News & Politics

Wisconsin Bully Gov. Scott Walker's New Hard Core Right-Wing Message

Walker plays both aggressor and victim in appeal to Koch's and the rest.

Photo Credit: C-SPAN.org

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is fine-tuning a new stump speech that demonizes unions and protesters, recounts how he and his wife received death threats as he went after labor, says God was preparing him then to run for president now, and notes he has repeatedly won office in a blue state.

Walker appeared to be testing many of these same storylines when speaking at late January’s Iowa Freedom Summit, an event hosted by Rep. Steven King, a Tea Party Republican, and sponsored by various Koch brother-funded groups. Walker repeated them on Monday night in a 30-minute conference call to Iowa Republicans, according to the Des Moines Register:

“One threatened to ‘gut my wife like a deer,’ and another note said that if his wife didn’t stop him, he’d be ‘the first Wisconsin governor ever assassinated,’ he [Walker] said.

“Part of me looks back and thinks that maybe God put me and my family through all this for a purpose – and it wasn’t just to get things done in Wisconsin, and it wasn’t just to win all those elections in a state that normally doesn’t go Republican. Maybe it was to set us to... help get our country on the right track.”

Walker also took swipes at both Jeb Bush, the ex-Florida GOP governor, and at Hillary Clinton, calling them “names from the past.” His anti-union boasts, smears against protesters, playing the victim—when he launched the war against labor—and suggestion that all of this might be a divine plan, are a dismal reminder how far to the right the Republican Party has gone.

Walker’s vain narrative, where he casts himself as a conservative hero, pleased Republicans on the call, according to the Register. Walker said that he “absolutely” could use his playbook in “defeating unions” to “take on liberals in Washington,” control spending and repeal Obamacare, the newspaper said. Walker said, “in the end we won," referring to raising public employee contributions to health plans and his gutting of collective bargaining rights.

Walker’s comments on Monday night echoed what he said at the Iowa Freedom Summit, where he also bragged that his attack on unions sparked the protests that turned into the Occupy Movement—prompting him to “apologize” to Wall Street—as he said that government wasn’t the “enemy,” but public employee unions were.    

“I think the biggest challenge for us, or for me personally, were all the death threats and the visits to our home,” he said at the Summit, saying that his wife, parents and sons were threatened. “Time and time again the protesters were trying to intimidate us. But all they did was remind me how important it was to stand up for the people of my state, and remind me why I ran for governor.”

Walker’s message of “go big, go bold, and get the job done” seemed to resonate, the Register said. On Monday’s night conference call, he also said that he was one of the younger party leaders who Mitt Romney referred to when the 2012 nominee announced that he would not run again to make way for new blood.

The salience of Walker’s messages—which also include boasts about being anti-abortion, loosening handgun controls, increasingly policing the polls, cutting state taxes and spending, and opposing Obamacare—is worth watching because it appears to set Walker apart from the GOP’s other 2016 presidential hopefuls. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also brags about his conservative credentials and blue-state victories, but he is not a preacher's son or extreme as Walker. Jeb Bush took similar right-wing stances two decades ago before becoming Florida governor, but is now positioning himself as more of a pro-business moderate.

It may be that Walker’s vanities will ultimately be his undoing as the public pays attention and sees an increasingly smug, self-satisfied and divisive right-winger. But the GOP presidential nominating process plays to a party with an active Tea Party wing, which means that unlike other contenders who lack a record attacking labor and snubbing mass protests (Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, etc.) that Walker has potential.

Indeed, should Florida’s Bush and Wisconsin’s Walker end up on the 2016 ticket, that would pose tough hurdles for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Both Florida and Wisconsin, with 39 Electoral College votes between them, went for Obama in 2012. So did Iowa, Michigan and Ohio, which all now have GOP governors and another 40 Electoral College votes. Apart from Walker’s red-meat rhetoric, flipping those 2012 Obama states will surely be on GOP minds.

 

 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

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