Walker’s playbook: Rip Madison
It’s gubernatorial campaign season, and the barbs are already flying.
Madison mayor and mustache aficionado Paul Soglin officially threw his Hawaiian shirt into the race earlier this week, and Gov. Scott Walker promptly clapped back, tweeting:
“The last thing we need is more Madison in our lives. @Paulsoglin is the latest extreme liberal who wants to take our state backward — just like he did in Madison, where businesses have left and murders have gone up. We want to go forward.”
Walker has since gone on a (for him) Twitter tirade against Soglin and Wisconsin Democrats, claiming, among other things, that Madison’s unemployment rate is somehow bad, when it is, in fact, better than the state average (just 2.1% compared to 3.2%).
Walker’s claim that we’re losing businesses? Also not true: Between 2010 and 2016 (approximately the latest term for Soglin as mayor, and for Walker as governor), private sector employment in Dane County rose by 15.7%, whereas statewide it grew by just 9%. As I’ve written about before, Madison is one of the state’s economic engines.
It’s curious that this social media rant comes from the same man whose administration just sunk a big chunk of money into a campaign to persuade young workers in other states to relocate to Wisconsin. Walker had originally wanted the state to spend nearly $7 million on the campaign, which ultimately features all kinds of beautiful footage of Madison and Milwaukee attractions.
A strange change of tone, indeed, but now there’s a campaign to win.
And that murder rate thing? A boogeyman. There were, sadly, 11 murders in Madison in 2017, which is up over 2016’s total of just eight. But those numbers don’t tell a story of rampant lawlessness and danger.
According to crime data expert Jeff Fischer of fivethirtyeight.com, who spoke with Wisconsin Public Radio, “It’s dangerous to read too much into a one-year increase in Madison’s murder rate.”
“You’re talking about a crime that has a really low base rate, and you can have one or two incidents that make the difference between ‘Hey, everything is normal’ and ‘Hey, murder is down,’ and ‘Hey, we’re seeing a 33% rise in murders,” Fischer said. “It’s not inherently indicative of a rise in crime. It may just be pure luck. It may just be pure randomness.”
As friend and writer Scott Gordon succinctly noted in response, “It’s intriguing that Walker wants to both portray the state as prosperous under his leadership AND portray its most economically robust region as an abandoned pit.”
There are very real criticisms to be made of Madison: For all of its economic success and thriving cultural scene, there are swaths of the population who have been left out. There are very real racial disparities in education, housing and employment. Soglin should be rightly taken to task for his antagonistic attitude toward the city’s homeless, as well as his habit of picking the most tone-deaf of battles.
But don’t fall for Walker’s false attacks. Candidates are not immediately suspect because of where they live.
Emily Mills is a freelance writer who lives in Madison.