Why the Big Lie Is Still Dominating Wisconsin Politics – Mother Jones

Trump in Wisconsin

Donald Trump at a 2020 campaign rally in Green Bay, WisconsinAlex Brandon/AP

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Two big pieces of news emerged from the world of Wisconsin politics over the past week. Together, they show how Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 presidential contest was stolen will shape the contours of the 2024 election in this key battleground state.

On Monday, Trump supporters announced that they had collected enough signatures to force a recall election of powerful Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Vos has been the architect of the GOP’s dominance in Wisconsin—passing some of the country’s most gerrymandered maps; stripping authority from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in an unprecedented power grab; and repeatedly thwarting Evers’ policy priorities on issues like health care, education, and criminal justice reform.

Despite this record, Trump supporters now want to oust the assembly speaker because he refused to attempt to decertify the 2020 results and has not endorsed impeaching Wisconsin Elections Commission executive director Meagan Wolfe, a leading target of conspiracy theorists on the right. Never mind that lawyers for the state legislature said that decertifying the election would have been unconstitutional or that a court ruled the legislature doesn’t have the power to remove Wolfe. Or that Vos did as much as anyone to legitimize Trump’s lies, authorizing a sprawling 14-month investigation into baseless voting fraud allegations led by a prominent election denier. MAGA World now wants Vos gone.

They’re also angry that Vos didn’t follow through on his threat to impeach progressive state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz for refusing to recuse herself from a case challenging the legislature’s gerrymandered maps after she called them “rigged” during her campaign in April 2023. The court struck down those maps in December, and the legislature passed new maps last month proposed by Evers that are more advantageous for Democrats.

A few days after the recall news broke, the court—which, thanks to Protasiewicz, now has a 4-3 progressive majority—announced it would reconsider a 2022 ruling by the court’s then-conservative majority that outlawed most mail ballot drop boxes in the state. Trump supporters have pointed to that ruling to argue that the 2020 election was indeed tainted because drop boxes were used across the state during that race. The court itself did not reach that conclusion, and there was no evidence that the use of drop boxes, which had bipartisan support, led to any fraud.

The same forces who support outlawing drop boxes are trying to recall Vos. Their efforts show how the stolen election claims in the state, no matter how debunked, continue to move the center of gravity within the Republican Party—to the point that the Republican leader who has been the architect of GOP majorities in the legislature and has repeatedly courted the MAGA wing of his party could lose his job because he has not given a sufficiently full-throated endorsement of the Big Lie.

As it happens, Trump supporters have tried to oust Vos before, with a Trump-backed primary challenger, Adam Steen, coming within 260 votes of defeating him in August 2022. The state’s ethics commission recently concluded that a Trump-linked political action committee supporting Steen violated the state’s campaign finance laws by illegally routing funds through GOP county parties to skirt contribution limits. The ethics commission has recommended felony charges, including against GOP state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, a leading critic of Vos who has led the effort to impeach Wolfe.

But so far, there’s been little accountability in Wisconsin for politicians who have promoted stolen election claims, and those lies continue to be a major factor in 2024. We’ll see if the new majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court can finally change that dynamic.


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