Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has scored the biggest sugar daddies in the GOP presidential primary, but it may not be enough to get him the Republican presidential nomination, or the White House.
Everyone knows Scott Walker has been running for president since shortly after he was sworn in as governor of Wisconsin. Today, Walker officially became the 15th candidate to squeeze into the GOP presidential primary clown car, with a tweet, and a Facebook video teasing his candidacy ahead of his formal announcement.
— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) July 13, 2015
Walker could have big money behind him. Brothers Charles and David Koch plan to pump $889 million into the 2016 presidential election, through their network of dark money organizations, to defeat the Democratic nominee. In April, David Koch told the crowd at a New York Republican Party Fundraiser, “When the primaries are over and Scott Walker gets the nomination.” With their personal fortunes estimated at $85 billion, the Koch Brothers could outspend anyone else in the election. Still, even the Koch brothers’ patronage may not be enough to get Walker through the primaries. Walker’s pathological flip-flopping, his willingness to pander to the basest of the GOP base, his scandal-ridden administration, and his abysmal economic record could be his undoing.
When it comes to flip-flopping on issues like immigration, Walker is an ideological acrobat.
Walker has reversed himself on so many issues, it’s hard to keep track. All of his flip-flopping makes Walker seem like a guy who changes his position to match the audience his addressing.
- Walker completely changed his position on immigration. In 2011, Walker supported offering undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. That position didn’t sit well with the anti-immigrant wing of the party, which is apparently boosting Donald Trump now.
- Two years later, Walker not only abandoned his support for a path to citizenship, but claimed it might depress American workers’ wages. His new position came close to losing him the support of the Koch brothers. Walker moved on to an even broader anti-immigration stance, telling Glenn Beck that he even favored limiting legal immigration. Former Walker aide Liz Mair, in an email to Mother Jones magazine, called it an “Olympic-quality flip-flop.”
- At a private dinner in New Hampshire, Walker flip-flopped again telling a group of Republicans that he now backs a path to citizenship, and his opposition was just so much red meat for the base.
- Walker also switched positions on biofuel, telling Iowa voters he was “willing to go forward on continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard,” requiring fuel used in the US to contain at least 10 percent “renewable fuel,” usually ethanol and other biofuels.
- Two years after Walker repealed Wisconsin’s equal pay law, he released an ad in which his female lieutenant governor applauded his support for equal pay for women.
- In 2000, as a member of the Wisconsin assembly, Walker voted in favor of a resolution calling on South Carolina to “immediately stop flying the Confederate flag in an official capacity.” Now, he calls it “a state issue.”
As governor, Walker did a number on Wisconsin’s workers and economy.
Walker is one of three sitting Republican governors in the presidential race whose records are so abysmal that even Republicans in their states can’t wait to get rid of them. (Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and New Jersey’s Chris Christie are the other two.) With help from their Republican legislatures, and sizable factions of tea party conservatives, the governors turned their states in to laboratories for the right-wing policies they want to force on the rest of the country.
Walker took collective bargaining away from most state workers, and pledged to create 250,000 jobs in the state, by slashing public spending and giving massive tax breaks wealthy Wisconsinites and corporations. It didn’t happen. As of September, Wisconsin had created just over half that number of jobs. Walker also turned down $810 million in federal funding to build high-speed rail, causing train manufacturer Tango to abandon its factory in Milwaukee. As Walker finishes up as governor, Wisconsin rants 40th in job growth and 42nd in wage growth.
- He slashed teachers’ and government workers’ paychecks by 8 to 10 percent.
- Wisconsin Republicans refused to increase the minimum wage for workers who hadn’t had an increase in 29 years. Walker told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board that he doesn’t believe the minimum wage “serves a purpose.” Walker suggested that the 700,000 Wisconsin workers who earn less than living wages get better jobs.
- After the 2011 passage of Walker’s anti-union law, median household income in Wisconsin dropped nearly $800 below the national average, and has fallen consistently since.
- Republicans passed, and Walker signed a “right-to-work” law designed to bankrupt unions and cause workers to be paid $1,500 less each year.
Finally, Walker is having such a hard time balancing his state budget that he’s delaying debt payments. He’s leaving the state with a $2.2 billion deficit that one expert called a “self-inflicted wound”
When it comes to scandals, Walker is among the most “Nixonian of the GOP candidates.
- Two prosecutors, one Republican and one Democrat, called Walker a liar,, after Walker used an Iowa radio appearance to brand a criminal investigation of his administration as a “political witch hunt.” The criminal investigation involved allegations that Walker and his campaign disregarded state campaign finance laws during the 2012 recall elections.
- Walker’s penchant for giveaways to corporations and wealthy friends may cost him conservative support. The latest is that Walker plans to spend $250 million in taxpayer funds to build a new basketball stadium, to benefit Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry — billionaire owners of the Milwaukee Bucks. No less than the CATO Institutes David Boaz slammed it as “corporate welfare.” Conservative commentator James Bovard called it “crony capitalism at its worst,” and labeled Walker a “stadium socialist.” At the same time, Walker is proposing $300 million in cuts to the state university system.
- Walker makes a big deal about his cheap suits from Kohl’s, to tout his “everyman” creds, and his “fiscal responsibility.” There’s just one problem: Walker’s “cheap” shirts may have cost Wisconsin taxpayers upwards of $62.5 million. That’s the value of the tax incentive package Walker offered Kohl’s to keep its headquarters in Wisconsin, based on the company building a $250 million headquarters and creating 3,000 jobs. Instead, Kohl’s will be adding to its existing headquarters, and barely a quarter of those jobs have been created.
Walker made climate denialism a matter of state policy.
Climate change denialism is a prerequisite for the GOP presidential nomination. Sure, establishment Republicans may take a more nuanced view, but the base demands hardcore denialism, and Walker gives it to them.
- Walker signed the Koch-backed “No Climate Tax Pledge,” promising to oppose any legislation on climate change that’s not offset by equivalent tax cuts.
- Mike Huebsch, Walker’s appointee to the state Public Service Commission, blamed climate change on volcanoes. Asked about his views on climate change during his confirmation hearing, Huebsch answered: “I believe that humans can have an impact to climate change, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near the level of impact of just the natural progression of our planet. You know, the elimination of essentially every automobile would be offset by one volcano exploding.”
- In a budget proposal, Walker allocated $250 million to “conduct a study on wind energy system-related health issues.” Because Koch-backed groups like the Heartland Institute would love to have a study “proving” wind energy a health hazard.
- Walker’s administration prohibited Wisconsin officials from talking about climate change.
Walker would take his war on women from Wisconsin to the White House.
As governor of Wisconsin, Walker dutifully waged war on women’s economic equality and reproductive rights. He’ll do the same in the White House.
- In March, Walker released a letter spelling out his support for 20-week abortion bans, even though he previously ran an ad suggesting while he was personally pro-life, he would leave “the final decision to a woman and her doctor.”
- During an interview with right-wing radio host Dana Loesch, Walker described forced ultrasounds as “lovely,” and “just a cool thing out there” for women, during a discussion about his decision to sign a bill requiring women to undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds before having an abortion.
- In a television interview with WKOW, Walker claimed that rape and incest survivors are only concerned about having an abortion “in the initial months” of pregnancy. Then, apparently, they just get over it.
- During a talk with voters in Concord, New Hampshire, Walker said that women would “clog up the legal system” if they were allowed to sue over pay discrimination, but men should have the right to sue to stop a woman from having an abortion.
- In an interview with Boston Herald Radio, Walker attacked Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for using equal pay to “pit one group of Americans versus another.”
- In April, it was revealed that Walker’s administration billed two Wisconsin family planning clinics by 93 percent — or at least $3.2 million. One agency was billed $1.169 million — almost as much as its entire operating budget, for overcharging the state for contraception costs. That was later reduced to $180,000, which the agency is contesting. The other agency was billed $2.35 million, which was reduced to $45,000. Walker wrote it off as a “mistake,” but activists noted that Walker’s anti-family planning agenda had forced the closing of five Planned Parenthood clinics.
Walker panders to the far
right to win the nomination, but wants to have it both ways on issues like marriage equality.
Walker tries his best to sound like the culture warrior GOP primary voters want, but he tries to have it both ways on an issue like marriage equality.
- Asked he would attend a gay wedding, Walker took the Solomonic split-the-baby route, and answered that he would attend the reception, but not the ceremony itself. That way he comes across as slightly less of a bigot, by effectively saying “I’ll eat your food and drink your liquor, but I won’t be tainted by witnessing your vows.”
- A year after declaring, “For us, it’s over in Wisconsin,” after the Supreme Court refused to hear the state’s appeal of a decision striking down its same-sex marriage ban, Walker told ABC’s Jon Karl that he supports an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment.
Walker cynically panders to the GOP’s lunatic wing to secure the nomination.
Apparently, it doesn’t take much to satisfy the wingnut faction of the GOP. Agreeing with them helps, but it isn’t necessary. As long as you remain “uncertain” you can keep the base satisfied, and edge back towards sanity after securing the nomination.
- Asked by the Washington Post about President Obama’s religion, Walker claimed he “doesn’t know” if the president his a Christian.
- Asked by a British television host whether he believed in evolution, Walker answered, “I’m going to punt on that one,” prompting conservative columnist George Will to say, “Certain questions, that if you’re going to answer them at all, you answer them ‘yes’!”
Walker will find himself caught in the same trap he and the rest of the GOP have set for themselves; between an electorate that’s moving farther and father away from them, and a base that won’t let them move an inch.