Unfit Comments

Scott Walker is the second of many Republican candidates to drop out of the race due to financial difficulties, but the suspension of his campaign is the most remarkable thus far. Just a few months ago, Walker was the candidate that was going to bridge the gap between the activists and insiders within the Republican Party. He was the man with a proven conservative record governing a liberal state and could energize the base in a way a Jeb never could.

Unlike Tod Kelly, I was surprised how poorly Walker has been in a primary season that could have easily seen him setting the tone of the debate. Walker’s impressive fall is the result of many variables, but I can’t help but see his candidacy as the first casualty of Donald Trump. The reality star’s domination of the Republican debate took all the oxygen right out of Walker’s anti-union fiscal conservatism; the governor was merely not prepared to fight on issues not of his crafting.

More than any other Republican running, I hold special scorn for Walker, and thus can’t help but gloat at his campaign’s implosion. Although many of his competitor’s share his anti-union stance, Walker’s leadership style and tone was especially crass and divisive. Writing in the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, the editor’s forewarned the nation as a whole what to expect from the state’s governor:

To win over the Republican base and stand out among the 15 declared candidates, Walker is bragging about his most divisive act — to all but end collective bargaining for public employee unions. He is a “fighter,” he says, and believes that Act 10 proves it. Passage of the controversial bill in 2011 led to weeks of angry protests in Madison and his recall. Walker won that race in 2012 in an election that brought him to the national stage. For Walker, surviving the recall was proof of his political bona fides.

But Walker’s over-the-top policy prescription — which went far beyond what was necessary — cleaved the state in two. If there is one thing the nation’s voters should understand as Walker promises to do for them what he did for us it is this:

Walker is the most divisive Wisconsin politician in living memory.

And that kind of governing is wearing thin with some voters here.”

Walker’s contentious hyperbole was on full display as he tried to pivot any and all policy question back to his role in beating the public employee unions. This core political scheme is fathomable and pardonable, until said candidate makes a truly lurid equivalence. When asked how he would deal with the threat of ISIS, Walker attempted to bring his governing strengths back into frame, reasoning that if he could take on “100,000 protesters,” he could “do the same across the globe.”

I was actually dazed by this statement. For some reason, every senseless idea brought up by Trump, Cruz, and Carson has seemed perfectly understandably in the context of a Republican primary, but to see parallels between teacher union’s protesting for better pay and a totalitarian theocratic organization bent on destruction was a bridge I didn’t expect a major candidate to make. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in my distaste for Scott’s reply. Jim Geraghty at National Review called Walker’s answer “a terrible response,” and “suggests Walker doesn’t quite understand the complexity of the challenge from ISIS and its allied groups.” I knew at that moment that Walker had to be kept as far from the White House as possible.

There were few scenarios which would have found me voting for Scott Walker in 2016, but that comment made sure I would vote for anyone but him. If Trump ran as a Democrat with Cynthia Mckinney as his running mate, I would have joyfully marked my ballot in their favor if the alternative was Walker.

So tonight, I toast to the end of Walker’s presidential bid in a way that is hardly mature. While I throw back a few stiff hits from my bottle of Black Label (fittingly, Johnnie Walker’s finest scotch), I will refrain from making any gaudy comparisons between Scott’s governing bravura and Latin American strongmen. Such appraisals would be discourteous.

(Image: Scott Walker via Wikimedia)


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Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father just north of San Francisco who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular contributor at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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38 thoughts on “Unfit Comments

  1. I don’t know how shocked I am. Yeah he was pretty big in the news for the past few years but I think Leeesq was right in describing him as not being ready for prime time. Walker seems to have risen to power and survived recalls and elections because of issues that might be unique to Wisconsin. From what I’ve read and heard from my Wisconsite friends, Wisconsin is going through white flight a lot latter than the rest of the nation. Walker’s big base is the WOW suburbs and exurbs of Milwaukee. This area is filled with people who lived in Milwaukee until fairly recently but fled over the past decade or so for reasons resembling white flight from the 1960s and 70s.

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    • Walker is yet another in a long line of Republican white knights that simply didn’t materialize. Much like Perry, he was strong on paper and just couldn’t put the right pieces together nationally.

      I am glad to see this one go however!

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    • I’m not sure I buy the “late white flight” thing as being of monumentally significant. It appears to have h as ported later, but Milwaukee proper has been majority-minority since the 90’s which is similar to St Louis and Cleveland, behind Detroit but ahead of others.

      Also, Milwaukee and Madison are two of the most segregated cities in the country and that didn’t happen overnight.

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      • I think the real issue with Milwaukee and Madison is that they were very white places when suburbinzation started in the 1950s and 1960s. Even though lots of people were leaving them for the suburbs, there wasn’t the narrative of leaving the big scary city where those people live like there were for other cities that lost a lot of people during the same period.

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  2. I think Walker’s union/ISIS thing is just a straightforward version of the strategy, “Use every question as an opportunity to talk about the thing you’re proud of instead of answering.” See Ru9/11dy Gi9/11uli9/11ani (9/11). It just happened to be hilariously tone deaf. That strategy irritates me enough that I really love it when it backfires that way.

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    • That’s a reliance I never really understood.

      Rudy’s noun-verb-9/11 was a strategy that might have worked because “I helped shepherd our country’s biggest city through a horrific terror attack” isn’t a particularly divisive accomplishment.

      But Walker’s cry was “I fished over Unionized workers”. That’s only going to appeal to the rabid. And, well, once you’re appealing to the rabid, you’re actual set of accomplishments is secondary after the degree to which you can capture their outrage. Which means that your specific accomplishment is completely forgotten when Donald Trump promises to deport Brown people to the moon.

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  3. “Scott Walker is the second of many Republican candidates to drop out of the race due to financial difficulties, ”

    NPR this morning stated he quite because the polling after the last debate had him below 1%. No mention of his fundraising problems, but wouldn’t anyone in a field of 11+ have fundraising problems?

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    • Walker did an aggressive strong early spending campaign strategy that ran straight into a wall when Trump upstaged him. Walker’s strategy was to aggressively spend in Iowa to build momentum then use that momentum to lure in donors to refund his campaign. When Trump outflanked him to his right Walker’s momentum vanished and the donors never refinanced him. Walker’s super PAC has plenty of money but his campaign was basically in significant debt, when you run out of money your campaign ends.

      The other candidates have been pursuing different strategies. Bush simply has massive resources to use. Rubio and the other establishment wing candidates have been running relatively frugal campaigns and are going for an endurance match. Cruz is shadowing Trump with a basket out to catch the voters when Trump implodes. Walker’s strategy was basically the one that was perfectly designed to be fished over by the Trump phenomena. If Walker could have been more memorable in the debates or hadn’t racked up such a long list of punts on various policy tests he might have been able to survive it but he wasn’t and he did so his campaign croaked.

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      • One thing I didn’t realize until looking it up is that Walker didn’t officially start his campaign until July, meaning he’s not on any of most recent quarters (ending June 30) FEC filings receipts or expenses. (pdfs)

        Someone elsewhere on the other thread or another forum pointed out that Walker had the same tic as Giuliani – “a noun, a verb, 9/11” had become “a noun, a verb, the unions”. But I’m wondering if the real problem was getting in too late – a mistake Giuliani also made, but in hizhoner’s cycle ‘too late’ was at least 9 months later in the cycle.

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      • Dead on. In a world where Walker could have been the populist right winger in the race, his chances may have been different. Trump made sure that was not to be, but Walker’s own poor performance on the stump just couldn’t get people motivated as he needed them to be at this stage in the race.

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    • Specifically, the latest polling had him at 0.
      And the trolls weren’t even running that poll.

      The Establishment Candidate is DEAD!
      Long Live Trump, and may he Sink or Swim on his own.

      The trolls have exited the building.

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  4. Being from Wisconsin, I never thought he had much of a chance. He’s so… uncharismatic, for lack of a better word. I also thought he was not ready for prime time, as mentioned above–but neither is Trump. However, Trump is, if not telegenic, at least interesting/media-generating. Walker just couldn’t package his views, such as they were, in an attractive way (for many definitions of “attractive”). Guy’s a total wet noodle.

    Of course, there’s still the matter of how he got elected here in the first (2nd, 3rd) place. Don’t ask me. Off-year elections plus other stuff, I suppose. I only wish he had spent some more time on the national stage embarrassing himself so we could be sure to vote him out in three years. Might happen anyway.

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      • I have read in the last few hours that the Koch bros basically pulled the plug on contributing to his campaign and that really signaled the end. I don’t know if that is the case, but it would make sense given his quick exit from the race.

        Each Republican candidate need their sugar daddy, and Walker was left waiting for the dance without a date.

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    • Trump has been on prime time so by definition he is ready for prime time. Even though his politics changed from rich and at least nominally liberal Democratic party member to rightist populist who believes in America’s welfare state for senior citizens who earned it and hates immigrants, Trump has had the image of a bombastic guy who says what we wants for decades. This turns out to have a lot of advantages when it comes to waging a populist campaign because nobody is really that surprised when you say things for shock value and because you know how to do things with flair. Trump is much more of a showman and natural demagogue than Walker because he has decades of practice.

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  5. Walker died the death of a thousand cuts.
    I may have mentioned a while back, that lucky often has a name.
    In this case, unlucky has a name.

    Walker was heavily invested in winning Iowa, but didn’t have much of a national profile.
    But really, to poll at 0??

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