On Monday I shared just a few of the flip-flops Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has made during his career as a politician, and at the time I noted that throughout his career in politics – a career that has spanned virtually his entire adult life – Gov. Walker has tried to portray himself as a man of principles who can’t and won’t be intimidated by standing up for what he believes. However, while Scott Walker wants us all to believe he’s an unintimidated leader with steel in his spine, the fact is he’s a political opportunist who’s had arguably as accomplished a career as a flip-flopper as former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
With that in mind, I’d like to take a look at a few more of Gov. Walker’s more high-profile flip-flops during his career as a politician.
Scott Walker on Legislating After Midnight:
This is an issue on which Scott Walker has actually flip-flopped twice, if you can believe it.
While running for governor in 2010, then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker was critical of late-night legislative sessions, saying “I have two teenagers and I tell them that nothing good happens after midnight. That’s even more true in politics,” Walker said, adding, “The people of Wisconsin deserve to know what their elected leaders are voting on.” Walker even promised that if elected governor, he would sign legislation prohibiting the Legislature from voting after 10 p.m. or before 9 a.m. Walker’s promise to put a stop to late night legislating represented a complete reversal from his record as a member of the State Assembly, as he joined with the Republican majority in January 1997 to eliminate a rule that required lawmakers to finish their floor sessions at 8 p.m.
While he promised to sign legislation prohibiting late night legislating by members of the Legislature, once elected governor Scott Walker quickly reversed his position on late night legislating for a second time, as he signed two biennial state budgets into law despite the fact that both budgets were voted on in the very wee hours of the morning by the Republican-controlled legislature.
Notably, not once in Gov. Walker’s five years as governor has he ever called for a ban on late night legislative sessions, despite his promise as a candidate to call for such a ban.
Scott Walker on Right-to-Work Legislation:
While running to keep his job in the 2012 gubernatorial recall election Gov. Walker promised that so-called “right-to-work” legislation would never reach his desk after being challenged by his opponent on whether he’d sign right to work legislation into law. However, like so many “promises” Gov. Walker made in order to get elected, Gov. Walker broke his promise as soon as Republicans in the Legislature signaled in 2015 they would attempt to enact right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin, saying in February he’d sign any right-to-work legislation pushed through the Republican-controlled legislature.
Backlash to Gov. Walker’s reversal on right-to-work was swift, with thousands of private sector union members gathering in the State Capitol to protest Gov. Walker’s decision to weaken private sector unions in Wisconsin.
For a little context, here’s some video of Gov. Walker’s 2012 promise that right-to-work legislation would never cross his desk.
Scott Walker on Discrimination:
In advance of his 2014 gubernatorial campaign against Democratic challenger Mary Burke, Gov. Walker gave an interview in 2013 in which he celebrated Wisconsin’s non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community as a “healthy balance” with the state’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality (a ban that has since been struck down by the United States Supreme Court).
“In Wisconsin, we’ve had anti-discriminatory laws that are very similar to [the proposed federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act] for more than 30 years and they work quite effectively. We’re also a state that has a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as one man and one woman,” he told Al Hunt. “We’ve had no problems… I should say, limited problems with that.”
Just two short years later, Gov. Walker appears to have had a change of heart regarding anti-discrimination laws, as he’s now come out in support of Indiana’s discriminatory Religious Freedom Restoration Act
But Walker, that erstwhile champion of a “healthy balance” — a little inequality here, a little equality there — is now lending his support to Indiana’s discriminatory law. Asked for the governor’s position on the measure, Walker press secretary AshLee Strong told CNN on Sunday, “As a matter of principle, Gov. Walker believes in broad religious freedom and the right for Americans to exercise their religion and act on their conscience.”
It’s ironic to read a statement from Gov. Walker’s staff that references matters of principle, because it should be pretty obvious to anyone who’s paying attention that Gov. Walker has no principles beyond one – do or say whatever it takes to win elections, regardless of consequences.
Scott Walker on Ethanol:
During his failed run for governor in 2006, then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker declared his opposition to all ethanol mandates, whether state or federal.
“Currently, we have a problem with big government in Madison. On principle, I cannot support this proposal.
“It is clear to me that a big government mandate is not the way to support the farmers of this state,” he continued [in a statement]. “Central planning will not help our family farmers, protect our environment or provide jobs. The free-enterprise system must drive innovation to relieve our dependence on foreign oil, not mandates from the state or federal government.”
Fast-forward to 2015 and Gov. Walker, anxious to pander to voters in the Iowa Caucuses, appears to have had a change of heart regarding ethanol.
“I’m willing to go forward on continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard and pressing the EPA to make sure there’s certainty in terms of the blend levels set. […]
“Now, long-term […] my goal would be to get to a point where we directly address those market access issues and I think that’s a part of the challenge. So that eventually you didn’t need to have a standard just like you no longer need in the industry to have the subsidies that were there before to help insure we had a strong system. I think eventually you can get to that. But you can’t get to that unless you deal with market access. […]
“That’s ultimately the best way, to let the market decide, but right now we don’t have a free and open marketplace. So that’s why I’m willing to take that position.”
After he was called out on his ethanol flip-flop, Gov. Walker had the gall to to turn around and deny that he flip-flopped on ethanol.
On a telephone town hall meeting sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots, the all-but-declared Republican presidential candidate insisted that, when he spoke out against ethanol mandates during his 2006 run for governor, he was specifically referring to state-level standards, not federal ones.
The weekend before last, at an industry-sponsored agriculture summit in Iowa, Walker said he opposes the Renewable Fuel Standard philosophically and would like to phase it out “long-term” but that he would keep it in place indefinitely to help out farmers.
Tea Party Patriots President Jenny Beth Martin’s first question to Walker during the hour-long Monday call, which drew thousands of conservative activists, was, “What made you switch your position?”
“From our standpoint, our position is consistent,” Walker replied. “I talked about not wanting a mandate in Wisconsin as governor. We do not have one. I do not support one. I have not enacted it. I’ve kept it out of the state of Wisconsin. What I said in Iowa was … I think we need to phase it out, but I don’t approve of putting in new mandates.”
Gov. Walker’s flip-flop on ethanol, along with his subsequent denial of the flip-flop illustrates the difficulty Scott Walker is having in reconciling the perception he’s fostered that he’s a principled leader with steel in his spine with his numerous position reversals when those reversals further his political ambitions. In fact, these reversals demonstrate unambiguously that Scott Walker’s sole guiding principle as a person is the belief that he belongs in political office.
This entry is cross-posted to DownWithTyranny.