The Tyranny of Emergency | MacIver Institute

The Tyranny of Emergency | MacIver Institute

As Dan O’Donnell writes, Governor Evers is ruling Wisconsin like the tyrant Democrats pretended Donald Trump to be. So why are they applauding it?

February 5, 2021

Perspective by Dan O’Donnell

For four straight years, Democrat shrieking over President Trump potentially becoming a dictator was nearly deafening.  He never actually ruled in anything approaching an autocratic manner, of course, but each new executive order or tweet brought the same hysterical response: “This is a grave threat to our democracy!”

Sympathetic media outlets parroted this nonsensical hyperbole so effortlessly and so regularly that the Washington Post even changed its slogan to the nauseatingly maudlin “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

Today, though, more than two weeks after Trump left office without ever coming close to killing the republic, there has emerged a genuine threat to constitutional governance—yet strangely enough, neither Democrats nor the media seem to be paying it much attention.

Their silence is, in fact, even more deafening than their four years of shrieking.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has for the past six months openly defied both the letter and spirit of state law, willfully and unconstitutionally usurped the authority of the State Legislature, and grossly abused his ability to grant himself nearly limitless emergency powers.

He has, in other words, governed as the dictator that Democrats and the media always pretended Trump to be.

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When this latest public health emergency expires in early April, Wisconsin will have spent 360 of the past 391 days in a state of emergency that was never once extended by joint resolution of the Legislature, which state law clearly and obviously requires.

On Thursday—roughly an hour after the Wisconsin Assembly joined the Senate in passing a joint resolution to end Evers’ fifth(!) public health emergency in the past year—the Governor issued a sixth.  Even though COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have all crashed in Wisconsin since their peaks in mid-to-late Autumn, Evers is pretending that the state is still somehow in the middle of a unique and novel crisis that can only be managed through autocratic rule.

When this latest public health emergency expires in early April, Wisconsin will have spent 360 of the past 391 days in a state of emergency that was never once extended by joint resolution of the Legislature, which state law clearly and obviously requires.

Wisconsin Statute § 323.10, which Evers has ironically cited in each one of his six emergency declarations, expressly provides that “a state of emergency shall not exceed 60 days, unless the state of emergency is extended by joint resolution of the legislature.”

It does not get much clearer than this, so Evers has unlawfully and unconstitutionally attempted to get around it by simply issuing a new emergency declaration as soon as an old one expires.  This not only violates the clear letter of the law, but it also violates its spirit.  Because the existence of a state of emergency allows the Governor to bypass the Legislature altogether in both administering aid and crafting administrative rules, the Legislature must consent to giving up much, if not all, of its power.

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Since individual Assembly representatives and Senators are each elected to represent a portion of the people in the Legislature’s two chambers, it may be accurately stated that Evers usurping power directly from the people through his ongoing abuse of emergency authority.

This is the very definition of a dictatorship, right down to the justification for it: The situation is simply too dire for my opponents’ obstructionism.  We need to act now!  People will die if we don’t!

Were he at all interested in constitutional, lawful governance, Evers could simply work with the Legislature to extend the mask mandate while allowing his never-ending public health emergencies to expire.

“Our fight against this virus isn’t over–it’s not going away, especially as we see mutations of this virus in our state and others,” Evers said in a video address Thursday afternoon.  “Wearing a mask is the most basic thing we can do to keep each other safe. If the Legislature keeps playing politics and we don’t keep wearing masks, we’re going to see more preventable deaths, and it’s going to take even longer to get our state and our economy back on track.”

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While it is true that the only thing Evers has done with his nearly yearlong public health emergency is to reissue a statewide mask mandate, being a rather wimpy, ineffectual dictator does not justify the assumption of dictatorial authority.  Were he at all interested in constitutional, lawful governance, Evers could simply work with the Legislature to extend the mask mandate while allowing his never-ending public health emergencies to expire.

But dictators can’t be bothered with the legislative process when there are lives to be saved, and Evers seems content to continue on this unsustainable path, no matter how fraught it may be.  Because of his imperiousness, Wisconsin finds itself smack dab in the middle of a constitutional crisis.

It is therefore imperative that the State Supreme Court step in and put an end to this tyranny by emergency.  Evers has for more than six months thumbed his nose at the Separation of Powers, the Wisconsin statutes, and the Rule of Law itself.  He has in every way become the autocrat that Democrats kept warning about.

Only now when the dictator issues a new decree, they’re smiling behind their masks.

 

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