FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bilingualism Scott Walker Style

With only three weeks left in Wisconsin’s historic recall election of Governor Scott Walker, a video has emerged with the potential to reverse the fortunes of this newly anointed star of the American radical conservative movement.

Serious lies have brought down many a politician, and Walker’s duplicity in his remarks to “divide & conquer” Wisconsin that was caught live with a new documentary about the decline of industrial America, may yet prove his undoing.

Many observers, such as former chief counsel to Richard Nixon, John Dean, have referenced what some hold to be Walker’s mendacity, asserting that the Governor’s “lying is notorious” with a style even “more Nixonian than even Richard Nixon himself.”  The implications are significant as Walker’s credibility diminishes with his former top aides immersed in scandal and under investigation by the District Attorney with computers seized by the FBI.

Politicians are famous for being taken down by their vanity. In this case Scott Walker permitted a documentary filmmaker to tail him, and as with so many who came before him eventually dropped his guard. In the process we discovered the different language and messages the Governor delivers to the public and his billionaire backers.

The two recordings of Walker, one with his billionaire and one in his televised address to the public following the outbreak of the 2011 protests shows a “bilingual” Walker deploying two entirely different “languages”: one for his billionaire backer, and one for the public that contradicts the message of the former.  The video with his billionaire funder has the Governor receiving an affectionate, bordering on amorous, hug from his Wisconsin patroness, Diane Hendricks, which surely will displease Mrs. Walker.  Ms. Hendricks is Walker’s biggest Wisconsin backer, having already given him $519,000 and permitting Walker to avail himself of her private plane for campaigning.

This encounter, and a recording of the Governor last year where he thought he was speaking about strategy with one of America’s notorious Right Wing funders, the Koch brothers, shows a sort of bilingual character to Walker, with a folksy, populist language deployed for the public, and another that is Machiavellian and servile with America’s power elite. These languages differ not only in style, but also in substance.

On the one hand, with the billionairess, Walker is asked if “we can work on these unions and become a ‘right to work state.’”  The Governor responds with “we are going to start in a couple of weeks with our budget adjustment bill” and the “first step” with labor will be to “divide and conquer” public and private sector workers.

Walker, to his word, then followed on his promise to Ms. Hendricks by removing the right of public employees to bargain on wages and benefits.  Additionally, were requirements for public unions to annually re-certify. What Walker failed to anticipate are the now famous/infamous (depending on one’s politics) Wisconsin protests that emerged in the winter and spring of 2011. Walker, quick to do damage control, made a televised address to the public after the protests erupted, then asserting that his budget adjustment bill “is not aimed at state workers and it certainly isn’t a battle with unions.”  Then reflecting his previously mentioned “divide & conquer” strategy to his billionaire backer, Walker states we are “not going after the private sector unions.”

This recent incident may be too much for Midwesterners, who although notorious for a German frugality also pride themselves on honesty and straightforwardness in their politicians.  In the video Walker comes off as sneaky, telling a billionaire that his strategy is “divide and conquer” while in public he had claimed the budget bill was about balancing the budget.  His utterance may stick in the craw of a public craving bipartisanship and solution-based politics given the turbulence that has emerged since the rise of the Tea Party in 2010.

Wisconsin, the state that spearheaded both progressivism and McCarthyism, has always been a bellwether for the nation. It reflected the 2010 national right turn with an election that brought Walker and a strong majority of Tea Party Republicans to the state house.  In power they have cut taxes for the rich, curtailed most collective bargaining rights for public employees, cut education at all levels and have declared the state “open for business.”  The policies have created a serious reaction, with unprecedented mass demonstrations and a wave of rarely used recall elections, a process by which elected officials can be made to stand for election before their term expires.  Yet, just as quickly as the fortunes of the radical rightwing Tea Party have risen, they seem to be just as rapidly falling.  The recall of Walker echoes this national trend as well; where polls for the Tea Party American Congress show record low levels of support for that institution.

There are only three weeks to go in this battle that nationally is being billed as a contest between big labor and big money.  Yet, the race is more nuanced, with only 13.3 percent of the Wisconsin workforce unionized, thus suggesting big labor no longer even exists.  Indeed, a majority of Walker’s opposition comes from non-union workers that are simply appalled by the corrupting influence of big money in politics that for them Walker has come to embody.  Conversely, not all Walker supporters are rich.  Many feel he mirrors their fiscal concerns as taxpayers under stress in a time of declining wages for the middle class.

As the race enters the final stretch Walker is neck and neck in a dead heat with his old rival, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a centrist who has sparred plenty with unions, but who is perceived as honest, even by many Walker supporters. Barrett is running on moderation and bringing an end to Wisconsin’s “civil war,” to use his term, along with a modest record of economic success the past fifteen months that follows much decline in the previous three decades of Wisconsin’s biggest city. Yet, Walker’s suburban and rural supporters see Barrett as too much reflecting ‘urban’ Milwaukee.  The recall’s symbolic importance is immense. If Walker prevails, his rightwing funders will maintain it as a victory encouraging them to go for a coup de grace against the labor movement.  Meanwhile, Walker’s opposition believes his defeat will be seen as a repudiation of politics reminiscent of Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon, placed on the steroids of billionaire money in the present.  The electoral outcome of the June 5th recall will do much to inform campaign narratives in the United States generally as the country advances toward its Presidential election in November and thus is being closely watched by all.

At present, Scott Walker’s big money machine is outspending his opponent Tom Barrett by estimates of 3-5 to 1.  Walker’s billionaires are also outspending labor 20 to 1.  Meanwhile, the DNC (Democratic National Committee) seems to be taking a laissez faire approach to support of the recall that is at all odds with the urgency of the situation.  To be ungenerous, it reminds one of Stalin abandoning the Polish resistance to the Germans at Warsaw at the end of World War II.  For anyone wishing to add their voice (think Lincoln Brigade of Spanish Civil War) to the cause, please call the DNC at 202-863-8000 and request they send cash (reinforcements!) NOW!

Thank you!

JEFFREY SOMMERS is an associate professor of political economy & public in Africology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and visiting faculty at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga.  He publishes regularly in outlets such as CounterPunch and the Guardian, and routinely appears as an expert guest in global news programs, most recently on Peter Lavelle’s CrossTalk.  He can be reached at: Jeffrey.sommers@fulbrightmail.org

CHRISTOPHER FONS is a Social Studies teacher in Milwaukee and executive board member of the Milwaukee Teacher’s Education Association (MTEA). He can be reached at fonsca@gmail.com

More articles by:
July 19, 2018
Rajai R. Masri
The West’s Potential Symbiotic Contributions to Freeing a Closed Muslim Mind
Jennifer Matsui
The Blue Pill Presidency
Ryan LaMothe
The Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy of White Evangelicals
Paul Tritschler
Negative Capability: a Force for Change?
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: ‘Social Dialogue’ Reform Frustrations
Rev. William Alberts
A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret
Raouf Halaby
Joseph Harsch, Robert Fisk, Franklin Lamb: Three of the Very Best
George Ochenski
He Speaks From Experience: Max Baucus on “Squandered Leadership”
Ted Rall
Right Now, It Looks Like Trump Will Win in 2020
David Swanson
The Intelligence Community Is Neither
Andrew Moss
Chaos or Community in Immigration Policy
Kim Scipes
Where Do We Go From Here? How Do We Get There?
July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail