Arguably no presidential candidate has had a rougher year than Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R). In the spring, the far-right governor was a top-tier contender, the frontrunner in Iowa, and a plausible presidential nominee. Today, the Republican finds his support in free fall, dropping in state and national polls to the low single-digits. By most measures, Walker has slipped from the top to the third tier with incredible speed.
As we discussed the other day, we might expect a precipitous fall like this one in the wake of a scandal or humiliating revelations, but in this case, Walker can’t blame anything but his own weaknesses as a candidate.
Yesterday, however, the Wisconsinite adopted a back-to-basics posture, unveiling a plan focused on Walker’s favorite subject: attacking labor unions. Politico reported:
Scott Walker is doubling down on his anti-union message. But GOP voters don’t seem to be listening.Walker traveled to union-friendly Las Vegas Monday to inveigh against “big-government union bosses.” He pledged elimination of the National Labor Relations Board. He promised a national “right to work” law freeing workers from mandatory payments to unions that bargain collectively on their behalf. And he said he’d block President Barack Obama’s proposal to expand overtime eligibility to 5 million new workers.
“Collective bargaining is not a right,” Walker said. “It is an expensive entitlement.” The governor then pledged “to wreak havoc on Washington.”
I’m not sure which is worse, the politics of the candidate’s pitch or the policy.
Right off the bat, note the broader dynamics of the race for the Republican nomination. In recent months, Walker has not only seen Donald Trump steal his thunder, he’s also seen Trump steal his votes. The governor has gone from event to event, talking about his successes attacking Wisconsin workers’ rights, while Trump’s support soars while pushing conservative economic populism.
It’s against this backdrop that Walker decided to get his campaign back on track … by once again vowing to gut unions.
Also note the governor’s attack on collective bargaining as a concept. Republican hostility towards unions isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, but as Slate’s Jamelle Bouie noted this morning, Walker’s remarks yesterday represented a “repudiation of the whole idea of organized labor.”
A generation ago, a man by the name of Ronald Reagan told Americans, “Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost!” Walker, who has a borderline-creepy affection for the Republican icon, might want to look up Reagan’s speech on the subject.
Finally, as American Bridge noted yesterday, Walker’s new posture is also at odds with his previous promises. As recently as April – hardly ancient history – a New Hampshire voter asked the governor whether he intends to take Wisconsin’s anti-labor policies to the nation. “No,” he replied, “it’s up to a state issue.”
Five months later, the GOP candidate apparently believes the opposite. Walker’s desperation isn’t pushing him in a constructive direction.
Postscript: I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that Walker is still pledging “to wreak havoc on Washington.” It’s a bizarre vow, and as reader F.B. reminded me the other day, it’s reminiscent of the Shakespearean line, “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”
Perhaps voters should assume that Walker, if elected, intends to plunder our nation’s capital?