Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has traveled to Washington D.C. yet again. This time it is the 39th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where it is reported he was given “a hero’s welcome” by the over a thousand conservative activists and money men.
“Lord help us if we fail,” Walker said to the crowd. ”I’m not planning on it, but if we were to fail, I think this sets aside any courageous act in American politics for at least a decade if not a generation.” So if Walker loses his recall here in Wisconsin this spring it will be a disaster for the country. There is no doubt that the Governor made still more connections for help from people outside the State of Wisconsin to influence what the people of the State think and feel and do about his remaining Governor. He has been to Washington D.C. several times since taking office a year ago.
Last November, Walker was in Arizona meeting with supporters there and asking for the same kind of money, and on the ground support in his recall bid. He also pushed very hard for the idea that what he has done in Wisconsin be replicated in Arizona. Not unexpectedly, the finger-pointing, xenophobic Governor from Arizona, Jan Brewer, and her conservative Republican supporters have launched a campaign against unions in what is already a right to work state as it is. Brewer is working from an identical playbook there now.
The Governor also made a couple of trips to Texas (note that is not Wisconsin either) where he got lots of money to tell us what to think of him in the coming months. We are sure to hear how balancing the State budget and smashing the State’s education system, along with how the right of people who work for us in public service to discuss their wages, hours, and conditions of work was just the most horrible thing that had to be gotten rid of ever! We’re going to see more of the Governor’s wife fronting for him in ads and how wonderful he was as a choir boy as a youth.
The lion’s share of the money, the people, and technical resources to hold on to power is coming from places other than the State of Wisconsin. There will be considerable support in the State from the Republican base of course. But how much grassroots person-to-person campaigning is Walker doing here? Nothing at all. He doesn’t do this sort of thing unless he is assured of having his base all around him at events in the State. Otherwise he avoids the very people he needs to convince that not only what he has done, but most importantly, the manner in which he conducts himself in office has been not only legal but morally acceptable to Wisconsin citizens.
There are a number of albatrosses flying about him this winter, and they may end up on his neck as the recall campaign heats up. They are a first year job creation performance that ranks Wisconsin 50th out of the fifty states in that category when he promised 250,000 jobs while he was Governor. There is the shameful hidden agenda of effectively ending collective bargaining for public employees and how it was achieved. There is the $1.6 billion cut in public education, the biggest cut nationwide in this area, and in the State’s history. There is the willful mishandling of Federal government largesse specifically designed to ease the financial burden or improve the State’s economy: no $800 million high speed train and 4,800 jobs, no money for healthcare in preparing for the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act in Wisconsin: putting 60,000 people off Badgercare and decreasing benefits to the rest. He’s taking Federal money intended for the mortgage foreclosure settlement to homeowners in Wisconsin who have lost their homes since 2008 for balancing a budget rather than any slight increase in taxes to cover a budget shortfall. There was hundreds of millions of dollars out of State coffers the very first days of his Administration but not for regular folks hard hit by the depression.
And then there is the continuing John Doe Probe into so many people that surrounded Walker when he was the County Executive of Milwaukee County and in his bid for Governor. The company he keeps is just horrible; embezzlers, a child molester, and a number of people working for his election on the government dollar secretly who worked just down the hall from his office and were among his closest aides. A blackberry message to those aids to shut down the operation so that the probe into its illegality would not further damage his political image and perhaps cost him his liberty is also at issue.
And in all of this, the Governor relies on the people: the people outside the State of Wisconsin who have the money, the expertise, and the will to control the Recall Election via massive TV ads and robocalls and more. Grassroots contact with the very people who are so disturbed by his behavior and performance as Governor to sell them directly on the wisdom and rightness of his actions is completely lacking. When has the Governor walked into a traditional public school and sat down with teachers? When he does that, he goes to a charter school run by a faith-based organization. When has he gone to a union meeting of State employees and met with them and talked over why the changes he made are necessary or to hear their complaints in a dignified give-and-take?
The people will decide whether or not to recall Scott Walker as Wisconsin’s Governor. But will they be Wisconsin taxpayers and residents? Or will this be a surrogate campaign from the outside that manipulates the people of Wisconsin rather than permitting them to engage in true grassroots politics to make this important decision this spring?