The Wisconsin Courts and the Crisis of Bourgeois Democracy

The decline of American capitalism has led to an increase in both social and political instability. The federal system of a central government along with fifty state governments, along with many “checks and balances,” provided remarkable political stability for the US capitalist class as it grew from a small country to the world’s dominant imperialist power.  However, dialectics explains that everything will turn into its opposite—and this is what has happened. The same system that provided political stability since the end of the Civil War and Reconstruction has led to intensifying conflict within the ruling class.

The main section of the ruling class has lost control of the Republican Party to Donald Trump and his supporters. Trump is willing to break all of the rules of behavior that the ruling class has imposed on itself, as it generally prefers to keep its differences behind closed doors. All of this has now burst into the open and the working class, the vast majority of society, is witnessing intra-class conflict on an unprecedented scale and being dragged into it. In addition to the many indictments against Trump, another drama is unfolding in Wisconsin.

Lenin explained that divisions in the ruling class are among the objective factors that portend the coming of a revolution. / Image: Pyotr Otsup, public domain

The Wisconsin state legislature has gerrymandered its districts to ensure that the Republicans have large majorities in both houses. As an example they have a supermajority in the state Senate even though the Democratic Governor and Attorney General received more votes statewide.  On April 4, 2023, Janet Protasiewicz was elected as a new state Supreme Court judge, by an 11-point margin statewide. This was expected to shift the balance on the nine-member Wisconsin Supreme Court, especially on the questions of abortion and gerrymandering, posing a direct challenge to the Republicans’ control of the legislature.

In response, the Republicans are set to impeach this newly elected judge, which would prevent her from voting on several key cases, and could lead to her removal altogether. However, such blatantly partisan use of the impeachment provision was not intended by the framers of the Constitution, and runs counter to the rights of those who elected Protasiewicz.

As Marxists, we take no sides in the infighting among the bourgeois and their representatives. However, incidents like this clearly expose bourgeois democracy for the sham that it is—it is always one or another wing of the ruling class that really calls the shots! Furthermore, this situation has serious implications for the broader stability of bourgeois rule.

In Article IV, Section 4 of the US Constitution, it states: “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union, a Republican Form of Government …” If the impeachment takes place, will the federal government intervene? If it did, it would be unprecedented. The federal power took no such action at the end of Reconstruction, even as right-wing terrorism was used against Black Americans and they were disenfranchised.

Lenin explained that divisions in the ruling class and its inability to govern in the traditional way are among the objective factors that portend the coming of a revolution. These splits at the top provide openings for the workers to mobilize and take matters into their own hands. There can be no doubt that the rising instability is part of the reason so many are looking to the communists to show an alternative to decaying US capitalism and its corrupt institutions.

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