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Scott Walker, Republican Porn Star

February 9, 2015

In the span of just two weeks, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has catapulted into Republican superstar status. Mitt Romney's premature withdrawal from the 2016 presidential race cracked open the doors for the emergence of a hardline right-wing alternative to the Party establishment's lone remaining consensus candidate, Jeb Bush. And with his surprisingly animated speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit, Walker smashed those doors down and jumped to the front of the pack in Iowa and New Hampshire.
With his rhetorical guns blazing at every enemy of Wall Street Republicans and Tea Party conservatives alike, Scott Walker has emerged straight from central casting as a Tarantino-like hero for the GOP. For the faithful, he is unambiguously good. Like them, he believes his Democratic foes aren't just wrong, but unambiguously evil. Whether the villains are unions, pro-choice supporters, the poor, minority voters, public schools or pointy-headed "liberal elites," the righteous Walker, too, hates them all. He talks and fights tough, for the right not a means but an end in itself. And after the Republicans' two humiliating defeats at the hands of Barack Obama, Scott Walker possesses the most important quality of them all. At the end of the movie, he wins.
Walker's rapidly evolving persona goes well beyond the post-Vietnam lesson of Rambo ("Do we get to win this time?") that so entranced President Ronald Reagan. Against impossible odds, the Republican uber avenger doesn't just miraculously avoid defeat and certain death. Free of any doubt and unencumbered by any moral constraint, he inspires not just fear but abject terror in arrogant enemies once viewed as invincible. As with the Nazi leaders and Southern slaveholders in Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained respectively, he slaughters the evil doers of his age and thus rewrites history itself. It's no wonder Tarantino's actors described the brutal justice meted out by Jewish-American commandos and French resistance fighters to Hitler and his minions as "Jewish porn."
That's why the Scott Walker story belongs to a genre that could aptly be called, "Republican porn."
To be sure, the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have enjoyed Walker's surge in the GOP polls. Writing in The Hill, Dick Morris explained why he hasn't been this excited since his toe sucking fetish became public. Here's why he believes "Scott Walker Can Win":

Scott Walker is the only ambidextrous candidate in the Republican field. He appeals equally to the Republican establishment and the Tea Party/evangelical wingers...Walker is effortlessly able to battle for the establishment, the Tea Party and the evangelical vote. And there is no reason for him to have trouble with national security voters, either.

But Walker's greatest strength, Morris suggests, are his "credentials as a battler against the left [which] earn him backing from the right wing of the Republican Party" and show "he has been through a trial by fire that no other GOP presidential aspirant has."
That assessment is shared by some liberal commentators as well. As Brian Beutler summed up Walker's appeal for Republican primary voters:

He fuses the typically incompatible demands of the GOP's donor class with those of its primary voters, who tend to be suspicious of northern governors. But Walker has established his managerial bona fides by governing Wisconsin--a reliably liberal state--as a battle-ready conservative, and in so doing has won major legislative victories and (essentially) two re-election campaigns.

In November, the Washington Monthly's Ed Kilgore explained why those not already "swooning over Jeb Bush and Chris Christie--or maybe frightening small children with tales of Ted Cruz--can be expected inevitably to focus on Scott Walker as the potential candidate with something for everybody."

He's won three times--two elections, one recall--in a state carried twice by Obama. He's taken on and beaten the labor movement, an especially important qualifier for people like Karl Rove obsessed with undermining the Democratic Party's donor base. He loves the Kochs, the Kochs love him. He's a conservative evangelical without being all that noisy about it. He's from a state adjoining Iowa. He even has a plausible working theory of political change, suitable for Republicans worried about electability and follow-through, based on two premises: (a) swing voters respond better to resolute conservatism than to mushy moderation, and (b) what the country most needs is one-party government (his party, of course).

But if Kilgore presciently predicted Walker's emergence as a front-runner, he could not have anticipated Scott Walker's passion play performed at and after Rep. Steve King's Iowa Freedom conclave last month. In Walker's tale of his near Christ-like suffering, he almost died for liberals' sins:

Like he did during his speech at U.S. Rep. Steve King's Iowa Freedom Summit last weekend, Walker talked about some of the death threats made against him by those who opposed his conservative reforms. One threatened to "gut my wife like a deer," and another note said that if his wife didn't stop him, he'd be "the first Wisconsin governor ever assassinated," he said.
The threats are part of the reason he's "exploring that very real possibility of stepping up and providing a new level of leadership," he said during the 30-minute call from Madison, Wisc.
"Part of me looks back and thinks that maybe God put me and my family through all this for a purpose - and it wasn't just to get things done in Wisconsin, and it wasn't just to win all those elections in a state that normally doesn't go Republican. Maybe it was to set us to ... help get our country on the right track."

For Walker, getting the country on the right track means taking the confrontational style that won him the elections of 2010, 2012 and 2014 national. And that means taking on all the groups Republicans love to hate, financed by the Republican mega-donors who hate them, too. During his 2012 recall campaign, Governor Walker raised $36 million from conservative activists and GOP sugar-daddies determined to see his crusade to crush public sector unions succeed. As the Washington Post documented this week, Walker has proven connections to the GOP's top money men:

Fighting the unions became a national cause on the right. Rich conservatives rallied to Walker's side, including influential donors who are part of a network organized by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Among his top supporters were the DeVos family of Michigan, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and millionaire investor Foster Friess.
Since surviving the recall attempt, Walker has assiduously maintained his relationships with an expanding roster of top party fundraisers and financiers, courting them with regular phone calls, chummy visits and invitations to his inauguration last month.

What the donors and the grassroots activists want from presidential candidate Scott Walker is more of the same.
That starts with his crippling of government workers' unions. Having gutted their membership after ending their collective bargaining rights, Walker is taking his axe to the University of Wisconsin system. Proposing to slash $300 million from its 26 campuses to help offset the $2 billion in deficits created by his irresponsible tax cuts, the New York Times explained that Walker hopes to "take the unusual step of removing the university system from direct state control to a 'quasi-governmental' authority that could act autonomously on issues of personnel, procurement, capital projects and tuition." Not to content to stop there with his "nonsensical" budget, Walker proposed rewriting the mission statement for the state's higher education system by dropping "the search for truth" from the 110 year old "Wisconsin Idea." (Of course, the Walker version of the "search for truth" requires coming up with the answers Charles and David Koch and their ilk paid for. That's why his budget contains $250,000 for a study to see if wind power makes people sick.) That Walker himself never finished college no doubt endears him even more to the Republican faithful.
And no matter what GOP leaders are now uttering about income inequality, poverty and the "right to rise," Scott Walker holds low income Americans in the same low regard as Mr. 47 Percent, Mitt Romney. As Greg Sargent noted, Walker appropriated Paul Ryan's since discarded "Hammock Theory of Poverty" during his Iowa jeremiad:

"I see a president who seems to feels success should be measured by how many people are dependent on the government," Walker said. Under Obama, government assistance has become less of a safety net and more of "a hammock," he said.

One of his biggest applause lines came during his fond recollection of his days growing up in lily-white towns in the Midwest. "In all the years I was in school, doesn't matter whether it was in Plainfield or Delavan, here in Iowa or Wisconsin, there was never a time when I heard one of my classmates say to me, 'Hey Scott, hey Scott, some day when I grow up I want to become dependent on the government', right?"
And so it goes. The minimum wage, he declared last year, "doesn't serve a purpose." His support for school vouchers continues unabated despite its proven failures in Milwaukee. With his draconian voter ID law estimated to deny up to 300,000 Badger State residents the chance to vote despite a complete lack of evidences of vote fraud, Walker declared, "It doesn't matter if there's one, 100 or 1,000," Walker said. "Amongst us who would be that one person who would like to have our vote canceled out by a vote that was cast illegally?" In Iowa, he boasted of blocking Obamacare's Medicaid expansion in his state, a move that cost Wisconsin $500 million over three years and needlessly prevented 87,000 residents from obtaining health insurance. And when it comes to women's reproductive rights, LifeNews crowed, "The good news for the pro-life movement is Governor Scott Walker is not only pro-life but has a lengthy pro-life record he can tout on the campaign trail." Even the ongoing corruption investigations can't dampen the ardor of his fans.
For the schadenfraude enthusiasts who play such a key role in the early Republican primary contests, no other GOP White House hopeful can match Scott Walker's performance. He's 3 and 0 in a state Republicans haven't carried in a presidential contest since 1984. Culture warriors like Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson and Bobby Jindal will only bit players. While Jeb Bush has eclipsed Chris Christie, his family taint and support for Common Core education standards and immigration reform won't play well with the base. (As with Mitt Romney in 2012, his cash advantage is another matter.) The idiosyncrasies of the erratic Rand Paul are becoming increasingly evident. Senator Ted Cruz, who has waged many battles and lost them all, is only fit to be cast as a Tea Party Don Quixote.
For the GOP's hardliners and money-men hoping to write the script for 2016, that leaves the one man who inflicted beatings on progressive groups and Democratic candidates alike and emerged victorious. Scott Walker, Republican porn star.
(This article also appears at Dailykos.)


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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