Shortly before Scott Walker was re-elected Wisconsin’s Governor for the third time in four years, I made the case that if Walker prevailed Republicans should nominate him as their presidential candidate right then and there. Since January, Walker has been at or near the top of most public opinion polls of preferred standard bearers for the GOP in 2016, and today he officially launches his White House bid, making him the 15th Republican to join the field. While this field is quite crowded, I believe it will soon become apparent that Scott Walker stands out head and shoulders above the rest. Here are the six reasons why I believe Walker will not only win the GOP nomination, but be elected President in November 2016.
1. He’s Part of the Middle Class (or He Actually Shops at Kohl’s and Sears)
It was after Walker spoke at the Iowa Freedom Summit in January that his popularity began to soar outside of Wisconsin. As much as anything else, I think what resonated with the crowd and those who watched the speech on C-SPAN or online is when he spoke about shopping at Kohl’s:
But years ago as newlyweds I made a critical mistake. I went to a Kohl’s Department Store and I bought something for the price it was marked at. Right? My wife said to me, “You can never go back there again until you learn how to shop at Kohl’s.” So now if I’m going to pick up a new shirt I go to the rack that says it was $29.99 & I see it’s marked down to $19.99. And then because I’m well trained I got that insert from the Sunday newspaper and I took it up to the clerk with my Kohl’s credit card and get another 10 or 15% off. And then I watch that mailer because, man, Tonette shops there a lot so I know I’m going to get another 10 to 15% off. And if I’m really lucky I get that flyer with 30% off.
Somehow I don’t think Ann Romney ever told her husband that he had to learn to shop at Kohl’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with being wealthy. But when money is no object it can be difficult to understand that most of us are subject to the mercy of money. The fact is, the lives of most Americans are centered around the fact we don’t have enough money. Mitt Romney couldn’t grasp this in 2012 and I don’t believe most of the current Republican field gets it either by virtue of their prosperity.
In late April, the New York Daily News tried to make an issue of Walker’s credit card debt with Sears. William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection responded to the report in the Daily News in this manner:
The latest attack on Walker is that he has “up to” $50,000 in credit card debt to — wait for it — Sears.
We don’t know exactly how much because financial disclosures only are made in broad ranges, so it could be as little as $10,000.
Regardless, it’s SEARS!
As the only presidential candidate with a negative net worth, Scott Walker is in that boat with the rest of us. Nearly all presidential candidates speak of the middle class, but in Scott Walker we actually have a candidate who is a part of the middle-class.
2. He Didn’t Graduate from College
Remember when the media tried to make an issue of Walker not graduating from college? As Susan Milligan argued in U.S. News & World Report:
But should we not demand this basic credential from the person we empower to run the country, start wars and negotiate with foreign leaders? If employers demand college degrees — and for no other reason than that they can, not because the job itself requires a college education — then why not impose this minimum requirement on the leader of the nation?
Last I checked some fellow from Missouri named Harry S Truman didn’t graduate college, much less attend. Yet he did a fine job when it came to running the country, in his case ending a war and negotiating with foreign leaders, and is considered among the best to have held the office of President of the United States.
Granted, Truman left office more than six decades ago and times have changed considerably since. But what hasn’t changed is that most Americans don’t have college degrees. In fact, it’s 60% of Americans. Another 22% attend college, but don’t graduate for a variety of reasons as was the case with Walker. So when the media tried to make an issue of the fact that Walker didn’t finish college they effectively insulted the intelligence of 8 out of every 10 Americans.
This isn’t to say that higher education is without virtue. Should Walker be elected President he will need the advice of people who are learned in economics, the military, health care and other matters. But a higher education doesn’t guarantee common sense. President Obama might have once edited the Harvard Law Review, but in more than six years in office he has proved the late William F. Buckley’s adage that he would “sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.” I am sure if WFB were still alive that he would firmly place the Wisconsin governor among the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory even if his last name begins with W.
3. He Talks to People Not at Them Nor Does He Need to Shout to Make His Point
Some politicians, be they Democrats or Republicans, love to hear themselves talk. In so doing, they end up talking at people instead of to them. That isn’t Scott Walker. As demonstrated in the first point about shopping at Kohl’s, when Walker talks about public policy he does so in a manner to which nearly everyone in the audience can relate.
There are some issues that are difficult to talk about in a rational way because of the deep emotions they arouse. We have seen this over the past couple of weeks on the subject of immigration, particularly with Donald Trump’s comments about Mexico sending criminals to the United States.
For his part, Walker has spoken candidly about reducing immigration levels. But he has done so without characterizing illegal immigrants as drug dealers and rapists. It is debatable whether reducing immigration levels is our best policy approach. But if the invective can be kept out of it, then it is a discussion worth having and if anyone can keep the discussion civil it is Scott Walker.
Walker can do this because he does not need to shout to get his point across like Trump or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Although both Trump and Christie’s style has its share of fans, it is an act that wears thin over time. Who wants to spend the next four years being yelled at by Trump, Christie or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton?
This isn’t to say that passion doesn’t have a place in politics or there aren’t occasions which warrant righteous anger. But there is a time and a place for such passion and righteous anger and Walker understands this as a matter of basic common sense.
4. He Chooses His Battles Wisely
Although the President of the United States wields enormous power, he or she cannot use their power on every matter. At a practical level, some matters are best left to local and state governments while other matters are best left out of the hands of government altogether. Do we really want another President who while openly admitting he doesn’t have all the facts nevertheless accuses a local police department of “acting stupidly”?
A mark of a wise and effective elected leader is the ability is to govern when necessary and with the support of the majority of the people. When Scott Walker reformed collective bargaining in Wisconsin’s public sector, he did so because it was necessary and he did so with the majority of his state’s people behind him. The result is controlled costs, more money in the hands of state workers, and greater local control. When President Obama overhauled the U.S. healthcare system he did so unnecessarily, without the support of the majority of Americans and he couldn’t have cared less. The result is higher premiums, less insurance coverage and less access to medical care.
Which would you choose?
5. He Can Appeal to Conservatives and Non-Conservatives Alike
Scott Walker appeals to conservatives not only for his stand on collective bargaining reform, but for signing into law right to work legislation, concealed carry measures, and his efforts to increase vouchers for school choice.
But the conservative vote alone won’t be enough to elect a Republican President. Would Ronald Reagan have been twice elected President without the help of Reagan Democrats? Walker certainly isn’t the only Republican with conservative bona fides, but he is arguably the only Republican who can also appeal to non-conservatives. In order for a Republican to win the White House he is going to have to convince enough people who voted for Barack Obama twice to take a leap of faith.
Now I’m not talking about hardcore left-wing activists here. Rather I am talking about the majority of people who do not think about politics on a day-to-day basis but care enough to show up on Election Day. They will vote Democrat by default, but can be persuaded to vote Republican by the right candidate. Can anyone imagine Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, or Ben Carson carrying a blue state like Wisconsin? After all, Walker has been thrice elected Governor in a state that twice voted for Barack Obama and hasn’t gone Republican since, well, Ronald Reagan.
This isn’t to say that Walker is the new Reagan. Such a thing does not exist. There is only one Ronald Reagan. But what Walker does possess is a calm demeanor and an ability to communicate directly with people, which enables him to come across as a reasonable person who will carry out his duties in a competent manner. Scott Walker is the kind of Republican who can resonate with people who might not ordinarily vote Republican.
6. He Can Withstand the Liberal Hate Machine
Whoever wins the GOP nomination can expect the liberal hate machine, a coalition of the Democratic Party and the mainstream media, to vilify the Republican standard bearer as a racist, sexist, homophobe who cares only for the rich and wants to throw elderly grandmothers off cliffs. They will elevate benign comments like “binders full of women” into grievous insults. But sometimes Republican candidates supply the liberal hate machine with rocks as Mitt Romney did when he made the infamous 47% remarks. Romney’s inability to communicate with people in a resonant way effectively rendered him unable to overcome the liberal hate machine.
This is what I believe sets Walker apart not only from Romney, but the current 2016 GOP field. Like anyone else, Walker is human. He will make mistakes and say things in the wrong way. Last February, when speaking about ISIS, Walker said, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.” Walker was criticized for appearing to have compared union activists to ISIS and took heat for it for a day or so (even from some conservatives). But the story quickly ran its course. I think it’s very clear that Scott Walker didn’t intend to compare union activists to ISIS and it is equally clear that most people intrinsically understood that. As such it did him no lasting damage.
I don’t know if Walker has skin made of Teflon, but it is certainly thicker than that of the present occupant in the White House. What has toughened him is the fact that liberals from all over the country have made a concerted effort to unseat Walker and undo his reforms and he has found a way to beat them at every turn. It is no small accomplishment that Walker is the first governor in American history to survive a recall vote.
The reason liberals have failed to oust Walker from office is that liberals portray Walker as a monster, but Walker simply doesn’t come off that way to most people. If anything it is the liberals who have been far more monstrous in their behavior towards Walker and his family, effectively making him a more sympathetic figure. When the Boston band the Dropkick Murphys objected to Walker using their version of the Woody Guthrie penned song “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” at the Iowa Freedom Summit, they tweeted, “we literally hate you.” This says a great deal more about the Dropkick Murphys than it does about Scott Walker. I suspect we will see a lot more of this and, to paraphrase Nietzsche, what does not kill Walker will make him stronger. If Walker can carry himself with more decency than his opponents, then he will go far.
Obviously all of this is far easier said than done. Walker’s opponents in the Republican field aren’t going to roll over and play dead for him nor should they. Should Walker continue to resonate with Republican voters, his opponents will go at him with everything they’ve got. Yet they can’t take away the fact that Walker has been a successful conservative governor in a blue state during the Obama era and has been twice re-elected in the space of four years despite the slings and arrows from the liberal hate machine. If that hasn’t prepared him for the Republican primary season and the presidential election, nothing will.
I believe the combination of his status as a middle class non-college graduate, his ability to talk to people and not at them, the good judgment to choose his battles wisely, a calm and reasonable demeanor that will appeal to Republicans and non-Republicans alike, his basic decency and the wherewithal to withstand the liberal hate machine will result in Scott Walker being elected the 45th President of the United States.