Gov. Walker’s Superb Strategy for an Abysmal Agenda

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s agenda is not to my taste.

His low income healthcare cuts, tax cuts for corporations, publicly-owned utility privatization and breach of faith with public servants are socially destructive and ethically loathsome. Those are some of the parts in public discourse today. An attack on the University of Wisconsin Madison seems in the offing.

But thus far Gov. Walker has shown himself to be a first-rate political strategist.

Between the 2010 election and his inauguration, he injected himself in policy decisions. He signaled to anyone paying attention that he had an agenda to which he expected Democrats to surrender.

To the defeated Democrats and the press, Walker’s post-election tactics seemed rude, childish, inappropriate. The public, however, takes no notice of anything political from the day after an election until the week after New Year’s day. But politicians do.

Walker’s interjections were a no-lose tactic. They dispirited his opponents and enlivened his supporters. So far so good.

On his inauguration, he had legislation – not proposals – ready. And he pushed them forward. Just eight weeks later, he’s already whistled through tax cuts that will redefine Wisconsin’s fiscal future just as Pres. Bush did the nation’s in 2001-02.

Far more importantly, he’s on the verge of destroying his single most potent enemy: the public sector unions that don’t represent the ‘guns and hoses’. Already, the unions have given in on wages and benefits in the vain hope of a compromise on bargaining rights.

Gov. Walker just has to wait for the inevitable capitulation of the Democratic state senators – something that will come in a matter of days. He can rely on the precedent of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s successful redistricting fight with Democratic state senators who fled the state two election cycles ago.

He also knows, I think: the demonstrators will exhaust themselves and the public will resign itself to the inevitability of legislative nose counts. Republicans control both houses in the legislature. A Fitzgerald brother heads each chamber’s majority. Their father Walker appointed last month to head the State Police.

When financial necessity drains protestors from the Capital rotunda, Gov. Walker will have freedom to operate for the next two years in a landscape he has transfigured and redefined and from which he has banished his enemies.

If Republicans lose statehouse seats in the 2012 election, Walker will still have a very happy base. It is not at all certain that they will lose any.

Still, it is likely that the second half of Walker’s first term will produce pundit consensus on the governor’s maturation, moderation, move toward the center….  That’s how this strategy evolves.  The reshaping of Wisconsin will have moved from the Capital’s public spaces to private rooms. But the agenda will be in place.

The 2014 election will see a transformative Republican, now looking statesmanlike, up for re-election. He will run at a point in the election cycle when the party out of Presidential power usually gains. I think Pres. Obama will be re-elected in 2012, since something usually beats nothing.

In 2014 in Wisconsin I’d predict Walker in a walk. And then starts the 2016 presidential campaign.

If the ambitious, able, aggressive and attractive governor of this key electoral state isn’t working to this plan, I will be pleasantly surprised. I do like to be wrong on things like this. But I sense no Rahm Emanuel whispering in Gov. Walker’s ear, ‘Less, less, go for less.’

Walker’s is a winner’s strategy. He just has to stick to it.