Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson is a journalist and political analyst. He was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and the Hechinger Institute at Columbia University, and is a co-host of ESPN’s “SportsNation” and ESPN LA 710’s “Mornings With Keyshawn, LZ and Travis.” Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @lzgranderson. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. View more opinion articles on CNN.
“Breaking Bad,” season four, episode six:
Skyler White, in an argument with her husband, Walter, tells him he’s in over his head and expresses concern for his safety. Walter turns and responds with one of the most chilling lines in television history:
“I am not in danger Skyler, I am the danger.”
That scene, that quote, is what I thought about when I learned Republican state leaders in Wisconsin and Michigan called emergency sessions in an attempt to pass a number of measures that will limit the executive power of the newly elected incoming Democratic governors (who unseated Republicans) and attorneys general while increasing their own. In Michigan, that Republican grab also targets a newly elected secretary of state.
Their Republican supporters, much like Skyler, may think the change of party in the governor’s mansion is the pending “danger,” but they are mistaken. The danger is here now, staring them in the face from the mirror. For history has shown that democracies like ours do not fall from outside attacks or osmosis. No, they are torn apart from within by the effective disenfranchisement of citizenry.
The group of men and women who are working feverishly in the dark to usurp the results of the midterm election are not fighting for freedom, or for voters, they are fighting for themselves.
This is not just politics as usual. Gerrymandering and voter suppression are despicable practices aimed at rigging the system. But what the Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan are attempting is something beyond that. They would like to ignore the system. Ignore the results. Ignore the voters. And what they are banking on most is that fellow Republicans will be so obsessed with beating the Democrats that they, too, ignore the legitimate cost of the GOP’s loss.
A Democrat as governor may not be the preference of Republicans, but it is no threat to democracy. A party being allowed to blatantly bypass the will of the people is.
This is why George Washington, in his farewell address, expressed his distaste for parties in general and a two-party scenario in particular. He was concerned that “alternate domination” would encourage politicians to seek self-preservation and revenge against political opponents. This 222-year-old bipartisan critique of American politics rings clearer and truer with each passing election. We’ve seen this before:
In 2016, North Carolina state legislators were not satisfied with having a Republican supermajority, thus making it possible to override any veto incoming Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper might issue. They sought to increase the legislature’s own power in response to the election result and continue to try to turn the governor into a figurehead.
If state legislatures in Michigan and Wisconsin are allowed to follow in North Carolina’s shoes, others will do the same.
Consider this: Voter turnout hit a 50-year high this November and yet more than 50% of eligible voters did not participate. The United States of America is supposed to be the globe’s biggest advocate for democracy, and more than half the country stays home on Election Day, some politicians are working to discourage people from voting and now elected officials in Michigan and Wisconsin are trying to undermine election results in order to maintain power.
If this keeps up, at some point the people who believe their vote doesn’t matter will have a point, and once that sentiment festers within a population, democracy crumbles.
For Republican legislative leaders in Wisconsin and Michigan to suggest these extreme measures are necessary to protect voters from danger is an insult. What they are attempting to do is the danger.