Monday, July 13, 2015

Predicting Character: The Wreckage of Scott Walker

It's a bit anti-climatic after all of the other names having jumped in, but Scott Walker made it official today.  To David Graham at The Atlantic, who's been tracking all of this on his Cheat Sheet:

In some ways, he seems like the perfect candidate for the 2016 field. He’s made his name battling unions and enacting conservative policies in Wisconsin, making him a darling of movement conservatives and Tea Partiers alike. His promise is that he can take that brand of effective nuts-and-bolts leadership and labor-busting national. (There’s a reason the AFL-CIO greeted his entry with disgust.) As a scrappy politician who clawed his way up through the ranks despite not having a college degree, he doesn’t come across as a moderate dynasty candidate like Jeb Bush. And as an executive who won three elections in four years, thanks to an unsuccessful recall attempt, he can sidestep the charges of youthful inexperience that have dogged Rubio. He is also reported to be the top choice—or a top choice—of the Koch brothers and their network of donors, who plan to spend nearly $1 billion this cycle.

Graham's take on Walker's chances are solid but unknown: he's considered a known quantity in Wisconsin but there's no idea how he'll play on a national stage.

I would beg to differ.

Walker can play well to the Republican voting base at the least.  And he's already proven he can convince enough Wisconsin voters to vote him back into the Governor's office, despite years of opponents howling and years of his own record of dubious actions.

Regarding Walker's biography, the key points are his college years and his governing years.  He attended Marquette and was politically active, running for student offices... but his major campaign for student president was messy and potentially law-breaking (although nothing came of it), and Walker soon left college without graduating (his critics say he was kicked out, but his story of leaving due to poor grades and better job opportunities does pan out).

As for his governing style, as both County Manager for Milwaukee County and as Governor of Wisconsin, he has developed a reputation for Uncompromising tactics.  He's also one for dismantling existing programs and trying to farm them out to private firms with little success or savings, a common trend among modern Republicans.

His not being known on the national stage as well as the other front runners (cough Jeb! and Trump cough) can be something of a boon: he can avoid his state record often enough to convince enough low-information voters he's more middle-of-the-road than other Republican candidates.  At least until it's too late.

With regards to how I'd state his biography clip here, trying to follow the rules Professor Barber set for determining Presidential Character:

Scott Walker - Governor, Wisconsin
Positives: Won election in a solidly Blue state multiple times - including a recall effort - demonstrating survival skill to a GOP voting base that would respect it.  Can govern.  Does not have the "crazy" credentials of other Republican front-runners, meaning he can pose as "moderate" when need be (like the general election).  Compared to the other big-name governors on the list - Jindal, Christie - Walker is a success story (although not by much).  Far Right Republicans will love his Union-busting record.  Among the major names, Walker is the one most likely to overcome front-runner Jeb Bush: Walker can well present a similar resume as Jeb's and NOT suffer the questioning - "Dynasticism?  Will he rule much like his failed brother W.?" - Jeb will likely get as a Bush.
Negatives: Does not have as strong a record running Wisconsin as he would present to the nation: there are already signs his economic and education policies are hurting.  Has little international skill sets, putting him at a disadvantage on foreign policy issues.  His biggest enemy - the Unions he's busted - may be weakened but they can still organize, and against him they will go all out.  He's still a key figure in an ongoing John Doe investigation that has already indicted various figures in Walker's administration/circle of allies, and has a troubling history of violating campaign laws (going all the way back to his college days).  Considering how hands-on Walker is with his campaigns, this is a serious weakness.
Chances: Walker has remarkably good odds (for the moment).  He has both solid ties to deep-pocket financiers like the Kochs, as well as a knack for appealing to average voters in his state (which might translate well at the national level).  As noted in his Positives, Walker has a remarkable advantage over Jeb Bush: he's not the brother of George W. Bush nor the son of Bush the Elder, which means he's not going to spend a lot of time defending his family's failures in the White House.  Of the top three "serious" candidates for the GOP - himself, Jeb, Rubio - Walker has the fewest hurdles to clear.  It's just that Walker has that John Doe investigation into campaign violations that's still on hold but due to get back to work, and with his history of self-managing his campaigns Walker can well face criminal charges any day now.
Character Chart: I will keep re-stating the obvious.  The modern Republican platforms of God, Guns, and Tax Cuts are so reactionary and self-serving that pretty much every possible candidate is going to trend Active-Negative.  Whatever Congenial trait Walker deploys is purely a feint: Like Huckabee, Walker's Aw-Shucks persona is just for show.  Walker's track record - pushing a defined political agenda without compromise, sticking to partisan talking points, expressing disdain for political offices he openly covets - does not point to someone with a Positive world-view of effective government.

To be honest, Walker scares me as much as any of the other 12 14 16 candidates on the Republican primary ticket.  What really worries me is that he's been able to sell himself as a winner and as a "reasonable" political figure at the state level when his office record shows nothing of the kind.  He can just as easily campaign like that to the average American voters just like he did in Wisconsin...

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

Scratch the surface a little and the monster underneath shines through: He's the one who described forced ultrasounds as "a neat thing for women" who seek abortions, going on to state that once women see the life that's growing inside of them, they would be less likely to terminate it. Gee, women have no idea about life that is GROWING INSIDE OF THEM. He's a dangerously successful moron, and scary to boot.

-Doug in Oakland