The Need to Take on Vos

We can’t let Robin Vos lock in Republican majorities for another decade. That’s why Gov. Tony Evers needed to veto the budget and insist on a fair maps commission.

On Monday I wrote a letter to the editor in the Wisconsin State Journal, in which I made the case that Evers should have vetoed the budget and held out for a nonpartisan redistricting commission. I made the point that this, and other missteps, led me to the conclusion that someone should challenge Evers for the Democratic nomination next August.

The very next day, this thoughtful response from Jill Plonka of Cazenovia appeared in the paper:

I am writing in response to former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s letter to the editor in Monday’s newspaper, “Democrats deserve choice for governor.” He asked for another choice in the Democratic gubernatorial race next year.

He mentioned that Gov. Tony Evers “should have been firm in threatening a veto unless the Republicans included a nonpartisan redistricting commission along the lines of what has worked in Iowa.” What the former mayor has failed to recognize is that it’ll be a cold day you know where when Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, submits a budget or bill with the words “draw fair and equitable district maps” in it.

Vos and the Republicans would rather go without a budget for the next two years than be forced to draw fair maps. They are happy to “burn down” the state and make everyone suffer from lack of funding than put in an anti-gerrymandering clause. How would the state GOP legislators ever win a majority again if the system wasn’t rigged for them?

I commend Gov. Evers for negotiating this budget and vetoing those items which only hurt the majority of Wisconsinites. Is this a perfect budget? Not even close — but it’s better than nothing.

Wouldn’t you love to wipe the smirk off this guy’s face?

Since I would be trying the State Journal’s patience to try to reply in the same venue, let me outline my response here, where the editor is much more amenable.

Jill laid out the case for Evers’ decision to sign the budget as well as anyone could.

But here’s why I disagree.

First off, as I pointed out yesterday, Evers did not negotiate anything. His budget was summarily dismissed by Vos and replaced with a Republican version. Nothing of Evers’ budget remained, and in fact, the centerpiece of the budget they sent back to him was a tax cut weighted toward the wealthy.

Second, it wasn’t a choice between a terrible budget and “nothing.” The budget is the one bill that must pass every session. Eventually, there would be something. And, if Evers had played his cards right, that something could have included a nonpartisan redistricting commission.

I’m not suggesting that Evers veto the budget and go sit in the governor’s residence. He should have been out barn storming the state and taking the fight to Vos. Over 70% of voters and every editorial board in the state are with him on redistricting. Former Obama AG Eric Holder has an entire organization fighting for that nationally. They would have jumped in with both feet.

But now Evers has left it entirely up to the courts. One likely scenario is that Vos will sidestep Evers altogether and pass the maps in a joint resolution on which the governor has no say. That’s right. Evers won’t even get a chance to veto the maps. Sure, that maneuver will be challenged in court. But a case like that will probably end up in the state Supreme Court, where Republicans hold a 4-3 edge. So, it now comes down to how much faith you have in Brian Hagedorn.

Here’s the main thing. Jill’s argument is essentially that, because Vos has established his dominance, he shouldn’t even be tested. Jill is saying that Vos is immovable and that he’ll win in the end. So, Vos wins without ever having to fire a shot.

There’s your problem. It’s the environment that Evers has created — or more accurately, has allowed Vos to create — in which it is just assumed that in any battle of wills Vos would come out on top.

What we need instead is an environment where Vos caves because he knows that the governor will prevail in the end.

While Evers should have vetoed this budget, the real test came two years ago. Had Evers vetoed that Republican budget, Vos would have learned that he had an equal and a guy he had to treat with respect. That simple move — a veto of the entire budget and a vow to fight for some fundamental things in it — would have changed the entire last two years.

But that didn’t happen and now here we are. Evers most certainly is up against it, facing huge gerrymandered Republican majorities and a smart and ruthless foe in Robin Vos. But Evers still sits in the single most powerful office in the state. And he’s done so very little with it.

Welcome to the 148th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

One thought on “The Need to Take on Vos

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