become America’s first dictator in 2024. Mark my words.