With hints of a possible “blue wave” coming in November, Scott Walker has gone into full panic mode — with several good reasons.
He’s running for a third term as governor, which is in itself an uphill battle.
Walker rose to power during the massive red tide in 2010. His re-election in 2014 was also a red year. Both races were midterms, and there was a Democrat in the White House. Midterm elections usually favor the party that’s not in control of the executive branch — and this year, of course, Republicans control everything.
Even political lifer Paul Ryan could see the blue wave coming, and he jumped ship before it wrecked him.
Given these headwinds, it wasn’t too surprising to see Walker trying to mellow his fiery political brand into something that might appeal beyond his rabid base. He adopted a number of long-held Democrat ideas, such as shutting down the troubled Lincoln Hills youth prison, guaranteeing insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, protecting Wisconsin’s popular SeniorCare prescription drug program and bolstering school funding.
But at the same time, he was — and is — trying not to antagonize his right-wing base, which will have to be energized if he’s to win. Adopting those Democratic policies can’t have helped.
His desperation is palpable.
Despite his attempts at reinvention, we already know that if he should win re-election, he’d continue pursuing the same right-wing agenda against the poor and middle class that he’s always embraced. He hasn’t suddenly morphed into a kinder, gentler conservative.
Forget what he says about education today. He is, after all, the same Walker whose first budget slashed K-12 education spending per student more than any other governor in the nation. Between 2012 and 2015, he whittled away more than $100 million on research spending at UW-Madison, causing the state’s flagship university to fall, for the first time in more than four decades, from the National
Science Foundation’s list of the nation’s top five research institutions.
In the last session, at the same time Walker was trying to give himself a moderate patina, he was working with Republican lawmakers to craft what are perhaps the harshest welfare laws in the nation. He tried positioning the legislative package as a solution to the state’s shortage of workers. He dubbed the package’s nine measures the “Wisconsin Works for Everyone Welfare Reform” bill, which sounds like a cynical joke.
The bill has been derided as counterproductive by experts, who say the package will bring more suffering to poor children. It also will cost taxpayers an estimated $90 million during the first year of implementation.
But it makes Walker look tough on people whom conservatives consider “freeloaders,” and it has more than a hint of the racism they promote.
Eager to score as many political points as possible from the right-wingers, Walker made a three-day, statewide dog-and-pony tour of signing the bills, some of which
contain policies that have been tried — and have failed — in other states.
Remember when Walker was running neck-and-neck with Democrat Mary Burke during the 2014 gubernatorial race? In desperation, and out of nowhere, he aired a TV commercial in which he claimed to support a law that “leaves the final decision” on abortion “to a woman and her doctor.”
But after his re-election, Walker demanded that Republican legislative leaders deliver a bill to his desk banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
He will say or do anything to cling to power.
If his juggling act proves a winning strategy, we’ll be paying dearly for the show.