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special session

Wisconsin made the national — even international — news this past week. It wasn't good news, but another black eye for a state that was once the epitome of good, clean government.

Our state was on the front pages of The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other papers because Republicans who control the state Legislature showed there is no limit to how low they will go.

The Washington Post editorialized that the Legislature's Republican leadership has no intention of sharing power with the newly elected Democratic governor, Tony Evers. The paper called it part of a trend among statehouse Republicans "upending principles of good government and democratic accountability for political gain."

It was hard to find anyone defending the arrogance of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos or Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and their secret deliberations in the wee small hours except for a part-time, ultra-conservative columnist for the West Bend Daily News who sees bridling "liberal" election winners as a good thing.

Among the despicable actions was the Legislature giving itself power to usurp the attorney general's historic duty to decide which lawsuits to pursue.

Democrat Josh Kaul had made incumbent AG Brad Schimel's effort to find Obamacare unconstitutional a major issue in his campaign. Kaul assured Wisconsin voters he'd pull the state out of the suit. Schimel said he'd continue efforts to kill Obamacare and the pre-existing conditions requirement that goes with it. The people backed Kaul. But the lame-duck Legislature decided it should decide, the voters be damned.

All proving once again that these legislators, most from safe, gerrymandered districts, aren't here to serve the people, but to serve themselves. The whole process was a subversion of democracy and an embarrassment to the state.

While nearly all the actions taken by these legislators deserve to be condemned, the most disgusting of all is their scheming to making it as hard as possible for Wisconsin citizens to exercise their right to vote.

There is no difference between these so-called public servants and the Dixiecrats of the Jim Crow era who enacted poll taxes, literacy tests and complicated registration requirements to make sure black people couldn't exercise their basic right to help choose their leaders.

Oh, they're more sophisticated today. They enact voter ID and play other tricks, all aimed at holding down the vote in areas where people might vote against them. And then they have the audacity to outright lie and say it's aimed at holding down fraud. That's exactly what those old Southern crackers did, too.

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Last week these modern-day vote suppressors dramatically shortened the time Wisconsin voters can vote absentee. They even admitted that the large size of the Nov. 6 vote disturbed them. True Americans, it seems, would urge people to vote, not try to stop them.

But these legislators aren't interested in democracy, they're only interested in political power.

There's just one chance to change this denigration of Wisconsin's good name and that's for voters, in gerrymandered districts or not, to send these power-hungry creatures home.

It's very possible that they have finally gone too far. There's Vos and Fitzgerald, for sure, but they were enabled by a flock of GOP legislators who followed them like sheep, afraid to utter a peep. Never forget their names.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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