Walker offers rightwing policies tried and tested in his Wisconsin lab

MADISON — Mid-July brought the worst week in the lives of Wisconsin residents. What really hurt was that the national media didn’t seem to care, that it saw in Walker’s entrance into the race as just another opportunity to sell ads — particularly since the increasing numbers of eyeballs on Gov. Scott Walker are putting him second behind the top clown, Donald Trump.

Ignored is the fact that Wisconsin stands as the actual laboratory of failure for Republican ideology and pain for the people. Particularly infuriating for organized labor was how Walker was being cheered in right-wing stump speeches by separating “unions” from “workers.” Unchallenged by reporters he says he “took on the unions and won” with no awareness of what that actually meant for U.S. families or for the economy itself.

Yet state progressives and even moderates pine for the rescue of common-sense analysis from the Fourth Estate. They still hold out hope for investigative journalism as a guarantor of democracy and social justice. Their hopes are being realized, however, only in drips and drabs.

Some East Coasters think that may be deliberate because many want the bland-sounding Walker to emerge as the ideal Republican nominee, confident that the Democratic candidate will be able to wipe the floor with him.

Harboring such hopes, however, is to play a dangerous game. Consider how July 12 launched a week of horribles in Wisconsin despite fury from some within Walker’s own ranks. Despite his control of all branches of state government, several conservatives detested the contents of his two-year state budget.

Fear of the money behind him, though, caused them to s scramble to protect his presidential ambitions even if they wanted distance between themselves and his policies in the state. Some tried to dot the glaring warts with a bit of cosmetic paint. They hardly fixed the biggest disasters ($250 million out of the University of Wisconsin system budget, a second year drop in K-12 funding, expansion of taxpayer money for the unproven voucher school program, loss of environmental and fiscal checks and so forth) but took a victory lap anyway.

Few in the national media noticed that the budget barely squeaked through. Despite a 66-35 edge in the state Assembly, the GOP could only win by 11 voters and only by two in the Senate. Yet the media let Walker describe it as a big victory as he announced a run for the presidency the next day. They essentially ignored the fact that the rebellion at home had delayed Walker’s entrance into the presidential sweepstakes by months and that it may have put him in legal jeopardy.

Walker isn’t worried, however. The FEC is deadlocked and he knew local legal salvation was on hand. That same week (what timing!) Wisconsin’s high court protected him from investigation of collusion between millions of dollars in private money and campaign coordination during the recall election.

Ignoring national court standards about playing fair when heavily funded in campaigns by the plaintiffs, the state justices ruled unconstitutional any attempts to use the state’s grand jury process to investigate illegal collusion. The ignorance of U.S. law made even conservatives chuckle.

But not the national media. It was preoccupied by which rodeo buffoon to chase around the bullring. Trump won, with CNN, FOX and MSNBC barely pausing to discuss Walker’s behavior.

In doing so, they let the bulk of Walker’s message dominate the airwaves. Outside Wisconsin you barely heard about the obvious corruption nor how his support, once 49 percent, had sunk to 29 percent in the polls. Without the dark sides were claims of success — a bare win in the runaway GOP year in 2010 and a win against a political unknown in 2014, where money and attack ads changed the race in the polls from neck and neck to 52 percent for Walker in the final days. To date the Wisconsin media hasn’t much investigated why.

Mainly using video Walker now asks presidential voters to “Recall the Recall.” If only they would, and examine the facts.

Yes, in the summer of 2012 with half the normal presidential turnout, he barely survived despite anger over his elimination of collective bargaining for public sector unions.

No mention in his video of his 10 to 1 money advantage or universal newspaper disapproval of the concept of recalls (which haven’t won a statewide race anywhere in the U.S. since the 1920s). Instead the TV heads said Wisconsin “vetted Walker three times in four years”!

Largely ignored was how that Act 10 union attack has been exposed as a rank failure on all his aims except politically weakening unions, according to a noted professor, Don Kettl who led blue-ribbon panels for Republicans.

Another right-wing mantra that crumbles under inspection is how Walker has held taxes down (debatable outside his stump speech) — not pointing out that the combination of education cuts, weakened environmental protections and expanding potholes are tied to handcuffing what local communities can spend their tax dollars on.

These are actual failures. But the national media is having fun with his clumsy behavior and gaffes, second in their news space to Trump. Walker’s political planners are secretly delighted since Trump is attacking Jeb Bush more than their guy and expect Trump to puff himself up and explode with demagoguery leaving Walker to inherit his most ardent “make war and hate immigrants” froggies.

The national media doesn’t detail actual damage as it pursues only the most provocative headlines about a White House wannabe. Progressive journalists in Wisconsin still hold out hope the investigative experts will wake up and report the realities. But so far they don’t seem to give a fig about what Wisconsin is suffering.

Photo: Walker surrounded by his favorite people (the big business comfortables) with actual floor workers barred during this bill-signing. Walker website.



Dominique Paul Noth
Dominique Paul Noth

Dominique Paul Noth for the past decade was editor of the Milwaukee Labor Press and website, milwaukeelabor.org. He now writes as an independent journalist on culture and politics.