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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Scott Walker, History, and Wisconsin

Running kind of late today, so instead of a morning post -- morning being a lost cause at this point -- I point you to a New York Times op-ed by UW professor of history, geography and environmental studies William Cronon about Scott Walker, Wisconsin's progressive history, and how the two are totally at odds.

It's worth reading the whole piece, but here's the meat:

Scott Walker is not Joe McCarthy. Their political convictions and the two moments in history are quite different. But there is something about the style of the two men -- their aggressiveness, their self-certainty, their seeming indifference to contrary views -- that may help explain the extreme partisan reactions they triggered. McCarthy helped create the modern Democratic Party in Wisconsin by infuriating progressive Republicans, imagining that he could build a national platform by cultivating an image as a sternly uncompromising leader willing to attack anyone who stood in his way. Mr. Walker appears to be provoking some of the same ire from adversaries and from advocates of good government by acting with a similar contempt for those who disagree with him


If you need another view, UW law professor Ann Althouse has a conservative rebuttal. But I think she's kind of missing the point. She argues that Ronald Reagan was as influential in Wisconsin politics as anyone. And, yes, Wisconsin went Reagan in 1980 and 1984, but that was the last time the state went Republican in a presidential election. "Cronon says McCarthy 'helped create the modern Democratic Party,'" Althouse writes, "but Reagan's role in creating the modern Republican Party is even more dramatic."

Maybe, but the subject is Wisconsin. There doesn't seem to be a lot of lasting Reagan influence here -- except in Scott Walker's fantasies, where he worships a Reagan who didn't actually exist. It's St. Reagan the Imaginary -- the talk radio version of Reagan -- who Althouse is talking about and who Walker reveres. His influence in this state has historically been minimal.


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