Andrea Palm got a new job and a promotion. Wisconsin is still mired in partisan gridlock.
Pardon her if she shakes the dust of Wisconsin politics from her suit as she exits. Andrea Palm has resigned as Secretary of the Department of Health Services to take a job with the Biden administration as the nation’s #2 public health official.
After two years in office, Palm’s appointment had never been confirmed by the Republican-controlled state senate and it was widely rumored that they would reject her at some point. They rejected Evers’ first agriculture secretary, Brad Pfaff, because he dared to criticize Republicans for holding up funding for mental health services for farmers. Pfaff then ran for the senate himself and is now one of their colleagues.
“Colleague” is actually the wrong word because the Republican senate is anything but collegial. It’s one of those important norms of American democracy that executives should get to name their own teams as long as the nominees are qualified. But for the first time in Wisconsin history, this group of Republican senators refused to confirm a wide swath of Evers’ nominees. They have been confirming them here and there over the last couple of years, but the snub to Evers is just petty. It needlessly further poisons already toxic political waters.
To be fair, the national Democrats aren’t blameless. In retrospect, their rejection of Robert Bork as Ronald Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee back in 1987 set a precedent for this sort of thing. Bork was eminently qualified, but he was deemed too conservative even though he was nominated by a conservative president. (Fun fact: When he was rejected, Reagan nominated Daniel Ginsburg. And why did Ginsburg have to withdraw? It turned out he had smoked marijuana in his youth. Times, you might say, have changed.)
Still, while Democrats need to take their share of responsibility for the abandonment of this norm, Republicans have taken it to the extreme. At least the Democrats gave Bork a vote (it went down 42-58). Mitch McConnell wouldn’t so much as allow a hearing for Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. (Like Pfaff, Garland gets the last laugh. He’ll be Biden’s attorney general.)
It’s time both parties returned to a simple principle of decency and fairness. When a candidate wins an election the new boss gets his own team.