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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why National Dems May Wind Up Thanking Wisconsin Recallers

As a resident of this state, I really do believe there aren't many good things you can say about Wisconsin Governor Scott "Divide and Conquer" Walker. He's not particularly smart and he's not particularly honest. He's also not particularly courageous.

And courage is something he got some credit for. After his big unionbuster, Walker took a lot of heat. But I'd argue that this was heat he was unprepared for. The scale of the reaction scared the starch out of his drawers and left him obsessed with his own political survival. After all, this is a man a former high-level GOP legislative staffer described as a "giant fiery ball of ambition" -- and ambitions die when the career dies. He's gone from Tea Party Hero to a Romney-like weathervane, pointing in whatever direction the political winds are blowing at the moment. And, while Republicans control the State assembly and senate, this is the result of gerrymandering more than anything. The problem for Scott Walker there is that you can't gerrymander a statewide office. No creatively drawn district lines will save him from overreach and the ground looks very bad for him right now. At a time when Republicans would very much like to see him strike while the iron is hot and return to hard partisanship, Walker's survival instincts push him toward centrism. Rock no boats, make no waves, curb all overreach.

Steve Benen caught a whiff of Walkers newfound political cowardice moderation, this time on the issue of a slow, bloodless coup attempt being waged by the GOP.


Over the weekend, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) offered cautious encouragement to Republicans hoping to rig the 2016 presidential election by changing how his state allocates electoral votes. The conservative governor didn't explicitly endorse the idea, but Walker called it "interesting" and "worth looking at."

Yesterday, the Wisconsin Republican was far more circumspect.

Gov. Scott Walker says he has a "real concern" about a Republican idea to change the way the state awards its electoral votes, conceding the move could make Wisconsin irrelevant in presidential campaigns. [...]

"One of our advantages is, as a swing state, candidates come here. We get to hear from the candidates," said Walker in an interview Saturday at a conservative conference in Washington, D.C. "That's good for voters. If we change that, that would take that away, it would largely make us irrelevant."

That's a far cry from what Walker was saying over the weekend, and it's a welcome change. What's more, it's worth noting that the governor happens to be correct -- if Wisconsin changed to a system in which electoral votes are dictated by gerrymandered district lines, the state would immediately go from key, contested battleground to campaign afterthought.

"This would, incidentally, put Walker at odds with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, a long-time ally of the governor who's also from Wisconsin and who's endorsed the scheme," Benen says.

That's a bit of an understatement. If Walker bails on the scheme, the whole plot falls apart. Wisconsin is essential. He's got everything he needs to do it -- a pet legislature, inoculation against another recall (you only get one shot at that in Wisconsin) -- now should be the perfect time to subvert democracy and use gerrymandering, combined with electoral collage trickery, to install a popular vote loser in the White House. Walker wouldn't be "at odds" with his national party chairman if he caves, he'd be throwing his entire party's plan for national dominance under the bus.

While we're not out of the woods yet, it seems foolish in retrospect for the GOP to rest all their hopes on the narrow shoulders of the opportunistic Scott Walker. And even if Walker decides he can survive it, what's to keep another waffling GOP governor on shaky ground (think Rick Scott) from dropping out of the plot? Walker's set a precedent, no matter what he does going forward. By thinking of his own political survival, he's causing others to do the same. Who wants to be the one taking the heat, while the other governors drop out and run for cover? What would be the point, since without the others, the plan won't work anyway? Why cause rancor needlessly and bootlessly? None of these guys can trust the others now, so any one of them may drop out at the slightest sign of defection or tough sledding.

Anyone who thinks the Wisconsin Recall fight was a failure may well look at this moment as the moment when they were proven wrong. Scott Walker, scared straight and heading into reelection, may now be moderating his own party -- and suffocating what is really a slow-motion coup in its cradle.


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