Right to work. The elimination of wage control laws. Voter ID laws. Defunding Planned Parenthood. Expanding school choice.
These are some of the No. 1 priorities for Republican legislators around the country. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has hit every item on this list, and he did so in a deep blue state; Wisconsin hasn’t gone red in a presidential election in more than 30 years, and its labor union culture may be second only to that of the automotive capital in neighboring Michigan. Walker’s uncompromising conservative governance made him Democrats' No. 1 target at both the state and national level, and they still couldn’t beat him.
Walker announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination today, and his accomplishments and defeat of the Democratic machine in Wisconsin should immediately make him a top-tier candidate in the crowded GOP primary race.
At the end of last week, Wisconsin’s legislature passed through a Walker-spearheaded budget that Walker signed on Sunday. It expanded the state’s school voucher program while shrinking the budget for their publicly-funded universities. Walker’s new budget also expands the tax deduction for married tax filers, giving families a meaningful boost during tax season. Recipients of government unemployment and food stamp benefits will now be subject to drug tests during their approval process.
It’s easy to see, then, why Democrats have long made Scott Walker their top target. They’ve thrown the kitchen sink at the Republican governor and have come up empty.
When Walker went after unions, seeking a reform of collective bargaining rules, they threw a fit. Union activists occupied statehouse buildings and Democratic legislators literally flew the state, seeking shelter in neighboring Illinois so that the legislature couldn’t legally hold session and vote. They knew they’d lose the vote. And they did.
Then Democrats mobilized their union supporters and initiated a recall election - only the third gubernatorial recall election in American history - and attempted to recall both Gov. Walker and his Lieutenant Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch. Walker made history by becoming the first governor ever to win a recall election, defeating challenger Tom Barrett and the Wisconsin Democratic machine. Kleefisch, in what was the first recall of a lieutenant governor in history, won her race as well.
Defeat was so utter, so devastating, that Wisconsin Democrats wanted revenge. So they cooked up what is perhaps the most blatant abuse of power in local politics that we’ve seen since the turn of the century: the “John Doe” investigations and paramilitary raids. A John Doe investigation, in Wisconsin, is an investigation undertaken by a district attorney or special prosecutor and overseen by a judge, where the targets often don’t know they’re under investigation and often aren’t allowed to tell anyone if they do know. The current version in Wisconsin is targeting conservative activists for potential relationships to the Scott Walker campaign and other conservative causes. Under the guise of violating election laws, terrifying night raids have been taking place on Wisconsinites’ homes and places of business.
Thanks to the incredible work of Watchdog.org’s M. D. Kittle and National Review’s David French, some of these egregious violations have come to light. That they exist at all is a testament to how far Democrats will go to silence the resurgent Right in a state that has long been dominated by the Democratic machine. The John Doe investigations have been going on for literally years, encompassing dozens of people. They’ve got nothing to show for it except a lot of conservatives who have seen the terrifying capacity of government force brought to bear on those who Democrats in power disagree with.
Scott Walker’s unapologetic conservative governance has long made him a target of the Left, and it’s been reflected in his considerable support on the Right. Time and again, Democrats came after him with unprecedented tactics, from recall elections to literally having their legislators flee the state. When they couldn’t stop him, they initiated an egregious investigative abuse of power that has taken years and attempted to intimidate Walker’s Wisconsin conservative allies. There’s a reason: Walker scares them.
The GOP field is crowded with really great candidates, but even in the absence of a formal campaign, Scott Walker has consistently polled as a top-tier challenger. With his formal campaign announcement today, it’s time to see if his successes in Wisconsin can translate into votes with the national GOP base.