Koch Zero

With big money in American politics remaining a clear and present threat, and the odds of adding a 28th amendment to the United States Constitution specifically stating that money is not speech and corporations are not people still a bit limited, it’s nice to see that there are still times when big money comes up a bit short, especially as it pertains to a certain wingnut from Wisconsin:

A [recent] poll out of Iowa shows most of what we’ve been seeing in recent weeks with Donald Trump at the top of the pack followed by Ben Carson and none of the other candidates in double digits. The real headline out of the poll, though is the seeming collapse of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s Presidential campaign…

It’s been quite a collapse for Walker over the past two months. Not only was he leading in Iowa and performing strongly in both nationally and in New Hampshire, but he was widely seen as a candidate that could appeal to both the conservative base of the Republican Party and the more moderate “establishment” and business wings. His rise to national prominence due to the showdown over public employee unions in Wisconsin, and his subsequent victories in not only getting his favored legislation passed but also pushing back against a recall effort that resulted from the union showdown and then wining re-election last years made him something of a national hero among Republicans and the calls for him to run for President began long before his re-election as Governor last November. Before the race for the Republican nomination really began, many analysts foresaw that Walker could be a strong competitor to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, especially if he managed to do as well in the Iowa Caucuses as the early polls were indicating.

As time went on, though, it became clear that Walker was not as good a candidate as his Wisconsin experience and press clippings made it seem. Early on even before he got into the race, Walker got into hot water with conservatives over his hiring of Republican strategist Liz Mair to run his campaign’s social media operation because, among other things, Mair had made comments on Twitter before being hired that were critical of the Iowa Caucuses as well as her personal position on immigration reform. Mair ended up resigning, but it was Walker who ended up coming out of the whole incident looking like someone who would cave to pressure over something as silly as a couple inoffensive tweets. Immigration quickly became the source of another problem for Walker when, although he had once supported immigration reform that included some form of what conservatives call “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, he was caught flip-flopping on the issue when campaigning in Iowa. Later, it was reported that Walker had told high level donors in a private meeting that he actually still did support some form of “amnesty” as party of an immigration reform effort. Walker’s effort to get in the good graces of the hard right base of the party has extended to even making statements critical of legal immigration. More recently, he has been caught taking our different positions on the issue of birthright citizenship over the course of seven days in the wake of Donald Trump’s introduction of his immigration plan. All of this has led to the impression that Walker will say whatever he needs to whichever audience he is talking to, which is obviously a much harder thing to do in the era of the Internet and the ease with which someone can record a campaign appearance with their phone.

It’s amazing, and amusing, to bear witness to Walker’s collapse—and the reality that his notorious alliance with Charles and David Koch is seemingly providing no tangible benefit whatsoever to his campaign. Could this be a sign that the Kochs are not nearly as powerful as they want progressives to think they are?

If Walker soon joins Rick Perry as a former Republican presidential candidate, it will be a fitting comeuppance for a man who, like Chris Christie, thought aligning himself with the Kochs would clear a path to the White House. Who would have thought that both men would end up in a political outhouse?

UPDATE: More from Ed Kilgore, Vox and Think Progress. Also, from 2011, Rachel Maddow on the beginning of Walker’s war on labor and his unholy alliance with the Kochs. Plus, from the June/July/August 2015 issue of the Washington Monthly, Donald F. Kettl on Walker’s dark legacy.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.