Joe Nocera has a piece today in the New York Times confirming what many of us have been saying for a while now, including here at the Washington Monthly and at the Political Animal: Scott Walker isn’t a terribly attractive presidential candidate for the GOP, but he would make a vicious and vindictive President.
Walker’s shtick has been to make up for personal lack of charm and charisma with a bluntly cynical eye to maximizing his appeal to the right-wing base not improving their lives, but rather by aggressively making punching bags of traditional liberal targets. These include labor unions, teachers, universities in general, people who work for a living, women who need abortions, and so on.
And why? Not even because it helps him with big donors, although that certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s mostly just a matter of spite, political gamesmanship and riling up his base as a warrior against anything and anyone Rush Limbaugh and Fox News have ever hated. As Nocera notes:
To put it another way, Walker busted the public employee unions not because he had to but because he could.
Similarly, there was no deep desire on the part of the business community to have Wisconsin become a right-to-work state, even though it would most likely bring about lower labor costs. Kaufman quotes a leader of the Wisconsin Contractors Coalition, who told him that “right-to-work is going to compromise my quality, my competitiveness.” That’s because the unions have long served to screen workers and keep them up to date on new technologies.
No, what motivated Walker, clearly, was politics. Unions, which have long been traditional Democratic allies, have been in steep decline — except for public employee unions, which now make up just under half of all union workers. By crippling them, Kettl told me, “Walker is trying to put a stake in the heart of a strong piece of Democratic support that has long been a thorn in the side of the Republicans.”
Once they reach the Oval Office, presidential candidates tend to keep doing what got them there in the first place. In Walker’s case, that would constitute an all-out assault on both the economic and social fronts, including and especially wage and worker protections. While the entire Republican Party has gone off a radical cliff over the last few decades and its current crop of candidates is no exception, most of the current aspirants to the nomination are simple demagogues, plutocrats and also-ran Congressional pretenders. Walker, on the other hand, isn’t just an egotistical bluffer seeking to capture billionaire donor dollars for his friends. He’s a committed soldier with an attack dog’s contempt and commitment to destroy his political opponents.
A Walker presidency would be a very dangerous thing indeed–not just for the left, but for the entire country. As demographic changes shrink the GOP base further and further, a man who gains his power by stoking the angers of a shrinking minority of angry conservatives by sticking the maximum possible pain on the majority of the country and the few remaining pillars of the middle class could be a serious threat to democracy.