Madison Magazine was nice enough to ask me to write an assessment of Gov. Scott Walker’s first year in office. Here’s how it begins:
On Nov. 19, 1955, the modern age of conservatism began with young Bill Buckley publishing the first issue of his new magazine, National Review. Famously, Buckley said in the mission statement that the magazine “stands athwart history, yelling Stop” to the liberalism that had dominated American government for the first half of the twentieth century.
Almost fifty-five years later, inspired by the same beliefs as Buckley, Gov. Scott Walker stood athwart Wisconsin history and yelled Stop to a century’s worth of progressive policies, as he announced his plans to break Wisconsin’s public employee unions as a way to rein in government spending.
The move ignited a cataclysm of protests that remain unabated today. And they helped frame the three paradoxes that mark Scott Walker’s tumultuous first year in office.
- For years, Scott Walker had been a likable and gifted politician—a conservative rock star who could convince Democrats to vote for him for three terms as county executive of decidedly liberal Milwaukee County. Yet today, after pursuing a political agenda that is either remarkably courageous or spectacularly suicidal (maybe both!), the affable Walker finds himself dangerously underwater in the polls, disliked by most Wisconsinites and blamed for the state’s political turmoil.
- Even if Walker is ignominiously recalled from office in 2012, he seems certain to be judged by historians as a transformative governor who changed the political DNA of Wisconsin. In short, public employee unionism will never be the same after Scott Walker, even if liberals sweep to power at the Capitol.
- Walker is an unabashed pro-business governor who has proved surprisingly inept on key development issues. Bereft of savvy business advice in his inner circle, this corporate cheerleader fumbled the crucial venture capital issue, wasting months, and seems prisoner of a simplistic eighties-style of economic thinking. Meanwhile, his brash pledge to oversee creation of 250,000 jobs in his first term could be the petard on which his own political career is blown up.
Make no mistake: the paradoxical Mr. Walker is difficult to explain. The old Kris Kristofferson line —“He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction”—comes to mind.
Count me among the people who underestimated Walker….
To read more, please go here.
I also asked a cross-section of Madisonians to offer their advice to the governor. Here’s what they had to say.
Former UW-Madison Chancellor had more to say than most people, and this is it.