The Legislature had belatedly awoken from their slumber to take action to reassert our representative form of government by ending Governor Tony Evers’ latest emergency declaration. While much of the media is aping the rhetoric from the Democrats that it is an effort to end the mask mandate, it is about much more than that. It is about our very system of government and whether or not we will live under a representative government that reflects the consent of the people or under the arbitrary power of a single man.
When the pandemic began, we were beset with incorrect information that projected the deaths of tens of millions of Americans if the government did not act immediately. While those projections proved to be incorrect, in the moment the threat justified the use of an emergency declaration to take immediate steps to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. An emergency declaration is a legal provision that allows the governor to make immediate decisions and react quickly in the case of a natural or man-made disaster. Emergency declarations are not intended to be permanent, but simply a tool to allow immediate action until the Legislature can convene and develop a response in the normal course of representative government as prescribed by our state Constitution. We are now almost 10 months into a series of emergency declarations under which our representative republic has been suspended and laws are being written and enforced on the authority of a single man living in a mansion on Lake Mendota. Under these emergency declarations, Governor Evers has closed businesses, changed election laws, suspended civil liberties to assemble, forbidden people to leave their homes, suspended accountability rules for education and other government bodies, and doled out tens of millions of dollars to individuals and businesses without any oversight. And, yes, Evers has ordered all Wisconsinites to wear masks.
The Legislature has now had time to meet to develop and pass legislation to respond to the ongoing health concern of COVID-19 and yet Governor Evers continues to issue emergency declarations and govern as if he is imparted with that divine knowledge and right that our previous rulers assumed. The fact that the governor disagrees with the policy choices of the Legislature in response to COVID-19 is not a reason to abandon representative government. Nor should the citizens of Wisconsin surrender our civil liberties to the arbitrary will of a single man.
These principles are rooted in the very foundation of our nation and our state. Our system of government was established under the principles that all people are created equal and that we are all equally flawed. We are humans, after all, and imbued with all of the passion, bigotry, avarice, jealousy, ignorance, stupidity, as well as love, compassion, honor, nobility, intelligence, and kindness that is the natural human condition. We are all a swirling mess of contradictions and subject to following our worst instincts.
If we are all equal, and all equally flawed, then why would any human surrender his or her natural rights and liberty to the arbitrary will of another? But since such surrender is necessary for the protection of individual rights, we establish governments as the least worst option to protect those individual rights. Those governments were established to reflect the will of the people through representation so that no single man or woman would ever have arbitrary power over another, but only wield power through the consent of the governed.
That is why our government is structured to have three coequal branches and an elaborate system of checks and balances to keep any branch from ruling supreme. That is why it takes the consent of two branches of government, the legislative and the executive, to pass a law. That is why citizens can appeal to the judicial branch if they think their rights were violated by a law enacted and enforced by the other two branches. Our government is specifically constructed so that it is difficult to wield power over the governed without their consent being obtained through multiple sources.
All of this representative government is thrown away when we allow our governor simply to bypass it through endless emergency declarations. Wisconsin is currently living under the rule of one man and will be so until the Legislature reestablishes normal order and representative government. This is about our right to govern ourselves under the constructs of our state Constitution or abandon it for the arbitrary rule of the governor. This is about our very liberty. And no, it is not about the masks.
Jay Weber is reporting this morning that after more analysis, the Assembly Republicans has determined that the repeal bill passed by the Senate has some flaws. The Assembly will be writing a different version and then, after passing, they will need to go into the reconciliation process with the Senate.
What is telling to me about all of that is that in all of the time that these emergency orders have been in place and the legislature was in stasis for most of last year, nobody worked on this. Nobody did the homework, wrote drafts of bills, discussed the strategy, debated the process, or anything else. It appears that the legislative Republicans truly did sit on their duffs all year and just now started to put some work into protecting our rights. This is despite repeated sternly-worded press releases and public statements last year that they were very concerned for our rights and our businesses. That is truly disappointing.
Well, they are off their duffs now, but all of the bluster and activity means nothing if they don’t accomplish anything. They need to get this done.