Republicans have long claimed to be the party of small government. Their policies almost always tend to revolve around opposition to the dreaded “government overreach,” a key talking point of theirs. Nowadays, they stand united against anything that has to do with vaccines & masks. Historically, they’ve opposed seat belt laws & taxing cigarettes, among other widely popular policy proposals. They stand for individual liberty!
That is, unless it is your right not to be kidnapped and put in a cage or murdered in the street. Republicans stand firmly behind the armed gangs of terrorists that patrol our communities and “keep us in line.” On its face, a believer in small government supporting police reeks of hypocrisy. Until you consider that these believers in small government are the ideological descendants of slave owners and genociders and that the function of the police is to maintain white supremacy and disrupt worker collaboration & unionization. They are class traitors plain and simple. Which is why “small government” conservatives support them. They’re pawns in the game against the poor.
The immediate appearance of hypocrisy has faded now, hasn’t it? It’s the same reason why the NRA didn’t defend Philando Castille. Why they didn’t rally to support Kenneth Walker, who defended himself against home invaders who murdered his girlfriend, Breonna Taylor. The republican vision of small government applies to white, cis, straight (WCS) people and no one else. Accordingly, the taxes taken from WCS people are only to be used for oppressing anyone else. It is acceptable to them, both party leaders and their followers.
They can claim all they want that they’re the party of small government and wave their gadsden flags, all the while they bloat the budgets for police locally, and the military nationally.
They whip out that Reagan quote: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” whenever they want to refute a government project to help people, all the while they’ll call for police at the sight of black kid in their neighborhood. For them, Reagan’s words are far less terrifying when said by a cop.
In Wisconsin’s legislature
This leaves us all in a shit position, however. This country was designed to be ruled by the minority—landowning white men. With a stranglehold on the state’s legislature, Wisconsin’s conservatives also claim to oppose big government, but just as is the case nationally, that only applies when it comes to spreading disease and exploiting workers. In fact, Sen. Ron Johnson has made national spotlight for the abject ignorance behind some of his statements regarding covid-19.
And again, just like the national party, they are more than happy to expand government power and invasiveness when it comes to residents, especially residents who they consider disposable and inhuman—increasing penalties, reducing the civil liberties of formerly incarcerated people, expanding the budgets and resources of police departments, and dismantling resources for people who are returning to their communities from prisons.
There is a flurry of such bills working their way through the legislature right now. Many are in the assembly committees on prisons, or public safety, or the senate committee on public safety. A few highlights:
- AB228 would let police hold people in emergency detention without a hearing longer
- AB440 increases prison time for marijuana possession or resin production
- AB520 makes permanent restraining orders mandatory for survivors of sexual assault, disempowering them and making some informal restorative justice processes legally impossible
- AB219 let the DOC take COVID stimulus money from their captives
- AB42 increases penalties for hurting someone in their home
- AB139 lets the DOC take $5,000 from people convicted of breaking sex work laws
- AB602 requires schools to report more crimes, and uses those reports to limit funding, using big government intervention to widen the education inequality gap
- AB174 gives people on supervision a revocations when charged with a crime, regardless of if they get convicted
- AB253 expands state surveillance capabilities
- AB409 criminalizes being too mean to cops
- AB44 and AB83 tries to address elder abuse and stalking by enhancing penalties and expanding scope of laws
- AB91 enhances penalty for spitting at a prosecutor
- AB114 further protects police from local oversight
- AB199 makes it easier to convict kids of crimes
Some ABOLISHmke collaborators made it to a public hearing on three other bills that tweak and accommodate Wisconsin’s disastrous prison system last month. Here’s a video of their testimonies:
Meanwhile, the return of “normal” court and revocation hearings is combined with the absence of protections for people who are facing eviction and unemployment. Poverty is at the root of nearly all crime. What these big government conservatives are doing is ensuring that people have limited access to the resources they need, thereby making “criminal” activity seem like it’s the only option for many people living in impoverished conditions. The steps taken to increase the criminalization of poverty, sex work and addiction, among other things, doesn’t reduce these things in the world—it bolsters prisons.
Unsurprisingly, the committee passed all three of these bills. Unfortunately, even the democrats voted for stricter ankle monitor use and DOC billboard recruitment. Two of the three (Bowen and Stubbs) voted for letting Franklin school district erase youth held at the HOC from their district report cards.
Democratic support means these bills are likely to pass the full legislature and get signed into law by governor Evers. Foolishly, many democrats get on board with their opposition’s efforts, leading to bipartisan support for expansions of the state’s racially targeted prison and policing systems. Too many of the democrats on these councils cede ground to these openly white supremacist and anti-progress republicans, in hopes that that same ground will be ceded back when they call in the return-favor.
We know this won’t happen. Ever. The gridlock is endless—bipartisanship is dead.