Scott Walker’s Bubble

Jun. 17, 2014
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I had some mixed feelings about the New Republic's article on the Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker's Toxic Racial Politics

Mostly because it makes Wisconsin seem so horrible.

The part about Walker riding white privilege/cluelessness into office I pretty much agree with.

If you’ve studied Walker as I have for the past nine years you’ll notice that he operates in a bubble. In that he’s like many suburban Milwaukeeans, the result of a host of factors, including massive white flight out of the city. Whether this is overtly racist or covertly racist is up to you to decide.

The problem with Walker’s bubble, of course, is that he is an elected official. He represents all of the state, whether you’re living in the heart of Milwaukee’s central city, affluent Chenequa, tumbledown student housing in Madison or Eau Claire, or on a reservation in the Northwoods. So Walker’s limited worldview has an impact on all of us—a negative one.

Walker’s never had to work with the “other side.” In the Assembly, he championed solidly Republican issues, like truth in sentencing. As Milwaukee County executive, he never worked with the opposition, although he did create a few agreements with then Board Chair Lee Holloway, not exactly a wild-eyed hippie. Walker just blew out some dog whistles and talk radio and the Citizens for Responsible Government came running to support his unrealistic budgets and vote for him in low-turnout elections.

Now, as governor, Walker’s been benefiting from one-party rule. He only needs to negotiate with the moderate members of the Republican Party and legislative leaders with massive egos who want to get their way. Believe me, they aren’t figuring out ways to strike bipartisan agreements that reflect the values of the half of the state that didn’t vote for Walker.

As a result, Walker doesn’t know how to appeal to the other side. His public appearances are tailored to his base audience—small manufacturers, voucher schools, and chambers of commerce meetings, primarily—but shut out the general public. He poses for holy pictures, brushes off reporters, and never engages in any real dialog or displays any candor.

I’m sure Walker wonders why he should bother starting a dialog with someone on the other side. He’s got the numbers in the Legislature and on the state Supreme Court and doesn’t need to do so. The other side will only encourage you to find some middle ground and stray from your far-right principles. Walker's leadership style and nonengagement with his opposition has a ripple effect on the rest of the government—and the voters—in a purely negative way.

Does that make Walker unelectable? November’s gubernatorial election is more or less a toss-up. Beyond then, I don’t know how many states mirror Wisconsin’s polarized electorate, but I do know that the conservatives who decide GOP primaries may eat him up with a spoon. After all, he won’t have any messy compromises in his history that will make him seem like a squishy RINO who can’t be trusted. He’ll look like a leader. But he isn’t one—not for the half of the state that doesn’t exist within his bubble.

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