Protesting Governor Scott Walker May Backfire on Liberals


Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill Protest: Scott Wa...

Image by mrbula via Flickr

There’s turmoil in Madison, Wisconsin, as some public school teachers and others protest the efforts of Governor Scott Walker to curtail excessive state spending on state employee benefits. From a distance, this looks like a bad play by liberal Democrats.

  • Teachers who have left their jobs to protest at the state’s capitol may be breaking the law and may pay a price for doing so.
  • 14 Democrat legislators who have left the state in order to prevent a vote on the Governor’s proposals may not last long in their elected positions.
  • The antics of protesters in Wisconsin have brought national attention to the debacle, and these protesters are at risk of a backlash in public sentiment across the nation.
  • With the substantial visibility of Governor Walker’s boldness, and the prospects for his success, other states in fiscal trouble may be emboldened to adopt similar measures.

These probably would not be welcome effects of the protest movement in Wisconsin, among those actually protesting. But there is an even more significant possibility they may not have anticipated.

  • Governor Scott Walker has been propelled to national attention and has become a symbol of broad national support for greater fiscal responsibility and bolder leadership to achieve that end. Protesters have generated greater interest in Governor Walker as an icon of conservative politics. A figure who was unknown outside Wisconsin only a week ago is now a national icon. If he succeeds in Wisconsin, he may be a compelling candidate for national leadership. He may even be scrutinized as possible presidential timber. Imagine that! With every ounce of continued protest, the governor’s critics run a greater risk of showcasing the governor’s achievement if he prevails.

If the governor of Wisconsin prevails, his example may galvanize a cadre of conservative politicians to step up with ever bolder measures. The conservative movement could be on the cusp of new energy, so far unprecedented. That would truly be significant, given the already substantial inroads that have been made by conservatives among the electorate.

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Who Is the Commander in Chief?


So it’s official . . . kind of. Major Hasan is a zealot for “radical Islam,” and people knew it. Doesn’t give you too much faith in the system, does it?

In an earlier post about the Fort Hood incident, I suggested that the question is: How could this happen? Though I suspected it then, it’s obvious now that part of the answer is our faith in political correctness. Yes, PC is an abstract concept, not a person. So having faith in it sounds preposterous. So what I should say is that because of the insidious influence of PC, we have faith in people we never should trust. PC blinds us to the importance of knowing whom we trust.

I did not knowingly trust Maj. Hasan. But I surely did indirectly. More important, the people he gunned down trusted him. That trust has always seemed warranted and invulnerable to suspicion. Not any more. Read more of this post

Quotes on Culture Warfare


“We are living in a culture of extreme advocacy, of confrontation, of judgment, and of verdict. Discussion has given way to debate. Communication has become a contest of wills. Public talking has become obnoxious and insincere. Why? Maybe it’s because deep down under the chatter we have come to a place where we know that we don’t know . . . anything. But nobody’s willing to say that.” —John Patrick Shanley, Preface to his play Doubt: A Parable.

“No matter what side of an argument you’re on, you always find some people on your side that you wish were on the other side.” —Jascha Heifetz

“John McCain Owes Michelle Obama an Apology”—Not


Barack Obama is disappointed in John McCain. In the ensuing months, he may have to get used to disappointment. Especially if he’s going to use his media opportunities to demand apologies from McCain for things he hasn’t done. First time at bat in this game, Senator Obama is disappointed that Senator McCain has not denounced the rumor and innuendo that Mrs. Obama (do we still call our First Ladies “Mrs.”?) used the racist word “whitey” in a speech some years ago. But rumor has it that it was someone close to Hillary Clinton who threw the first pitch, presumably in an effort to discredit Senator Obama during the Democrat primaries.

So what has Senator McCain done wrong in this inning? His sin is one of omission rather than commission: he hasn’t had the decency to denounce the scurrilous rumor. Must McCain now monitor every negative thing that’s said about the Obamas and use his own media opportunities to distance himself from the source of each rumor? Come on—this is the Big Leagues. Champions don’t play ball in the sandbox.

Whether he should be the next President or not, it surely is clear that McCain does not owe the Obamas a public expression of sympathy in this matter. McCain should ignore the other Senator’s challenge. Here’s why:

First, McCain’s credentials as a man of fairness do not depend on what other people say about his political opponents, unless those other people speak in some suitably official sense on his behalf.

Second, Mr. Obama has insinuated that Mr. McCain is comfortable with putting families under the microscope during Presidential campaigns, and Obama assumes that this is a no-no. But this tactic is misleading. Certainly, there is a tradition of respecting the privacy of a candidate’s children, especially if they are young children. Older children who campaign for a parent deservedly come under closer scrutiny. But in Big League campaigns—like campaigning for President of the United States—spouses naturally come under public scrutiny. There are several legitimate and important reasons for this:

  • A President’s spouse is, presumably, an intimate life-partner and a reflection on the President’s values and wisdom when making substantive decisions.
  • In recent years, it’s come to light that Presidential wives influence policy through their relationships with their husbands. (We’ve also seen the potential for a Presidential spouse to blackmail her high-profile and politically powerful mate, should he violate a sacred trust.)
  • Presidential wives have exercised considerable independent leadership on issues of national interest, exploiting (rightly or wrongly) the opportunity created by virtue of nuptial relations with the President.
  • A President’s spouse is a key ambassador to the world and a barometer of what is best about America. American citizens have a vested interest in how their First Lady represents them.

That last point leads to a third reason why McCain should not swing at Obama’s pitch. It’s likely that a non-trivial number of Americans would like to know whether Michelle Obama actually spoke (or mis-spoke) as alleged. And public opinion has to be respected by candidates for high office.

The influential role of public opinion isn’t some necessary evil made inevitable by democracy. The influence of public opinion is a public good, especially when it is well-informed opinion. It is one of the few means available for the electorate to hold its leaders (or would-be leaders) accountable. Some political leaders have been remarkably obtuse about this. Ours is an open society in ways unimaginable just decades ago. Still, an astonishing number of politicians today behave in an impolitic manner, as if no one will notice.

Barack Obama’s decision to bait John McCain may prove to be a strategic error, for it’s likely to encourage the electorate to make more deliberate comparisons between Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain. Who can be predict what that will mean? The two woman are conspicuously different in many respects. Polling the electorate on this point probably won’t be very illuminating, since many people would consider questions about potential First Ladies to be indelicate, even if their Presidential preference is influenced by impressions they have of candidates’ wives. And Obama’s recent comments suggest that he prefers to re-direct focus on his wife.

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