Scott Walker’s supporters have released the first in a $7 million series of commercials to boost his sagging presidential campaign in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. The 60-second ad, titled “Fight & Win,” begins with dramatic footage of angry protesters converging on Madison in 2011 after Walker proposed gutting public unions.
The battle made Walker famous, but since then voters have become better acquainted with our bland, flip-flopping, gaffe-prone governor. He’s freefallen from the top of the polls into eighth place. Now Walker is reminding voters of his trademark achievement, which is not really an achievement at all: a law that divided Wisconsin in half politically and was foisted on the state without prior discussion or debate.
GOP governors in other states enacted nearly identical policies without generating the level of backlash and publicity that Walker did. He incited 100,000 people to demonstrate for weeks in frigid weather at the Capitol, earning Wisconsin the title of “most divided state in the nation.” His success at whipping up political frenzy is now his platform for a presidential run.
Act 10 sent school teachers, prison guards and other workers fleeing the state, leaving us with serious shortages in many critical areas. It’s also had a dampening effect on wages: Wisconsin’s middle class is shrinking faster than any other state’s, according to government data.
The way Walker handled Act 10 was not a show of leadership by anyone’s definition of the word. Leaders don’t ambush people with their ideas, they inspire people to rally around them.
Having struck gold by attracting news cameras from all over the world to Madison, Walker went on to govern the state in the most confrontational way possible. He even titled his revisionist memoir Unintimidated, which is also the name of the super PAC supporting him.
But in reality, Walker’s intimidated to the point that he sneaks controversial laws into the budget, then denies knowing anything about them when they generate a backlash. He has to make up stories to make him appear brave, such as the famous fabrication about his car being surrounded by hundreds of life-threatening protesters in La Crosse.
Walker’s gubernatorial tenure has centered on policy decisions written by the conservative corporate think-tank American Legislative Exchange Council, the brain child of Koch Industries, Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Pharma and other special interests. He hasn’t spoken truth to power, he’s taken marching orders from power and collected tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions as a reward.
What’s unintimidated about that?
Walker’s commercial moves on from Act 10 to crow about a lot of “accomplishments.” He claims to have created a “billion dollar surplus,” which was true in January 2014, but only if you don’t count the payments he put off until future budgets. And this year, when Wisconsin faced a $2 billion shortfall, Walker pushed through deep and unpopular spending cuts, including a $250 million reduction to the University of Wisconsin system.
The campaign ad claims Walker signed $2 billion in tax cuts into law during his first term. But those cuts, which overwhelmingly went to wealthy individuals and corporations, contributed to turning his $1 billion surplus into a potential shortfall in less than a year.
The ad also refers to the state’s unemployment rate dropping from 7.8 percent the month before he took office to 4.6 percent in June. It skirts the fact that Walker didn’t come close to his signature 2010 campaign promise, repeated in the 2012 recall election, that the state would add 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of 2014. Only 129,000 jobs were added.
Wisconsin’s private sector job growth during Walker’s first term was 5.7 percent, compared with 9.3 percent growth nationwide. For many months during his first term, Wisconsin lagged at the bottom of the region in terms of job creation — and near the bottom of the nation.
Walker hopes to revive his moribund campaign by positioning himself as a fighter, but even if it were true, it’s not likely to resonate. Voters are tired of the sort of political gridlock and double-talk that he’s mastered. They want leaders who are unabashedly authentic, as evidenced by their embrace of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
Voters are tired of scheming, self-serving tricksters more focused on manipulating their poll numbers and pleasing their donors than solving the nation’s problems.
In other words, Walker might as well throw in the towel. Not even a stellar debate performance on Sept. 16, complete with new facial expressions and newly invented stories, can salvage a candidate with his record.