We in western Wisconsin live in the most-heavily gerrymandered region of our state; Wisconsin, in turn, is one of the most-heavily gerrymandered states in our country. Gerrymandering, the practice of drawing a set of boundaries to deny one party its fair share of representation, has been practiced mercilessly by the Republican Party of Wisconsin.
Gerrymandering gives Republicans an outsized influence over the legislative agenda—what gets considered, and what doesn’t. Those elected from districts created to minimize opposing voters are expected to “dance with them that brung you,” (Molly Ivins, 1999).
The latest example of this “danse macabre” is the Republicans’ stubborn refusal to expand healthcare coverage to 91,000 Wisconsin residents and reject the accompanying $1.6 billion in federal aid. Republicans are saying “no” to a funded healthcare program for individuals earning less than $20,040/yr and to families with family income below $30,000.
This denial of healthcare access to those with limited income is not just absurd, but also completely coldhearted, given the pandemic and the losses, suffering, and stresses it created. Wisconsin remains one of the few states continuing to deny this needed health care coverage to their residents.
If commonsense and compassion weren’t enough to persuade, one might wish that evidence of health-promotion and fiscal benefits might. A study has been published looking at the impact of states accepting, rather than turning away, Medicaid expansion dollars from the federal government. Among states that expanded the Medicaid safety net, individuals and communities benefited, as did hospitals, healthcare providers, and the states as whole.
I am afraid, however, that the furious dancing required by GOP may preclude careful consideration of the evidence.
Declaring “Enough politics”, Democratic Governor Tony Evers signed an executive disorder calling the legislature into special session to accept the federal funding, to spur development, and to ease the tax burden on challenged working families.
Sadly, the GOP-controlled legislature to date has thrown away nearly 3 billion dollars, and is poised to throw away more. Demonizing Obamacare is part of their platform. They are unmoved by the numbers of Wisconsin families left, thanks to cold-heartedness, without access to healthcare.
Republican legislators are lining up for this particular dance, accusing Gov. Evers of “playing politics” and “political agenda” with his proposal to combine the expansion of BadgerCare with state-wide economic development initiatives. They promise “no action” on this important proposal, tone-deaf to the opportunities and needs of Wisconsin residents.
Gerrymandering has pushed the will of the majority to the sidelines, leaving most Wisconsinites as spectators to a dance that makes little sense. We need to be telling our friends and neighbors this: a legislature bound not to the voters but to a harsh and foolhardy ideology is undemocratic by its nature, and hurts us all.