Keller @ Large: Lame Duck Power Grabs

By Jon Keller, CBS Boston (Keller @ Large)

BOSTON (CBS) – The lame duck period during a transfer of power is often an opportunity for mischief.

Remember when President Clinton on his last day in office pardoned a notorious tax cheat whose wife was a big-time donor to the Clintons?

But that was small potatoes compared with the stunts Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan are pulling after losing power in last month’s elections.

In Wisconsin, where voters elected a Democratic governor and attorney general, Republicans narrowly passed a bill limiting early voting that tends to favor Democrats and curbs the power of governor-elect Tony Evers.

“I’m concerned,” says State Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R), the Senate majority leader, who makes no bones what this is all about. “I think that Governor-elect Evers is going to bring a liberal agenda to Wisconsin.”

“This bill was only written because Republicans are sore losers,” counters Democratic State Assemblywoman Katrina Shankland. “They lost statewide elections and they decided as a result to take away power from the Governor and Attorney General when they had this opportunity for eight years”

And in Michigan, a similar scenario, with Republicans trying to water down the authority of a new Democratic governor, attorney general and secretary of state.

“They can only win by cheating,” said one protester at the Wisconsin state house. “And that’s what they’re doing in there right now, they’re a bunch of cowards”

Not the first time we’ve seen lame-duck power grabs, but still a symptom of our ever-widening partisan divide.

In Michigan, Wisconsin and other states the November results showed the widest urban vs. rural split in recent memory, and when you add that rift to the usual partisan rancor, you’ve got a formula that’s toxic for a smooth-running democracy.

If this trend continues, expect to see more of these bitter battles.