“Midwest Power Grab May Fuel G.O.P. Backlash,” blared The New York Times front page Tuesday. It’s been a drumbeat recently at the Times, providing momentum for Democrats to finish in 2020 what they started in the House in 2018. Astead Herndon and Jonathan Martin argued that Republican legislative maneuvers spelled doom (click “expand”):
When Michigan Republicans began moving legislation last week to limit the power of newly elected Democratic officials, some liberal activists shouted “shame!” through the Capitol rotunda while others trailed legislators with boom microphones, live-streaming their interactions online to make them uncomfortable.
But if many on the left see a power grab underway in this state and a similar one in Wisconsin, Michigan’s incoming Democratic governor sees something more: political possibility.
The Republican efforts could hurt the party’s image with moderate voters in a region that President Trump considers crucial for his 2020 re-election effort, and where his standing has fallen in suburbs that he would need to carry again to win. Yet G.O.P. leaders are determined to push ahead, fearing that their decade-long dominance in the Midwest is coming to an end as newly elected Democrats and the prospect of more competitive districts threaten to shift the balance of power.
Republicans remain poised to keep control of some of the region’s state legislatures and many of their congressional seats in the coming years -- the continued clustering of Democratic votes in urban areas ensures a baseline of conservative strength elsewhere. But their efforts to limit executive branch authority in Michigan and Wisconsin may only exacerbate voter anger at a political class that faces little accountability because of the safe seats they fashioned for themselves.
The more fundamental risk for Republicans is that voters are increasingly savvy about issues like gerrymandering, voting rights and campaign finance, which were once thought to be of great interest to elites but of little relevance to most citizens. Those are some of the issues at stake in the G.O.P. bills under consideration this month.
And for the “increased savvy" cited above, those voters can thank the liberal press for constantly harping on these Democratic issues.
Reporter Emily Badger cried racism in the first sentence of Friday’s “Urban-Rural Divide At Center of Fight In Wisconsin Politics.” The text box exaggerated: “In Milwaukee and Madison, the G.O.P. sees the enemy”:
In much of Wisconsin, “Madison and Milwaukee” are code words (to some, dog whistles) for the parts of the state that are nonwhite, elite, different: The cities are where people don’t have to work hard with their hands, because they’re collecting welfare or public-sector paychecks.
That stereotype updates a very old idea in American politics, one pervading Wisconsin’s bitter Statehouse fights today and increasingly those in other states: Urban voters are an exception. If you discount them, you get a truer picture of the politics -- and the will of voters -- in a state.
Thomas Jefferson believed as much -- “the mobs of great cities add just so much to support of pure government,” he wrote, “as sores do to the strength of the human body.”
While contributing to the media’s sudden and convenient hatred for gerrymanders, Badger did let slip that it’s more of a bipartisan issue:
In North Carolina, Democrats won 51 percent of the popular vote for the lower chamber in the statehouse but just 45 percent of the seats. In Michigan, where a lame-duck session fight similar to Wisconsin’s is playing out, Democrats won 53 percent of the vote but just 47 percent of those seats. (In states like Illinois and Maryland, where Democrats drew the gerrymanders, they won a disproportionate share of seats.)
Also on Friday, Herndon turned to another Midwest state where Republicans are supposedly behaving abominably, filing the hostile, label-heavy “Michigan Republicans Follow in Contentious Footsteps”:
In Michigan, however, the outgoing governor, Rick Snyder, has long portrayed himself as a relatively pragmatic former businessman, rather than a hard-right ideologue like Mr. Walker. Michigan Democrats think their best chance of success lies with Mr. Snyder, who has, at times, broken with the most conservative members of his own party.
The challenge for Ms. Greig and groups like Progress Michigan is in getting Republican lawmakers to split from their own party. As in Wisconsin, the state legislators forging ahead with the controversial bills are not only Republicans, but deep-red conservatives who represent tightly gerrymandered districts engineered to produce conservative results.
Commentary’s Noah Rothman put forward a less hysterical view, noting that historically Democrats have played similar political games before, in North Carolina, New Jersey, and Illinois, to name a few states.
And of course, there was the failed 2012 Democrat-led recall attempt against then-Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin -- hardly the work of a party that worships the election process. But after he easily defeated his opponent, The Times didn’t praise Walker's win but instead wailed about the loss of “civility” in politics.