Wisconsin's Gov. Walker Appeals to CPAC Crowd for Help Fending Off Recall
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is a hero -- just ask him. A hero just like George Washington, just like Benjamin Franklin. Keynoting the Ronald Reagan banquet at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday night, Walker spoke of his quest to end collective bargaining for his state's public employees as a great cause, and then spoke of his own visit to Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, where it dawned on him that the founders were ordinary people, just like him -- and the well-heeled patrons at CPAC's $275-a-plate* dinner.
To the more cynical, it seemed that CPAC gave one of its prime podium slots to raise money for Walker's upcoming battle to save his governorship in the looming recall election, set in motion when opponents of his phenomenal power grab for the collective bargaining rights of public employees collected more than 1 million signatures on petitions calling for the special election, which is expected to take place in May or June.
"What's at stake in this election is fundamentally about courage..." he said. "And Lord help us if we fail...I believe that if we fail, this sets aside any courageous act in American politics for at least a decade, if not a generation."
Walker appealed to the CPAC crowd for three things: messaging (which he described as "telling the truth"), "bodies" for the "ground game," and, of course, money. He said it's been estimated that some $70 million will be spent on the recall election, and painted himself as an heroic David facing a Goliath he consistently referred to as the "big government unions," who, he said would be "shipping thousands of bodies" into his state to organize for the election.
The embattled Wisconsin governor painted a picture of his state's public school teachers as people who went into the profession for the right reasons, "but somewhere along the way they've been co-opted by a big government union boss..." All he did was ride in on his white horse to liberate them, and "instead let them go back to where their heart was and teach our kids instead of having to be worried about grievances and union regulations and collective bargaining."
"That is what this is all about," he said.
And what kind of thanks did he get? A recall election. Go figure.
After all, he only did "the right thing," thinking not about his own political future, but about the future of his children and their children, he said.
Just like the founders. "Think about it: It was Frankin who said, if we don't all hang together, we'll surely hang separately. I mean, that's commitment, that's dedication...," he said. "That's what made America great. Let this be one of those moments."
He never mentioned the name "David Koch," to whom he owes much of what political life he has enjoyed up until now. His stint as the Milwaukee County executive was supported by Koch's Americans For Prosperity Foundation, and Koch Industries' PAC was one of the largest contributors to his gubernatorial campaign. The anti-collective-bargaining law that Walker rammed through the Wisconsin legislature in March was based on model legislation drafted by the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council.
In fact, it was something of a Koch-does-Wisconsin night at CPAC's big Reagan bash. Introducing Walker was Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who won that vaunted position after the sweep of Koch-backed candidates in Wisconsin's 2010 elections, when Priebus headed the state party. Priebus was alsoimplicated in the vote-caging scheme cooked up by Mark Block, then Wisconsin state director of Americans For Prosperity, who went on to "manage" (if you can call it that) the Herman Cain for President campaign.
If Walker sounded a bit delusional about his role in the nation's history, Priebus was downright toxic, focusing most of his remarks on President Barack Obama, whom he painted as hell-bent on destroying America.
"Barack Obama's priorities are not America's priorities...This is a president that would rather trash the Constitution than preserve our rights," Priebus said. "A president that would rather defer to the United Nations than defend the United States. We serve the principles of Jefferson and Washington and Madison; Obama serves the demands of union bosses, the central planners and elitist bureaucrats."
And then, like nearly every speaker who has graced the CPAC podium over the last two days, Priebus painted the Obama administration's policy of ensuring fundamental health care to American women in the form of contraception as a trampling of religious freedom.
"He sacrificed the first amendment at the altar of big government because for him, Obamacare is more sacred than the Bill of Rights," Priebus said. "We have to win this election, or we'll lose America."
But, Priebus said, "There's a fight that we have to win before November, and that's in Wisconsin. Because, otherwise, Wisconsin will return to the days when public workers had full union representation. And that would be just terrible. At least that's what, it would be safe to assume, David Koch thinks.
*UPDATE: This post has been corrected. An earlier version misstated the price for the CPAC Ronald Reagan Banquet as $300. The correct price is $275.
Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington correspondent. Follow her on Twitter: @addiestan