The Best Concession

Last night, the winners and losers were announced in the Wisconsin statewide election, that will go down infamously as one of the worst cases of voter suppression in American history (more on that later). This cluster*&k of an election should never have been held, but the Republican Racist Death Cult convinced the clearly partisan Wisconsin and U.S. Supreme Courts that, despite “safer at home” public health emergency orders, the election should go forward, putting both election workers and voters in mortal peril.

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Photo credit: Maxwell Love

While the nation and much of the world watched Wisconsinites risk their lives to vote, due to the one piece of federal Judge Conley’s order that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld, absentee ballots which were postmarked by the date of the election, April 7th, were allowed to be counted if they arrived at the city clerks’ offices by April 13th, so election results were delayed until then.

The surprise came when, despite fears that suppressed voter turnout would result in the incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Dan Kelly, who was appointed by Republican former Gov. Scott Walker, would be re-elected, he lost to liberal and Democrat backed Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky. Many interpreted this as a victory for democracy and a sign that Wisconsin would support Biden over the current occupant of the White House in November, since Kelly received significant Republican and White House support.

But there was another lurking fear that has not yet been overcome. As mentioned above, this election was the worst voter suppression effort I have ever witnessed. While some were amazed at the turnout despite the pandemic, the plain fact is that in the last comparable election, in April 2016, over 2.1 million votes were cast. In the April 2020 election, somewhat under 1.4 million votes were cast. While there is no way to know for sure how many people either chose not to vote due to the pandemic, or did not have their absentee ballot counted for a variety of reasons including getting lost in the mail, or lacking a witness, the fact that the turnout was down by over 1/3 with a net of over 700,000 fewer votes cast should trouble anyone concerned with free and fair elections.

One non-partisan lawsuit was filed before the election results were in by 14 Milwaukee residents who rightly claimed disenfranchisement due to the pandemic and the shut down of 175 out of 180 polling sites in Milwaukee causing voters to wait for hours to cast their ballot. We shall see whether any political parties or their surrogates file lawsuits, but my suspicion is that those who supported the winners will not file any suits to challenge the results of the election despite the obvious disenfranchisement.

Many are rightly concerned that Wisconsin’s suppressed election foreshadows the November Presidential election with mass disenfranchisement on a national scale. Others are concerned that the current occupant of the White House will seek to cancel or delay the election, or refuse to leave office if he loses the November election.

Those fears are exactly why Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Dan Kelly’s concession statement last night was so important. In an era when Americans are rightly concerned that their beloved 240+ year experiment in representative democracy may be on the verge of collapse, he deserves praise when he said,

The expiration of the time and authority loaned to me is a reminder that our system still works–that our Constitution endures through every test and trial, and that here in America the lawful will of the people shall always prevail.”

While the cynical among us will simply say that he gave a standard concession statement, I respectfully disagree. He was reminding every politician that in a functioning democracy, electoral power is time limited and borrowed from the voters. That is a very important statement for a conservative Republican to make, especially now when so many elected officials think they own their office.

I am glad Dan Kelly will no longer sit on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as his views are generally vile, like when he said, that “marriage is dead” because society has become more accepting of the idea of sex outside of matrimony. He also rues that the state has assumed “the authority to tell the baker to bake a cake” — that is, to keep the baker from turning away gay couples. He even calls the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage an “illegitimate exercise of State power.”

But an orderly transition of power by election is the sacred core of representative democracy, and for that, I am grateful to Dan Kelly for his well worded concession.

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For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive, effective systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.

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