Can Scott Walker be­come the come­back kid?

De­spite sag­ging num­bers, he con­tin­ues the strug­gle

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Mon­ica Crow­ley

Scott Walker is ex­hausted but ex­hil­a­rated. “I just spent days trav­el­ing around New Hamp­shire on my Har­ley, meet­ing some great folks, talk­ing with them, more im­por­tantly, lis­ten­ing to them,” he tells me when we spoke re­cently. “Peo­ple are re­ally wor­ried about the fu­ture. They want real lead­er­ship. They want some­one who won’t just talk the talk of a fighter, but some­one who will ac­tu­ally walk the walk for them, the tax­payer, the lawabiders, who have been so abused for so long.”

He pauses. “We have a very tal­ented field this year. But we’re the only ones who have fought — and won. Ev­ery time.”

He has a point. In a year marked by an un­re­lent­ing de­mand for a can­di­date who will fight against the forces de­stroy­ing the foun­da­tions of the na­tion — Pres­i­dent Obama, the left, the media and the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment — un­con­ven­tional can­di­dates who prom­ise to de­liver that fight have risen to the top of the field.

But only the gover­nor of Wis­con­sin has ac­tu­ally waged those bat­tles and won, re­peat­edly.

In Fe­bru­ary 2011, he pro­posed a bud­get re­pair bill to be­gin to bring his state’s fi­nances un­der con­trol by tack­ling the very source of the fis­cal night­mare — and a po­ten­tially lethal po­lit­i­cal third rail: gov­ern­ment-sec­tor unions, and the state’s un­sus­tain­able ben­e­fit and pen­sion obli­ga­tions. In or­der to close the candy store in which the cor­rupt unions and Democrats pigged out, Mr. Walker needed to elim­i­nate most col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing priv­i­leges for state work­ers — a gutsy move in a state known as the birthplace of both “pro­gres­sivism” and union col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing in state gov­ern­ment.

When Mr. Walker moved to end the state’s role in dues col­lec­tion, the gov­ern­ment unions re­al­ized they were los­ing their en­forcer. The unions pre­dictably went be­serk. For the Democrats and the gov­ern­ment unions, their in­ces­tu­ous re­la­tion­ship needed to be pro­tected at all costs, so they threw ev­ery­thing they had at Mr. Walker: They stormed the capi­tol, Demo­cratic state sen­a­tors fled the state rather than vote on the bill, they filed law­suits and held re­call elec­tions, in­clud­ing one against a state Supreme Court judge and another against Mr. Walker him­self.

He — and his re­forms — sur­vived ev­ery left­ist as­sault. He went on to be re-elected by a healthy mar­gin.

“Many peo­ple think that what we did was sim­ply to go af­ter the unions,” he tells me. “That’s only partly true. What that bat­tle was re­ally about was a shift of power that had to take place. It was about tak­ing the power away from the gov­ern­ment, the unions, the en­trenched unions, and put it back in the hands of the tax­payer — where it be­longs.”

Mr. Walker proved that when re­form is car­ried out, it’s ef­fec­tive. De­spite the hys­ter­i­cal left­ist warn­ings of an im­mi­nent apoca­lypse, dis­as­ter has not be­fallen Wis­con­sin. To the con­trary, Mr. Walker’s re­forms be­gan to bring or­der to the state’s fi­nances. Af­ter he halted the state-run dues col­lec­tion, the unions’ cof­fers be­gan to dwin­dle, along with their power and mo­nop­oly. The state’s bud­get was brought into line, and job cre­ation be­gan oc­cur­ring in earnest. By Jan­uary 2012, Mr. Walker’s re­forms had al­ready saved Wis­con­sin’s taxpayers $476 mil­lion.

He in­tends to do for the na­tion what he did for Wis­con­sin if elected pres­i­dent.

“We turned it around in Wis­con­sin. We went bold and big im­me­di­ately, and that’s what I’ll do on Day One as pres­i­dent,” he says.

In clas­sic Walker un­der­state­ment, he says, “We got some push­back. But what we’ve got to re­al­ize — and I do be­cause I’ve lived through it — is that the left never stops, they don’t give up, so we can’t ever stop or give up. Many con­ser­va­tives think if they’re nice, the left will back off. They don’t.

“The les­son is to never stop re­form­ing. That’s what we did. We used our po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal to push for­ward, rein­vest­ing that cap­i­tal into tax, en­ti­tle­ment and ed­u­ca­tional re­form.

“On Day One as pres­i­dent,” he con­tin­ues, I will re­peal Oba­macare and be­gin to re­place it with our plan based on pa­tient free­dom; re­peal the dis­as­trous Iran deal; and re­peal Mr. Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions, start­ing with his un­con­sti­tu­tional ac­tion on illegal immigration. And that’s just for starters.” From where does his fear­less­ness come? “My par­ents,” he replies, with­out hes­i­ta­tion. “I was taught that ac­tions speak louder than words. In Wis­con­sin, I was called “Dead Man Walker” for my re­forms. But I be­lieve that true lead­er­ship is about think­ing about the next gen­er­a­tion, not the next elec­tion.”

He’s go­ing to need that courage to make up ground lost to more un­ortho­dox can­di­dates. On his dra­mat­i­cally slip­ping sup­port, he says, “The dy­namic this year is un­like any­thing we’ve seen. We’ll be up and down, but what mat­ters is where we are at the fin­ish.”

He has his work cut out for him­self. Some dis­miss him as a re­gional can­di­date strug­gling to gain na­tional ap­peal, while oth­ers think that as a low-key, re­sults-ori­ented can­di­date sur­rounded by big per­son­al­ity, at­ten­tion-grab­bing can­di­dates (par­tic­u­larly on the de­bate stages), he can’t re­cap­ture his early mo­men­tum.

Mr. Walker brushes off such crit­i­cism. “This is a long con­test,” he says op­ti­misti­cally. ”What mat­ters is how you look ahead. And I don’t give up or back down.”

He is go­ing to have to craft his own come­back story, but if his po­lit­i­cal history is any guide, his quiet per­sis­tence just might up­end yet another po­lit­i­cal drama. Mon­ica Crow­ley is online opin­ion editor at The Washington Times.

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