Politics you should care about

Jackson Rudoff, Opinion Editor

Michael Flynn to receive little jail time

President Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn returned to headlines this past week. Robert Mueller, the head of a Justice Department inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election, announced Flynn had cooperated extensively with the investigation and should be given little, if any, jail time for lying to prosecutors early in the investigation.

While it remains ambiguous why Flynn was untruthful about his conversations with a Russian operative, this development brought Mueller’s investigation back into the spotlight after a prolonged quiet period.

Since taking on his role as Special Counsel in 2017, Mueller has faced considerable opposition from Trump, his supporters and other right-wing figures. In addition to criticisms regarding the legitimacy of his work, Mueller has even endured bizarre accusations about his personal character, including a fabricated accusation of sexual assault.

While it is still unknown exactly how much or what information Flynn divulged, the Justice Department indicated that his level of cooperation encouraged the same from others implicated in the inquiry. Documents detailing Flynn’s statements were released, but his comments will need to be judged on length rather than content, as nearly every bit of information was redacted.

Despite the uncertainty that still surrounds the investigation, progress is clearly being made. Mueller’s findings could lead directly to an impeachment hearing—if Congress chooses to indict—demonstrating just how high the stakes are if he recommends official prosecutory action on the part of the Justice Department. Flynn’s collaboration with investigators is either a sign of the walls caving in around Trump’s team, or that there was in fact not much for him to hide. Either way, this will be one of the most interesting and controversial experiments regarding American democracy perhaps since Watergate.

Wisconsin’s governor will struggle to govern

State politics will often fly under the radar by nature. Unless the conflict is within your own state, there seems to be little reason to care.

But you would be falling into a trap if you ignore what’s occurring in Wisconsin. On Wednesday, the state legislature worked deep into the night and into the early morning passing a series of bills restricting the power of the governor. The most important of these provisions restricted the governor’s ability to create or participate in the construction of laws. At the same time, it reserved the powers stripped from the executive to be granted to the legislature.

What was supposed to be a lame-duck period has rapidly evolved into an endeavor for partisan entrenchment.

Voters in Wisconsin ended the leadership of Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the midterm elections by electing Democrat Tony Evers. The overwhelmingly Republican state legislature responded with what is essentially a nullification of the voters’ choice, a gross infringement on the doctrine of separation of powers.

Unfortunately, it is not surprising the Republican caucus could undertake such a drastic effort. Wisconsin is one of the most gerrymandered states in America and was at the center of a major Supreme Court case until this past summer. But nothing came of the case, which enabled Republicans to win 63 out of the 99 state legislature seats despite earning 190,000 less votes.   

This may be one of the most dire actions resulting from a gerrymandered state government yet seen, though. Regardless of your political affiliation, you must recognize the dangerous precedent this situation establishes. It simply encourages any state legislature with a partisan supermajority to bolster its own power when it faces opposition from another branch.

As long as we continue to ignore state politics, however, these sorts of predatory political actions will proceed without obstruction.