Evers Doubles Down on His Pardon Peril

Last night, for the first time in 20 years, a Madison police officer was shot. We’re lucky that the officer’s injuries are not life-threatening, but it’s yet another indication of the dramatic rise in shootings here and nationwide.

And the Democrats sleep.

Here’s more evidence that Democrats just aren’t getting how dangerous crime is — not just for our communities but for their own prospects next November. On Friday Gov. Tony Evers pardoned 15 more people, bringing his total number of pardons to 278. He’s the most pardoning governor in state history. In fact, he’s even signed an executive order to speed up the process. Pardon recommendations can now go to him directly from the chair of the Pardon Board without a hearing before the full body.

On the merits the governor is right. On the politics he’s teeing up an issue for his opponent a year from now.

Let’s deal with the merits first. Evers isn’t opening the prison gates to murderers. Most of the people pardoned committed nonviolent crimes. In order to receive a pardon a convicted felon needs to have served his sentence and been done serving it for at least five years. The person also needs to have demonstrated that he has turned his life around by, for example, receiving a degree, starting a business, volunteering in the community, etc. And a pardon doesn’t excuse the crime nor does it restore all rights. But it does give the person the opportunity to vote and to hold some professional licenses.

Photo by kat wilcox on Pexels.com

Evers’ predecessor, Scott Walker, issued no pardons in eight years, so there was a long build up of deserving applicants. What Evers is doing is both reasonable and compassionate.

But that brings us to the politics. If reason and compassion were in high demand at election time, Donald Trump would have never been president and he wouldn’t have gotten 75 million votes in his losing effort last year. Evers will face a Republican Party that has lost all interest in being even lightly tethered to the truth. Trump has made lying just another party strategy.

Only in this case, Evers’ opponent won’t have to lie exactly. They can mislead with the truth. Powerfully.

Imagine a 30 second ad in which a woman’s voice — conveying at once both fear and anger — is heard saying something like, “Tony Evers has pardoned more convicted felons than any governor in history. And homicides are up by 30%! Evers even stopped hearings where someone might object to a pardon. What on earth is Tony Evers thinking?” While she’s talking you’ll see images of police tape and flashing lights over dark, menacing streets. Frightened children will be seen huddled in squad cars.

So, what is Tony Evers thinking?

Murder was, in fact, up nationally by 30% from 2019 to 2020 and this year the 2020 pace has not slackened. Last year, violent crime overall was up by 5% and shots-fired incidents have spiked here in Madison. That 30% increase in homicides is the biggest annual increase since the FBI started keeping this statistic. Eric Adams will be the next mayor of New York precisely because he’s a former cop who talked a lot about crime during his campaign. And that’s in deep, deep blue New York City.

And yet, Adams is the exception. Most Democrats have no sense of urgency about the issue, never mind talking in the least bit tough on the subject. When Democrats mention it at all they make the mistake of talking about poverty or guns or mental health or other “root causes” of crime. They might be right in the long-run, but elections aren’t held in the long-run; they’ll be held on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

(Just for the record I agree that there are too damn many guns, that poverty can breed crime and that we need to reform mental health services and commitment laws. Trouble is that none of those things will solve the problem tomorrow. Instead, we need “get tough” measures like jailing parole violators, something that is anathema to Democrats.)

As I’ve written above, Evers is right to issue pardons. It’s his timing that is the trouble, and timing is everything is politics. The right time to issue hundreds of pardons? It begins on the morning of Wednesday, November 9, 2022.

But it’s way too late for that now. Evers has teed up an easy swing for Republicans. He had already given them a gift by putting himself on track to sign a record number of pardons. But now his short-circuiting of the pardon process just magnifies the error. Like most Democrats, Evers just isn’t seeing the potency of this issue. It could cost him his job.

Welcome to the 235th 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: