On Nov. 10, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Republican state lawmakers proposed a hostile takeover of election management in their state. As Johnson told the New York Times, “Unfortunately, I probably don’t expect [Democrats] to follow the rules. And other people don’t either, and that’s the problem.” Johnson’s conclusion: The current system of bipartisan oversight by both parties should be abolished, and Republican legislators must be in control of the elections in which they are competing.
I spent more than two decades living and working overseas to advance democracy and credible elections — giving me plenty of opportunity to see the lengths to which autocrats will go to gain power. Even so, the proposed Wisconsin power grab is shocking in its brazenness. If this occurred in any of the countries where the United States provides aid, it would immediately be called out as a threat to democracy. U.S. diplomats would be writing furious cables, and decision makers would be threatening to cut off the flow of assistance. Yet we are conspicuously failing to hold ourselves to the same standard.