Screenshot: NBC News

After suffering a Democratic sweep in statewide races in last month’s midterm elections, the Wisconsin GOP embarked on a project to limit the powers of incoming Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul. Today, Chuck Todd—who wrote an essay earlier this year calling on journalists to fight back against the “campaign to destroy the legitimacy of the American news media”—justified this blatant grab for power, with a nice dose of both sidesism.

Todd interviewed Evers today on Meet the Press, and his introduction contained some giant fucking whoppers (emphasis mine):

We’re going to turn now to a couple of end runs around the November election results. In Wisconsin the Republican legislature has approved a set of bills that essentially would strip some power from the newly elected governor and attorney general. “Why?” you might ask. Well, the newly elected governor, Tony Evers, and the newly elected attorney general, Josh Kaul, are newly elected Democrats. The newly defeated two-term governor Scott Walker has indicated that he does plan to sign the bills that would, among other things, give the Republican legislature control over some major appointments and reduce early voting, which tends to benefit the Democrats in Wisconsin, down to two weeks. Across the lake in Michigan, the Republican legislature is taking similar steps against the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general there as well. Now, this has happened before in many a legislature. Democrats in fact have done this in the past to Republican governors in lame duck sessions in other states.

Advertisement

First of all: “End runs around”? Wisconsin voters clearly preferred Democrats in this election, so proven by the fact that all of the Democrats running for statewide offices won. And due to some of the most gerrymandered maps in the country, the one win Wisconsin Republicans can claim was not exactly ever in jeopardy:

This isn’t an “end run around.” If this were any other country, what Republicans in Wisconsin (and Michigan) are doing would be called a coup. But, Todd helpfully reminds us later, this is something that the Democrats have done to Republicans, too! Except he offers zero examples of Democrats in any state drastically limiting the power of incoming executives ahead of their inaugurations. (It’s also worth noting that his characterization of early voting as tending to “benefit Democrats” is bewildering. Expanding access to the franchise helps voters and restricting that access hurts them, period.)

Advertisement

This is a talking point that’s straight out of the North Carolina GOP’s 2016 playbook, when the Republican-dominated legislature did the same thing to Roy Cooper after his defeat of Republican incumbent Pat McCrory in 2016. As NCGOP executive director and distraught barfer Dallas Woodhouse told a room full of reporters two years ago, the North Carolina Democratic Party, when it enjoyed mostly one-party rule, stripped powers from former lieutenant governor Jim Gardner before he took office.

The only problem? This happened decades ago—30 years, to be exact. It also happened when conservatives still held considerable sway in the Democratic coalition in North Carolina, enough to join together with Republicans to elect a House speaker the same year they were screwing over the Republican lieutenant governor.

Todd, however, gave no such examples. Just a quick aside reassuring potentially alarmed viewers that this isn’t out of the ordinary before moving onto his interview. You’ll be shocked to learn, by the way, that the interview itself wasn’t much better. Here are several of the questions Todd asked Evers, basically pleading with this guy—who, to be clear, has no leverage until he takes office next month—to pay lip service to compromise and bipartisanship or whatever the fuck (emphasis, again, mine):

Did you negotiate with him? Did you say, “You know what? Look, I know X is really important to you. I get that. But what’s with Y and Z here?” Was there a Y and Z? Did you go to him and say, “Look, I really think this part is just crazy. Please veto that. If you want to keep this, I get it”?

I’m curious. After you were elected and quickly we heard word that the Republican speaker and the Republican majority leader in the legislature there were considering these bills, did you reach out to them personally before the bill started going? And, and if you did, what was that conversation like?

Is there any part — you know, one of the things that the speaker said, he goes, “Well, in hindsight maybe we gave the governor too much power.” Take the partisan hat off a minute, all right? I know that, that perhaps many people read that comment tongue in cheek. But do you believe he’s right?

One of their rationales has been, “Well, Governor-elect Evers’ margins all came from two cities: Madison and Milwaukee. We have to represent the rest of the state.” What do you say to that charge? And, more importantly, you won a very narrow election. How do you reach across this divided state at this point?

Advertisement

All of this—all of it—is fucking embarrassing. Scott Walker himself couldn’t have asked more ridiculous questions of Evers here.

It’s nothing new that the political pundit class is mishandling the Wisconsin story in a major way, by attempting to force reality to gel with the narrative that this is just partisanship run amok rather than a slap in the face to Wisconsin voters and what they voted for. But Todd goes even further than that: He’s actively sanitizing the Wisconsin GOP’s attacks on democracy by acting like this is business as usual in politics. This does not bode well for the media getting it right before the next election.

For now, however, the Wisconsin and Michigan GOPs truly could not dream of better national coverage than what they’re getting right now.