AuthorConniff, Ruth

Republicans and rightwing groups just lost the most expensive state supreme court race in U.S. history in Wisconsin, endangering Republican rule in a closely divided swing state and giving Democrats a boost ahead of the 2024 elections.

Along with the likely challenges to a gerrymandered voting map that heavily favors Republicans and Wisconsin's draconian 1849 abortion ban--both of which are expected to come before the court shortly--the new liberal majority on Wisconsin's highest court also threatens the larger architecture of minority rule. Republicans and their allies have leaned heavily on the friendly forum of the previously conservative court to help GOP legislative leaders seize powers from Wisconsin's Democratic Governor Tony Evers. The ideological shift on the court is particularly important because it was only by a narrow, one-vote margin that the justices rejected the Trump campaigns effort to overturn Joe Biden's presidential victory in Wisconsin in the 2020 election.

Right-wingers are in the process of regrouping after their loss in Wisconsin. Some Republicans point out that conservative candidate Daniel Kelly's hardline anti-abortion stance undermined support among women, and recommend that Republicans tack to the middle, or at least avoid advocating ever more draconian abortion restrictions in a post-Roe America.

But the larger trend across the country appears to be for the GOP to lean even harder into divisive, culture-war politics. Republicans are working to drive turnout by an angry, motivated voting base while at the same time promoting voting restrictions in an effort to keep the majority from being heard.

Shortly after the GOP lost its purchase on the Wisconsin high court, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), a well-funded rightwing law firm and think tank, put out a press release highlighting a tabloid-style story about a transgender student getting undressed in the girls' locker room at a local high school.

This is the same group that has championed the Republican side in supreme court cases on redistricting, "ballot harvesting," and other "election fraud" claims and voter-suppression efforts. It also supported Republican efforts to fight the ability of public health officials to enact pandemic restrictions and filed lawsuits defending the GOP legislature's power grab from the Democratic governor and attorney general.

Now that the door is closing to the state supreme court, WILL is heading in a different...

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