How Scott Walker Brings Out the Worst in the Left
Imagine that I’m a political consultant. This week, my clients, who are all government employees, are hopping mad about cuts in their state’s spending.
“Don’t worry, folks,” I tell them, muttering something random about “optics” and “externalities,” which is the oldest political consultant trick in the book. “Here’s the plan. Gather a group of about 100 protestors, invade a quiet residential neighborhood, and shout through bullhorns at the governor’s house!”
Talk about winning hearts and minds! Lest you doubt, the plan gets even better. Having forgotten that the governor lives in the state governor’s mansion, not his old house—details, details—my gullible group of protestors will actually be bellowing at a house where the governor’s elderly parents live, all alone!
“Wow, you’re a terrible political consultant,” you’re probably thinking. “That’s laughably bad advice.” You’re right. It is. And yet, this week, this exact scenario unfolded in suburban Milwaukee, Wis. Incensed by spending cuts, demonstrators bombarded a house where Gov. Scott Walker’s parents, both in their mid-70’s, currently reside.
It’s probably safe to guess that Pat and Llewellyn Walker had little say in the state budget. It’s also safe to guess that their otherwise nice morning—you know, baking muffins incorrectly filled with gluten and processed sugar, lovingly embroidering “Right Wing Oppressor” on their grandchildren’s polo shirts, and carefully wrapping a pastel watercolor of a scowling Ayn Rand in the skin of a poached African rhino, as Republican families tend to do—was also ruined.
The protest, in other words, was the definition of bad optics. More importantly, it reflected the strange, resilient genius of Scott Walker. Somehow, wherever the Wisconsin governor goes, and whatever he does, he manages to bring out—and highlight—the worst of the political left.
Those who have followed Walker’s career know this is nothing new. Over the past four years, he has won three political races in a largely blue state, including a contentious union-led recall effort. Things often got ugly. At January’s Iowa Freedom Summit, Walker described how left-leaning labor activists threatened to “gut” his wife “like a deer.” Walker’s victories in this hostile environment—with progressive groups devoting major resources to try to take him down—have gained him major buzz as a GOP frontrunner for 2016.
As such, Walker has also inspired a fair amount of panic. In London, when Walker brushed off a question about evolution—“That’s a question politicians shouldn’t be involved with one way or another,” he said, which, when you think about it, is pretty much the correct answer—the media exploded. “GOP still the party of stupid,” Salon declared. “This is precisely no different than asking whether one believes in the theory of gravity,” Richard Cohen huffed at the Washington Post. Time magazine, meanwhile, brought desperation to an impressive new level, earnestly interviewing Walker’s high school science teacher on the topic.
The problem, of course—aside from the fact that most Americans don’t want their president lecturing them on evolution—is that many of these scornful reporters seemed quite unaware of the complications surrounding the theory of evolution. The Federalist’s Sean Davis, asking several “science-loving” reporters basic evolution questions—“Do you believe in punctuated equilibrium or phyletic gradualism?”—got mostly embarrassed silence in reply. For his part, Walker responded on Twitter: “Both science & my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God. I believe faith & science are compatible, & go hand in hand.”
This, it seems, is fairly reasonable—unless, of course, you’re not a huge fan of faith. Walker’s devout, unapologetic Christianity has raised hackles in certain circles. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, in fact, recently filed a request for official communications between Walker and God or, for that matter, “any other deity.” You’ll be pleased to know that they found nothing, at least not in paper or electronic form. But, seriously: If you want to remind America which party literally booed God at its 2012 convention—and, love them or hate them, it wasn’t the GOP—Walker might be the guy to do it.
Opponents have thrown pretty much every stereotypical trope in the leftist playbook Walker’s way, and to little avail. He has been attacked as a racist (for talking about the American Dream) and a sexist (for, well, being a Republican). Walker even inspired a recent loopy New York Times hit piece blaming him for spending cuts that occurred before he even took office. Walker’s detractors also embrace the fact that he dropped out of Marquette University before graduating, arguing that his shortage of college credits equals a lack of the sophistication and knowledge needed to be president of the United States.
This gets amusing, of course, when we see what passes as “sophistication” on the left. This week, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf—who not only has a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s in foreign relations—postulated to Chris Matthews that the Islamic State’s beheading factory stemmed from members’ lack of access to good jobs. Later, she defended her comments—which, by the way, contradict much of what we know about modern terrorism—as being too “nuanced” for regular people to understand. Meanwhile, this week, President Obama spent a lot of time talking about a rather vague outbreak of “violent extremism.” His focus? “Empowering local communities.”
Scott Walker, meanwhile, cut to the chase. “We should call it what it is: radical Islamic terrorism.” Whatever becomes of Walker’s presidential bid—and a lot could happen in the next few months—one thing is clear: The Wisconsin governor seems to offer a fairly trenchant foil to the modern left. “Scott Walker knows his enemies,” Jamelle Bouie wrote this week at Slate. “And so far, they haven’t figured it out.” In the meantime, he’s certainly bringing out their worst characteristics.