Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Welcome to Walky World: The "conservative without conscience" armed by ALEC, Scott Walker is the ultimate Nixonian

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is notorious for its crafting of model legislation. Many state legislators from across the nation are notorious for the membership in ALEC. And state executives are notorious for signing into law the ALEC-crafted bills that are passed in the legislatures. But it seems that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is a standout when it comes to producing for ALEC. Here is just little bit of the story from TalkingPointsMemo (a shorter summary is in the Daily Kos).

Almost all of the accomplishments Walker lists in his stump speech originated as ALEC model bills. But Walker hasn’t just supported ALEC initiatives; he’s used the ready-made, heat-and-eat nature of ALEC’s model legislation to shortcut the ordinary lawmaking process in the state capital. Just as he did as a county executive, Walker’s governorship has featured unusual legislative maneuvers and a reliance on emergency special sessions to speed passage of ALEC-crafted bills. In Walker’s Wisconsin, sneak attacks are now the norm.

Initially, Walker said it wouldn’t be the way. One of his 2010 election campaign pledges was to end a longstanding practice used by prior governors and legislators of using their collaborative budget-writing process to sneak in little-noticed policy changes and special projects.

But that was a promise Walker broke almost immediately upon taking office in 2011. He soon declared a fiscal emergency and used it as an excuse to begin pursuing an aggressively conservative agenda via the state budget. Walker shut down a state program – implemented by former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson – that collected data on police traffic stops to see whether Wisconsinites are being racially profiled. He shifted rule-making powers from independent agencies to ones he tightly controlled in ways that would soon benefit his largest contributors. This made it easier, for example, for landlords to steal security deposits from renters by rolling back tenants’ rights and other consumer protections relating to real estate. Walker also eliminated child day care support for state employees in that budget; he sought language that released Wisconsin health insurers from having to cover women’s contraceptive coverage in private market insurance plans.

The focus in those reports was on Walker being a Trojan Horse for ALEC. But a careful reading of this story suggests an even more troubling view of Scott Walker.

The analysis of Scott Walker's political career reveals him as practicing a self-serving ruthlessness not witnessed in American politics since Richard Nixon. Former White House counsel (to Nixon) John Dean warned Wisconsin that Walker was an authoritarian governor, even more authoritarian than Nixon, and a "conservative without conscience". Dean's articles are in here and here. More recent observations have been made by Joan Walsh at and John Nichols at

From Joan Walsh:

When a stealth attempt by Wisconsin Republicans to gut the state’s open records law drew national criticism last weekend [beginning of July 2015], Gov. Scott Walker announced he’d push the legislature to undo the sneaky changes.

"The intended policy goal of these changes was to provide a reasonable solution to protect constituents’ privacy and to encourage a deliberative process between elected officials and their staff in developing policy," his office declared in a statement. "It was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way."

Now it comes out that Walker’s office was in the thick of drafting the changes. "Legislative leaders let us know that they were interested in making changes to the open records law," his press secretary told state reporters in an email. "In response, our staff provided input regarding these proposed changes."

If that sounds familiar, it should. Walker has used the same dodge before, backing away from a controversial idea after it triggered public outrage, and having it turn out that he was behind the move in the first place.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel carried the story, and here are follow-ups from The Rachel Maddow Show and TalkingPointsMemo.

From John Nichols:

Walker has kept his promise to Hendricks [a billionaire backer]: He has divided and conquered. In a little over four years as governor, he has obliterated moderate Republicans and mainstream conservatism in a state where both once flourished. In their place has evolved a win-at-any-cost new politics built around Walker, who has ripped up election laws, governance, and personal relationships so thoroughly that Wisconsin’s largest newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, calls him "the most divisive Wisconsin politician in living memory"—in a state that was represented by Joe McCarthy in the Senate as recently as 1957. Walker has not turned Wisconsin "completely red," but he has conquered foes in both parties and remade the political infrastructure to the point that he can now boast to compromise-averse Republicans: "If our reforms can work in a blue state like Wisconsin, they can work anywhere in America." But which reforms? The changes that Walker trumpets on the campaign trail—assaults on public employees, public education, public services, and unions; the rejection of federal mandates; and the remaking of economic-development programs and tax schemes to distribute wealth upward—haven’t worked any better than the failed austerity schemes in Europe. Wisconsin trails far behind neighboring states like Minnesota and the rest of the nation when it comes to job creation and economic vitality. However, the "reforms" that matter most to Walker—those that enhance his personal power and electability—have been successful enough to make him a serious contender for the Republican nomination

The way to understand this governor begins with the recognition that, while he has always embraced Republicanism and conservatism, his primary focus is Walkerism—the advancement of Scott Walker. Don’t look for, say, a libertarian streak in this guy, or the old right’s dubiousness about military adventurism. Walker talks a good anti-government game, but he’s been on the government payroll for 22 of his 47 years. Downsizing government isn’t really his thing; rather, he has a penchant for using it to reward friends, punish enemies, and, above all, promote his political career. In this, suggests former White House counsel and Watergate conspirator John Dean, Walker is "a double high authoritarian governor, a conservative without conscience." That makes the boyishly affable Walker less comparable to the Republican president he claims to revere, Ronald Reagan, and much more comparable to a Republican president he never mentions. In fact, Dean began arguing several years ago, Walker is "more Nixonian than even Richard Nixon himself (the authoritarian leader with whom I was, and am, so very familiar)."

Scott Walker has spent a lifetime preparing for this presidential campaign, and everything about his record says that he will do whatever it takes to win. If he were to secure the nomination and win the presidency—and arrive in Washington with a GOP-controlled Congress—he would no longer be restructuring the politics of a medium-size state to his advantage; he would be restructuring the federal government and the nation’s future. The prospect excites Limbaugh, just as it terrifies the Wisconsinites who have battled Walker the longest and hardest. If this man is elected president, we will be done with elections as we know them. We will enter a new age of winner-take-all politics, where ruthlessly ambitious tacticians assemble billionaire donors, cultivate an echo-chamber media, shove aside idealists, reimagine parties as reflections of themselves, and remake government as a vessel to be filled by the highest bidder. Perhaps we’ve already passed the tipping point, and Scott Walker’s candidacy simply confirms the crisis he exemplifies. Or perhaps it’s the fight against Walkerism that will finally awaken us.

Before wrapping up, I'll let Joan Walsh have the penultimate word about Walker.

... He’s lied and weaseled his way through his entire career.

You bet. As much as I detest Donald Trump (who keeps hogging media minutes), Walker is much more dangerous. Think of it this way: do you want (a) the blowhard you don't know or (b) the motherf*&$k!#% weasel you do?

If you opt for option (b), be prepared. Walky will screw you (his enemy), then screw his Republican controllers (his friends). And then, Ma Walker, protect yourself.

Think of Joe McCarthy's witch hunts. Think of Tricky Dick's dirty tricks and Watergate. Imagine the very worst, slimiest politician you have ever learned about. Multiply it by a factor of 2. That is Scott Walker. You do not want to live in Walky World.

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