Scott Walker’s Unsurprising Demise

Republican governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26
Republican governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26 (Gage Skidmore)

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker dropped out of his Republican Party’s presidential contest on Monday, ending a two-month campaign that saw his popularity plummet.

Political pundits in the United States had been scratching their heads over Walker’s steady demise in the polls since he announced his candidacy in July. But if there was a surprise, it’s that Republican voters were so quick to see through him. Read more “Scott Walker’s Unsurprising Demise”

Walker’s Sensible Plan to Replace Obamacare

Republican governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26
Republican governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26 (Gage Skidmore)

Scott Walker’s campaign for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination has so far not impressed this blog. The governor of Wisconsin seems to be trying to appeal to every constituency in his party at once and the easiest way to do that is not say anything meaningful.

On Tuesday, he finally took a step toward defining what, if nominated and elected, he would actually do. And it’s not at all bad. Read more “Walker’s Sensible Plan to Replace Obamacare”

Walker Shrinks from Challenging Republican Orthodoxies

Republican governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26
Republican governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26 (Gage Skidmore)

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker bills himself as a fighter who will do the right thing even if it is unpopular. But when it comes to challenging some of the orthodoxies of his own party, he shrinks.

“My record shows that I know how to fight and win,” Walker said earlier this month when he announced his candidacy for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in Waukesha.

His signature achievement as governor was facing down the unions in Wisconsin when he enacted legislation that curtailed the collective bargaining rights of public workers. The law, which helped shrink a multibillion dollar state deficit, attracted national attention. Tens of thousands of labor sympathizers descended on Madison, Wisconsin’s capital, to protest it. President Barack Obama weighed in, accusing Walker of unleashing an “assault” on trade unions. The governor had to fight a recall election — which he won with 53 percent support.

The episode made Walker a hero of the right. He is third in the polls, after former Florida governor Jeb Bush and property tycoon Donald Trump, for his party’s 2016 presidential nomination. His favorability rating is 56 percent, according to a recent Public Policy Polling survey (PDF) — higher than most candidates, including Bush.

So why is he so afraid to potentially unnerve reactionaries in his party who are more likely to vote for a more outspoken social conservative in the primaries anyway? Read more “Walker Shrinks from Challenging Republican Orthodoxies”

Scott Walker: Strong on Paper, Weak on Closer Inspection

Republican governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26
Republican governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26 (Gage Skidmore)

Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, announced he would stand for his party’s presidential nomination on Monday. While a more credible opponent to the frontrunner, Jeb Bush, than most of the other dozen contenders, Walker could yet struggle to come out on top.

Walker’s candidacy had been expected for months and was even announced in a Twitter message sent out in the governor’s name on Friday before it was quickly deleted.

A likable Midwesterner who gained national fame in 2012 when he saw off a recall challenge after curtailing the collective bargaining rights of some public workers, Walker could seek to unify social conservatives and the more pragmatic, business-friendly wing of the party. But both constituencies also have their doubts.

Social conservatives wonder if Walker is really one of them. Despite coming out strongly against the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality last month, Walker attended a family gay wedding reception and his wife has said she doesn’t share his position. He also reversed his earlier position in favor of giving illegal aliens in the United States a path to citizenship.

On abortion, he switched the other way. During his last campaign, Walker said decisions about terminating a pregnancy should be kept between a woman and her doctor. Yet as governor, he outlawed abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy.

The “establishment” of the Republican Party worries more about Walker’s foreign policy views.

Earlier this year, he seemed to compare fighting the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria with battling unions in Wisconsin, saying he had the “confidence” to lead because he “took on” 100,000 protesters in Madison.

Walker rather seems overly confident in the positive effect of American leadership, saying the country wouldn’t face so many crises abroad if only it had a “strong president” who made “serious statements.”

Perhaps Walker will wise up as a candidate. But his simple rhetoric isn’t resonating so far with either neoconservatives, who advocate a muscular foreign policy, or more thoughtful conservatives, who worry if America hasn’t overstretched.

Both also have a better candidate in Jeb Bush who seeks to position himself between the realism of his father, George H.W., and the knee-jerk interventionism of his brother, George W. Bush, both former presidents.

Social conservatives also have better candidates to choose from, including Ted Cruz and Rick Perry, both from Texas, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Nobody doubts their views on abortion, gay rights or immigration. All three are more popular with evangelics who make up a sizable voting bloc in the Republican Party.

Walker’s appeal rests primarily on his reputation as a union busters and a tax cutter and the possibility that he might persuade blue-collar voters in the Midwest to give Republicans another chance. Most haven’t voted Republican since Ronald Reagan left office.

But these so-called “Reagan Democrats” didn’t necessarily share Republicans’ zeal for capitalism, globalization and public sector layoffs when they voted for them in the 1980s. They are more likely to support Democrats and their regulation, protectionism and big state — except when that spectacularly fails, as Reagan convincingly argued had happened in the 1970s.

Nor is this shrinking Rust Best electorate the one Republicans need to win most. The voters they really need to become a national party again aren’t all white. They are better-educated and better-off. They live in major cities and suburbs in states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia — which between them have eighty out of the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

These voters tend to favor lower taxes and less government but they are put off by Republican reactionaries who are still fighting what they consider to be yesterday’s battles, such as resisting President Barack Obama’s health reforms or entertaining constitutional reform to criminalize gay marriage.

Jeb Bush recognized as much two years ago when he said the Republican Party had become become “way too reactionary. Way too against whatever someone’s for.”

Unlike Bush and his protégé Marco Rubio, who are both comfortable in an America that is racially more diverse and socially more liberal, Walker seems to be on the side of the disgruntled minority that regrets everything Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 symbolized. If he wins the nomination, it could show Republicans have yet to come to terms with the twenty-first century — and they would probably lose the presidency for a third time in a row.

Governors “Vanguard” of Republican Reform Agenda

There’s a good reason why Republicans asked New Jersey governor Chris Christie to deliver the keynote address for their national convention in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday. He has spearheaded conservative reform efforts in an otherwise largely Democratic state, proving the potentially widespread appeal of his party’s economic and fiscal policies.

Since Republicans won six additional governorships in 2010, including those of traditional Democratic states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (Christie won election a year earlier), they have made fiscal reform their priority, often at the expense of their popularity, if temporarily. Read more “Governors “Vanguard” of Republican Reform Agenda”

Wisconsin Republicans Triumph in Union Fight

Even as thousands of protesters turned out in the streets of Madison, Wisconsin’s capital, once again, Republicans in the state assembly voted to weaken the collective bargaining powers of state workers on Thursday.

Republicans in the state senate approved the measure in a controversial move Wednesday evening, getting around a Democratic walkout by stripping financial provisions from the budget repair bill.

Opposition members had fled to neighboring Illinois to prevent the legislature from attaining a quorum and enacting reforms which they believe constitute an unnecessary attack on the rights of public employees. Republicans were able to move ahead by voting only on the nonfinancial aspects of Governor Scott Walker’s fiscal plan.

The Wisconsin governor has defied union protests to enact deep spending cuts and force public workers to contribute a greater part of their income to pension and health-care savings — changes that, according to the governor, would put them more in line with the private sector.

What sparked the demonstrations was Walker’s intention to forbid public workers from bargaining collectively except for pay increases that match inflation. Public sector workers could still organize but unions would be prohibited from requiring them to pay dues.

Opponents of the governor’s agenda allege that the state’s budget woes were wholly caused by his tax relief for businesses — which is simply untrue. Wisconsin will have to cope with a $3.6 billion shortfall over the next two years. Walker’s tax cuts haven’t even taken effect yet. Read more “Wisconsin Republicans Triumph in Union Fight”

Wisconsin Governor Defies Union Protests

All eyes are on Wisconsin this week where union members have taken to the streets by the tens of thousands to protest the Republican governor’s plan to strip them of their collective bargaining rights.

Faced with a $137 million shortfall this year and a $3.6 billion deficit for the upcoming two fiscal years, Governor Scott Walker wants to force public workers to contribute a greater part of their income to pension and health-care savings — changes that, according to the governor, would put them more in line with the private sector. The measure is expected to save the state some $300 million over the next two years.

What has drawn fierce criticism from unions is Walker’s proposal to forbid them from bargaining collectively except for pay increases that match inflation. Public sector workers could still organize but unions would be prohibited from requiring workers to pay dues.

Governor Walker recalled his time as a county executive on Fox News Sunday to explain the move, noting that municipalities and local school districts can’t make cutbacks if unions stand in their way. “I want to give those local governments the tools they need to balance the budget now and in the future,” he said. “They can’t do that with the current collective bargaining laws in the state.”

Police, firefighters and state troopers would be exempt from the changes. Critics of the governor’s policy have pointed out that their unions contributed to his campaign whereas the teachers union, the most powerful in Wisconsin, did not.

Thousands of teachers demonstrated in the capital this week, carrying signs that compared Walker to the ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak while schools were forced to cancel classes. Democratic lawmakers fled the state to prevent the legislation from being enacted while national activists poured in to support the protests.

Walker has characterized the opposition’s move as a “stunt” and urged them to “come home” to do their jobs.

Even if the protests are unusual in their scale, Walker pointed out that more than 300,000 state and local workers weren’t there but “were doing their job, doing what they’re paid to do” instead. “We appreciate that.”

But most importantly, there are 5.5 million people in the state, taxpayers who, by and large, are sacrificing in their own jobs in the private-sector paying much more than the 5.8 percent for pension and 12.6 percent for health care I’m asking for — in fact, in many cases, two or three times that amount.

In what is traditionally a progressive state, Republicans won the governorship and majorities in both houses of the legislature in November. Walker promised to cut state wages and benefits during his campaign while repealing tax increases for high incomes and small businesses.

President Barack Obama entered the debate on Wednesday, saying Walker had unleashed “an assault” on unions. “I think everybody’s got to make some adjustments,” he said, “but I think it’s also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens.”

Walker countered on Friday that his focus is on reducing spending.

“It would be wise for the president and others in Washington to focus on balancing their budget, which they’re a long way from doing,” he told Fox News.

He denied being a union buster. Workers “can continue to vote to certify that union and they can continue to voluntarily have those union dues and write the check out and give it to the union to make their case,” he said, “but they shouldn’t be forced to be a part of this if that’s not what they want to do.”

The conservative Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk has argued that stripping workers in the public sector of their collective bargaining rights is far from a radical proposal.

Up through the 1950s, unions widely agreed that collective bargaining had no place in government.

But starting with Wisconsin in 1959, states decided otherwise.

The influx of dues and members quickly changed the union movement’s tune, and collective bargaining in government is now widespread. As a result unions can now insist on laws that serve their interests — at the expense of the common good.

Walker agreed that unions have become too powerful. “There’s no doubt about it,” he told Fox News Sunday. “People expect us to make tough decisions to make sure we don’t pass the buck on to our kids and our grandkids, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here in Wisconsin.”