Restless Scott Walker considers sending force against any "unrest" from Milwaukee's black community over Dontre Hamilton | WisCommunity

Restless Scott Walker considers sending force against any "unrest" from Milwaukee's black community over Dontre Hamilton

Gov. Scott Walker reportedly likes to think of himself as a Ronald Reagan Republican. However, Reagan was a political moderate compared to Walker's brand of far right-wing policymaking. It's increasingly evident Walker is much more of a Richard Nixon analog. Nixon, like Reagan, was a moderate compared to Walker's ideological stances on numerous policy issues. But in two overriding aspects, Walker and Nixon are almost political twins.

The first aspect is Walker's willingness to engage in evidently illegal activity. Both created secret communications systems and strived to hide the flow of campaign donations to their coffers. All of which led to felony convictions against Nixon staffers and Nixon's resignation, evading impeachment; and, in Walker's case, two John Doe investigations that already have resulted in criminal convictions among his Milwaukee County executive's staff.

Walker is so Nixonian in this regard that, when GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush recently announced he'd make public all emails from his tenure as Florida's governor, Walker declined to make a similar move, saying he didn't understand why any candidate would do that.

The second aspect is Walker's willingness to emulate Nixon's brinkmanship in a "law and order" style of authoritarian rule.

Earlier this week, Walker announced he is prepared to call out the National Guard to control any "unrest" after the Milwaukee County DA announces whether he will charge the fired Milwaukee police officer who put 14 fatal bullets into Dontre Hamilton, a mentally disabled black who was sitting quietly in a downtown park. Other police officers earlier had checked out Hamilton and decided he posed no threat.

This is an incident that has inflamed emotions in Milwaukee, although perhaps not so much as happened in Ferguson, Missouri, when a police officer there fatally shot Michael Brown and the governor (a Democrat) did call out the state police and National Guard. While there have been protests and demonstrations in Madison and Milwaukee over Hamilton's unwarranted death, there have been no incidents that would justify such dramatic action or the governor's rather casual comment on the possibility, either.

Yesterday, the five black supervisors on the Milwaukee County Board donned "I can't breathe" T-shirts at a board meeting and called on the DA to charge the officer. Supervisor David Bowen (pictured above) said his constituency "won't take it anymore," adding that no unit of government in the state should "use public resources ... to criminalize residents after the results of the Dontre Hamilton decision. Let there be resistance to the corrupt system you refuse to correct."

One at this point has to wonder if mass but totally peaceful protests would suffice to meet Walker's definition of "unrest," or if it would only take a handful of incidents among a mass of protesters. Maybe it would just require a few highly visible actions by agents provocateur, of the kind Walker once said his team briefly thought of inserting into the peaceful, 2011 pro-union protests at the Capitol.

Walker's comment was hugely unwise, because it baits citizens, priming them to expect trouble -- which it indirectly now might cause. It's scary to contemplate that the fallout over Hamilton's death could come to a dangerous physical showdown, most likely if Walker decides to act and not just talk tough. That talk arguably was aimed at scoring points with his fearful, anti-black base while intimidating demonstrators before the fact, but it could lead to tragedy.

Talk of sending in the National Guard reminds us of the students who died when governors in Ohio and Mississippi sought to quell campus anti-war protests in 1970. In the case of minority protests, such action arguably equates to a kind of reckless endangerment, at least in a society where the only way blacks in this country have made economic, social and legal progress since the Civil War is by marching in public.

People in this country have a constitutional right to express their opinions, and to demonstrate peacefully, seeking redress when other venues fail. Walker's pair of comments on inserting provocateurs and sending the National Guard creates a public impression that there might be physical disturbances -- riots, even. It's potentially a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps that need could be something law officers might reasonably think about in private. But saying it aloud the way Walker did is like waving a red flag in front of a restless, justifiably angry bull.

Beyond that, in its selectivity, Walker's comment could even be regarded as racist. After all, Walker has never warned that he might send in the National Guard because, say, pro-life groups were physically blocking entry to family planning clinics. Or because people openly carrying guns were wandering about in public spaces and buildings. Of course, those open-carry folks were white. Any black resident in Wisconsin or the rest of the country openly (and legally) carrying a weapon risks being shot on sight. Race still does matter.

Back in 2011, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Politifact rated as "pants on fire" a claim from a progressive group that Walker "threatened to call out the National Guard if workers protest against" budget cuts. Politifact said Walker spoke of possibly calling up guardsmen if state workers didn’t show up for work, but he made no reference to using it in response to protests.

For the record: He's done that now.

FOOTNOTE: In one other circumstance, there's an overriding difference between Nixon and Walker. Nixon went to China, when it was at the height of its Communist-driven, anti-US isolation. Walker, on the other hand, clearly won't be going to Cuba anytime soon, because he's registered thumbs down on President Obama's non-traveling decision to normalize diplomatic relations with that vestigial Soviet bloc nation. Maybe Walker will send out the National Guard if a charter airplane of Cuban tourists ever tries to land in Wisconsin. On the other hand, as numerous observers here and elsewhere have pointed out, Walker has traveled to China, too, on a state trade mission. Whoops.


December 19, 2014 - 10:53am