Monday, September 07, 2015

Scott Walker and The Audacity of Hype…

Labor Day, the traditional end of Summer, the last hurrah of holidays, Barbeques and Beachcombing. Soon Autumn will be upon us and as the American humourist Garrison Keillor once wrote,  fall is the time we all go “back to school and study for Winter”. Carefree warm weather days grow shorter, and that slight hint of a chill in night air reminds us all that darker, colder days are just around the corner.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is undoubtedly feeling the chill these days. An essay of how Scott Walker spent his Summer vacation would be best summed up by one Iowa Republican strategist who described Walker as having spent the Summer ; “on all three sides of every two-sided issue.” Walker’s Summer of Confusion is quickly heading into a Winter of GOP Voter Discontent.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The 1.5-ish term Governor was supposed to be the GOP’s golden child. The answer to Bush fatigue. The fresh face who would appeal to both the party’s base, and the GOP establishment. The petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers all but showed up on Walker’s door step with balloons and an oversized check for $500 million dollars, while the Fox News only viewing, Breitbart / WorldNet Daily reading masses of the GOP base were going to rally to Walker’s side, because of his fight against those lazy, socialist “Libtard” Unions who hate freedom… or… something …

When I met with Walker back last February here in London, he was calm, cool and very confident. Talking my ear off for over 20 minutes about how America needed rescuing, in the same way it did in 1980. Drawing clear parallels between himself and Ronald Reagan. He had the bearing of man convinced destiny was whispering his name.  

Now six months later, Scott Walker looks like a beagle that was just whapped in the snout with rolled up newspaper. A newspaper with the headline- TRUMP!   The remarkable fall of the GOP rising star is best chronicled by this insightful passage from a piece in The Guardian last week, on Scott Walker's Summer of no love..
In theory, Walker should have been the most experienced, most natural and most effortless Republican candidate. Jeb Bush hasn’t run this decade; Ted Cruz only ran once; Chris Christie is dogged by corruption allegations; Rick Perry has the mental aptitude of two dogs in an overcoat; and Rand Paul was gifted his father’s movement and all his out-of-state donors but none of his charisma at talking about basing an international currency on stuff you dig out of the ground.

Walker should have been able to campaign circles around everyone else in the race. Instead, he’s getting his rear end handed to him by a meringue-haired hotelier and a political neophyte surgeon who speaks with the dizzy wonderment of someone trying to describe their dream from last night while taking mushrooms for the first time.


In the face of the Trump reality show circus, Walker made, (as the Donald would say..) a HUUUGE mistake. Rather than positioning himself as the principled grown up in the room, he tried to out crazy the Rodeo Clown. 

When Trump promised to build a wall on the border with Mexico, what did Walker do? Speak to the challenges of balancing effective border controls with our Nation’s great legacy as a beacon for immigrants throughout our history? Nope. Seize the opportunity to cast himself as the heir to the Reagan legacy by saying the GOP is the party that tears down walls between people and opportunity, not builds them? Nope. Not even close.

Scott Walker decided to double down on nutty, and say he wanted to “look at” building a wall on the border with CANADA.. Wow… That’s different. I’ll give you that.

Let’s set aside Walker’s dismal record in Wisconsin. Let’s set aside his all but invisible performance in the first GOP candidates debate. Let’s even set aside Walker’s complete inability to function outside of the Conservative media bubble, and how every time he is pressed for coherent answer on policy positions, he either “punts”, or drools out an answer so twisted and convoluted, that his campaign has to spend most of the next week either walking it back or “clarifying what the Governor meant to say…” None of that is Walker’s core problem.

Walker’s biggest problem is, he believed his own hype. Wisconsin is not an electoral bellwether for Presidential politics. His success in Wisconsin was largely due to the Karl Rove playbook of divide enough people to win just enough votes to get elected. Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin recall election had far more to do with the disorganized sack of cats that was his democratic opposition, than support for his policies as Governor.

For Wisconsin conservatives, the effort to recall Walker was a personal attack on them. So they fought back like it was personal. Conversely the Democrats, mired themselves in a bitter primary battle, resulting in a message that basically was “Walker..BAD!” but pretty much stopped there.  

The resulting victory gave Walker a belief in his own electoral invincibility. A belief that right wing floggers in think tanks and on talk radio stoked with rhetoric of how Walker was the candidate who could “take on the left and win as an unapologetic conservative! "      The problem is that hypothesis has not stood up to real world testing. When faced with more than softball questions from gushing Fox News hosts Walker crumbles. When baited from the far right, he takes the bait.    

So as this Summer comes to an end, Scott Walker has ended up looking less viable as a Presidential candidate than... Donald Trump. Ouch.   Republican friends of mine who have pinned their hopes for a second Reagan Revolution on Walker, are cheerfully insisting it’s still way to early to write any political epitaphs . They are sure the Trump balloon with run out of hot air and fade away. It may well be that they are correct. But that isn’t the real problem here.

The real problem is Walker as a candidate is simply not up the to the task. When your belief in your own electability comes primarily from weeks of hiding in your office in the State Capitol taking prank phone calls from people pretending to be David Koch, and giving interviews to Sean Hannity where you say teachers, fire-fighters and nurses are greedy and out of touch; the real problem isn’t Donald Trump. It’s Scott Walker who is the Walker campaign's worst enemy.

As far as the good citizens of Wisconsin are concerned, I would point out there is a silver lining in the collapse of Walker's presidential ambitions. Yes, it means that Scott Walker will have to come home at some point, but. It spares Wisconsin two horrifying words...

Governor Kleefisch.

No comments: