Walker's "divide-and-conquer" strategy doomed to fail in a presidential race | WisCommunity

Walker's "divide-and-conquer" strategy doomed to fail in a presidential race

Preachers, especially those of a fundamentalist stripe, like to use the technique of “us and them” to convey a point. It fits so well with the black-and-white, good-and-evil world they inhabit while making their constituents feel superior or special.

Mike Huckabee, in his latest book, calls them residents of “bubbleville” or “bubbaville” to separate the wine drinkers from the beer drinkers or everyday folk from the eastern elites, as if such a division actually exists.

It was only natural that son-of-a-preacher Scott Walker would adapt that same philosophy to gain the governor’s chair.

Divide-and-conquer, to use his words, was very effective in shoring up the necessary 53 percent to remain in office. But one has to look at the wreckage he left behind and the fault lines he created, not the least of which is the taboo subject of politics at any dinner parties in Wisconsin.

I remember during  the recall campaign I had a “Recall Walker” poster in the back window of my van. One day, driving on a divided highway a car pulls up in the passing lane and matches my speed. I could see out of the corner of my eye he wanted my attention as he gave me the finger. I continue to keep my eyes straight ahead which seemed to piss him off even further. He dropped back behind me and honked and flashed his lights. Again, I have no response and not sure what he was trying to convey. This ended after about three more minutes when he took an exit ramp, honking all the way. It was then that I noticed he had a young boy in the car.

Walker’s first divide was organized labor and everyone else. An easy target since only about 14 percent of the workforce is unionized. This would be a two-fer as labor almost always supports democratic candidates.

Act 10, which stripped public employees of their bargaining rights, was cynical beyond belief.

It was an attack, not so much on unions, as it was personalized against state employees and teachers who get benefits most of the rest of us don’t. The divide was quickly formed when police and firefighters were exempted from the law making it possible to demonize those teachers and state employees without pissing off the people we really like.

The divide didn’t end there. The result redounded to school districts in varying degrees, who realized some benefit with modified teacher contracts, but big cities, which are democratic strongholds, did not, as their biggest expense is public safety and those contracts couldn’t be touched. Their municipal employees had to take the hit. The divide was maintained when right-to-work as signed into law. Again, police and firefighters were exempted.

The demonization of teachers and state employees made it easier for the layoffs that followed and the debate over school funding. Cutting state aid to schools was a natural result because after all, it just goes to those overpaid teachers. Now, by extension, the UW system had to stand still to take a funding punch, because, as Walker put it, “professors can just pick up another class or two.”
Walker can look back at all of his other divides, race (voter ID), the poor (drug testing welfare, unemployment, Foodshare recipients, defunding Planned Parenthood, eliminating the state homestead tax credit and earned income tax credit while cutting rates for the wealthy) and public schools (vouchers and the legislation which allows for the entire takeover of the Milwaukee Public School system).

But how would that strategy work on a national level? Probably not so well. Playing on race won’t achieve anything because the racists found a safe harbor in the Republican party years ago. Organized labor? Same story there. They have supported Democrats in the states that count and the labor-hostile South is already red.

Pick on the poor. Didn’t work for Romney. Gays, undocumented immigrants? So 1990’s. Education? Pretty much a state function unless you want to demagogue Common Core.

Health Care. Obamacare is here to stay. And threatening to take health insurance away from people who have it would come across as heartless and cruel. Jobs and the economy? His state record will haunt him there.

That leaves foreign policy, Using the Middle East and the threat of Muslim terrorism as the replacement bogeyman for Communism could gain some traction but voters are adamantly opposed to sending any more of our young people to die in the sand.

For the primary run Walker can simply stick to his usual platitudes and his perceived electability to woo Republican voters.

But for a national race? He’s got nothing.


May 25, 2015 - 10:29am