Wineke: The GOP is building a mosaic of distrust


MADISON, Wis. — It was just a tiny headline in the Thursday paper: “Walker Appointee Not Stepping Down.”

Frederick Prehn, appointed chair of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board by former Governor Scott Walker, presided over the board’s meeting Wednesday.

The problem is that Prehn’s appointment expired May 1 and Gov. Tony Evers has appointed a replacement, Sandy Nass.

But Nass has not been confirmed by the state Senate and, legally, Prehn can stay in office until she is.

So, there’s nothing illegal in what is happening. But it is another example of how democracy is eroding in Wisconsin and around the country.

The Republican-controlled Legislature doesn’t have an enthusiastic record for confirming Evers’ appointments or, for that matter, even meeting at all. Does this mean Prehn can stay chair of the board until the state elects a new governor?

The thing is it’s pretty clear the GOP leadership in Wisconsin just refuses to accept the legitimacy of Evers’ election. As soon as the votes were counted, it met and stripped the governor’s office of most of its powers. That was legal, too.

It’s also legal for the Legislature, when called into special session to deal with a major problems –  the pandemic, for example – to meet for a couple of minutes and then go home without solving anything.

It’s legal, but it undercuts democracy. In a democracy, elections have consequences. In Wisconsin, they don’t.

Also on Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced he is hiring retired cops to investigate the November presidential election.

That’s right. Wisconsin is now joining a list of states declaring that if a Democrat wins an election, it must be due to fraud.

Vos says he believes there were “irregularities” in the election. No one else has found any irregularities – the Trump campaign even paid for a recount in Dane and Milwaukee Counties – but if there should be some, I’m sure the three retired police officers Vos is hiring will be able to root it out, though it’s hard to understand what competence a retired cop brings to a task like that.

These are all microcosms of the deterioration of democracy.

We also have a former president who has yet to admit he lost the 2020 election and who continues to egg on Republicans seeking to overturn the results.

This may all work itself out. Democracy is always under fire and we’ve lived through a lot of challenges throughout our history. Some, like the McCarthyism of the 1950s, had its roots right here in Wisconsin.

But you can’t have a democracy if only one side accepts the verdict of the voters and that, it seems, is what we are heading for right now.