Scott Walker: Practitioner of ‘racially polarized politics?’

How do you know Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is going to be a formidable presidential candidate? He’s already getting the racial treatment on the left.

The assumptions in a Slate piece published on Wednesday by Jamelle Bouie provide some good examples of what the next GOP nominee will be up against.

Bouie’s piece opens with a rather compelling summation of the GOP’s challenges in 2016. The conventional wisdom suggests that the party needs to articulate an agenda that leads lower-and middle-class voters to believe that the Republican nominee has their best interests at heart. What’s more, the party needs to craft a pitch that appeals to more minority voters. Bouie added that Walker’s take-no-prisoners approach to politics in Wisconsin generally eschewed the big tent, and yet he nevertheless won three statewide elections in a purple state in the space of only four years.

Bouie further observed that there is a vigorous debate among political analysts as to whether Republicans can win in the White House in 2016 (though probably not in 2020 and certainly not in 2024) by simply expanding their current base of primarily white voters, many of whom failed to turn out at the polls in 2012. “Which brings us back to Scott Walker,” Bouie wrote.

“Unlike Mitt Romney—who was merely adopted by the world of racially polarized politics—Walker was born in it and molded by it,” he added.

Quoting former The New Republic editorialist Alec MacGillis, Bouie asserted that Milwaukee – where Walker served as a county executive – is home to “profound racial equality, political segregation, [and] a parallel-universe news media.”

If any candidate could run a rigid campaign of polarization—aimed at winning as many white voters as possible—it’s Walker. His language is already there. In his Iowa speech, he touted voter-identification laws and portrayed disadvantage as a pure product of personal failure. “In America the opportunity is equal for each and every one of us but … the ultimate outcome is up to each and every one of us individually.”

Walker, in other words, represents the other path: The chance to win without broadening your base or changing your priorities. Victory, but at the price of greater racial polarization. It’s a seductive vision—and an inherently divisive one. [Ephasis added]

I’m not of the opinion that the Republican candidate in 2016 can win the White House simply by trying to resurrect the Romney electorate while augmenting it within its existing demographic parameters. The GOP will have to craft an agenda that appeals to more minority and women voters; if not this cycle, then most certainly in the next. However, the notion that Scott Walker’s candidacy would accentuate somehow racial polarization is positively perverse. Particularly considering the scorched earth upon which the Obama campaign waged its bid for reelection.

We need not rehash the voluminous examples of the Obama reelection campaign and its allies actively fracturing the electorate and pitting races, genders, and generations against one another. I’ve written about this lamentable phenomenon in tens of posts, and I’d only be repeating myself. To place the burden of racial healing on the shoulders of a prospective GOP nominee given the record of this White House and its supporters is brazen.

As fate would have it, the dubiousness of Bouie’s provocative charge was underscored in Senate confirmation hearings on Thursday when a figure of some repute in Milwaukee offered searing testimony indicting federal officials for making life harder on the citizens of his city.

“What I have witnessed from the Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder has been almost hostility toward local law enforcement,” Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke told a panel of senators.

“What we all witnessed in Ferguson, Missouri back in August was a tragedy,” he continued. “What followed, however, compounded that tragic situation as people across the United States converged on Ferguson to exploit the situation for self-serving purposes.”

“What was called for at that moment when the U.S. DOJ inserted itself early in the process was an appeal to reasonableness, responsible rhetoric, and cautioning against a rush to judgment,” Clarke added. “Instead, some very powerful people made statements that only heightened rising tensions.”

“The incendiary rhetoric used by Eric Holder created a pathway for a false narrative that then became the rallying cry for cop-haters across America,” he insisted. “Without a shred of evidence, a broad brush has been used to unfairly malign the reputation of the profession of policing in the United States.”

It sounds like someone much closer to the ground in Milwaukee than Bouie regards this White House and its regular agitation as far more deleterious to comity in his city’s than Scott Walker’s administration. While the conditions lamented by Bouie and those identified by Clarke are not mutually exclusive, together they provide a more nuanced view of the city Walker represented as county executive and governor.