I have never said that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is stupid. I have often complained that he makes bad decisions that have tremendous negative effects on the people he is supposed to represent (we’re number 42!), but he is doing it the smart way. That is, he has become the Platonic ideal of a twenty-first century Republican.
Like any square, there are four sides to this modern-day GOP ethos. Walker perfectly fills all four:
1. The first is what I like to call The Convenient Jesus. That is, when it helps, politically, to make vague gestures toward religion, Republicans fall all over themselves to do it. I have no doubt that most elected Republicans’ faiths are genuine; however, their use of it in campaigns and politics reeks of opportunism. And Walker is a great example, even down to blaming his god for making him drop out of the 2006 governor’s race. Walker’s good at talking faith, but in practice, of course, there is very little actual concern for what his religion teaches about loving enemies, taking care of the least among us, and throwing the money lenders out.
There are corollaries to this, nationally and in Wisconsin, like Domionism Is Destroying The Earth, Let’s Get All Up In Your Ladyparts, and GOP HULK SMASH PUBLIC SCHOOLS, to name three. But I don’t have time to get into all of that here.
(There are some–Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, for example–who have but one real god in Objectivism, but they seem to enjoy the challenge of trying to pretend Rand wasn’t a rabid anti-Christian atheist whose Objectivist “faith” was merely pretense to justify her own selfish greed, which as it turns out is the opposite of what Jesus really preached.)
2. Related to religion, in that it is some kind of voodoo, is Tax Cut Mumbo-Jumbo. This is the modern Republican belief that tax cuts and stupid sayings like “Wisconsin’s open for business!” are the magic incantations that make magic job creation possible. Walker’s 2010 pledge to create 250,000 jobs in his first four-year term was not merely a campaign promise–the kind of lie politicians tell us to get our votes, even though they have no intention of still being around when we wake up in the morning. Indeed, Walker and his ilk believe the mere act of saying stuff like that, and of sacrificing more and more public good to the maw of private enterprise, is all it takes to have a booming, functioning economy. It is clear, not just from Wisconsin’s piss-poor job performance since Walker took office (I would link to all of Jake’s posts if I could, but, please, just start at the top and read down. And then bookmark it), but also from the woeful mismanagement of any agency or task related to jobs in his administration that Walker and his allies simply have no idea how to handle the economy. But they sure talk a good game!
3. Third is an is an easy one: Poking Democrats In The Eye With A Stick. Actual governance and policy–much like actual religion or actual economics–will always take a backseat to the modern GOP’s desperate need to try to make Democrats angry. Never mind that these attempts are often dumb (think Sarah Palin’s Big Gulp) or are often antithetical to previous Republican principles (like how “Obamacare” is the MOST UNCONSTITUTIONAL LAW EVAR even though it is almost completely borrowed from 1990s-era Republicans like Bob Dole and the Heritage Foundation). Between being competent and being mean to Democrats, the choice is (almost literally) a no-brainer for the contemporary Republican–be mean.
Walker and his allies in the Wisconsin legislature exhibit this trait in spades. Act 10, which in 2011 did in fact succeed in making Democrats mad, was a purely political move; they admitted as much when on national TV they said they were kneecapping unions’ ability to influence elections. (Wealthy donors, PACs, and other special interests get the open-door treatment, though. Just ask the Bad River Band of Lake Superior.) Even before Walker took office, he killed the deal that would have brought medium-speed commuter rail to the state, and kept jobs here, because trains are a liberal thing. The 2011-2013 state budget, and the proposed 2013-2015 one, were not good for the state. In exchange for (very modest when it comes to the average taxpayer) tax cuts, there are deep incisions, gutting vital institutions like our schools, and hocking the state to grease the palms of Wisconsin’s road-building lobby.
4. Last, and probably most important to the whole modern-day GOP ethos, is Victimhood. There is no more rapid a way to become Republican flavor-of-the-month in the modern era than to be a victim of “the left.” Sarah Palin, again, was an unremarkable governor whose meteoric rise to fame in the GOP had less to do with her place on McCain’s ticket than on her being a victim of such liberal vultures as Katie Couric and Newsweek. She was such a victim that she quit being governor half-way through (we should be so lucky).
So here comes Scott Walker, writing his book (I joked on twitter it should be called This is the Book They Told Me I Had to Write So I Could Run for President Because That’s What Everybody Does, is Write a Book), actually and seriously entitled Unintimidated. In laying down his marker in the early 2016 Republican presidential primary, he is literally and baldly labeling himself a victim of liberal bullying. I have no idea, of course, what his ghost writer is going to come up with for what’s between the covers–though I’m willing to bet the chapter of his life where he was intimidated to drop out of Marquette because he was caught campaigning illegally, or the part where he skated on the John Doe charges because he was apparently so oblivious to what goes on 25 feet from his office that he just didn’t know that his most trusted campaign deputies were campaigning on county time. But from the title, it sure seems like Walker is banking on his status as the nation’s most under-fire Republican governor to propel him to the top of the 2016 dogpile.
So there you have it: Walker is the perfect embodiment of the current GOP ethos. He is a pasteboard example of the Republican id in all of its glory. Good job, Wisconsin.