The Scott Walker-Joe McCarthy link | WisCommunity

The Scott Walker-Joe McCarthy link


[img_assist|nid=39350|title=Tailgunner Joe|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=73]Scott Walker, who was happy to tout a New York Times news story a few weeks back that seemed to back his argument for de-frocking public employee unions, won't be so happy with the newspaper now. An op-ed column in the Times by a respected history scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison makes a Joe McCarthy connection to Walker.

McCarthy, of course, was the GOP senator from Wisconsin who gave us the communist witch hunts in the 1950s, embarrassing the state and ushering in a brief but productive era of cautious, diplomatic compromise. William Cronon, UW professor of history, geography and environmental studies, noted in his column published Monday that one reason state voters are now so furious at Republicans over the Walker "budget repair" bill is because the way it was enacted breaks with a long-standing state tradition of cross-party cooperation on big issues.

Cronon wrote that creating collective bargaining for public employees in 1959 was the joint work of Democratic Governor Gaylord Nelson and Republicans in the Legislature.

"Both sides believed the normalization of labor-management relations would increase efficiency and avoid crippling strikes like those of the Milwaukee garbage collectors during the 1950s... The policies that the current governor, Scott Walker, has sought to overturn, in other words, are legacies of his own party."

Later, at the end of the op ed piece, comes the Walker-McCarthy link:

"I have found myself returning over the past few weeks to the question posed by the lawyer Joseph N. Welch during the hearings that finally helped bring down another Wisconsin Republican, Joe McCarthy, in 1954: `Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?'

"Scott Walker is not Joe McCarthy. Their political convictions and the two moments in history are quite different. But there is something about the style of the two men — their aggressiveness, their self-certainty, their seeming indifference to contrary views — that may help explain the extreme partisan reactions they triggered. McCarthy helped create the modern Democratic Party in Wisconsin by infuriating progressive Republicans, imagining that he could build a national platform by cultivating an image as a sternly uncompromising leader willing to attack anyone who stood in his way. Mr. Walker appears to be provoking some of the same ire from adversaries and from advocates of good government by acting with a similar contempt for those who disagree with him.

"The turmoil in Wisconsin is not only about bargaining rights or the pension payments of public employees. It is about transparency and openness. It is about neighborliness, decency and mutual respect. Joe McCarthy forgot these lessons of good government, and so, I fear, has Mr. Walker. Wisconsin’s citizens have not."

The entire column, which may now be behind the New York Times pay-wall, may be found at:




March 22, 2011 - 4:48pm