We can start calling him Governor Overreach | WisCommunity

We can start calling him Governor Overreach

Increasingly it becomes evident that Scott Walker rushed in where wise men feared to tread. Which makes him ... well, let's be diplomatic and merely say: less than wise.

Look at the pull-backs he's made in just the past few weeks: Backing away from his administration's insistence that state prosecutors take additional furlough time. Backing away from his high-speed-rail jihad to request federal money for upgrades to Chicago-Milwaukee passenger rail service, when he originally said he wanted the money for highways. Backing away from specific provisions in the horrible Voter ID bill, even though most of that bill is likely to be enacted. Backing away from the example in Michigan of a "financial stress test" for local governments that in our neighbor state has led to the governor summarily dismissing local elected officials and seizing control of city governments and school districts.

He's an ideolog and a bulldog, but even Walker knows now that he has gone too far. He doesn't apparently understand the full measure of how too far, but he's shrewd enough to have an inkling. That's why he's lately been calling his anti-union measures "progressive." Lipstick on a pig, but at least he's broken out the makeup kit, which ought to tell us a lot.

And the Republicans in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature are backing away, too. For instance: Still cutting the state's already paltry arts funding, but not as much as Walker insisted upon. Suddenly interested in removing the Walker budget proposal's de-funding of local local recycling programs and nixing his plan to make it harder for the elderly to get into the state's popular SeniorCare prescription drug program.

Sudden state GOP legislator reticence mirrors the situation in D.C., where national Republicans are casting sidelong glances at their recent vote in the House to enact Rep. Paul Ryan's draconian "deficit repair" bill by gutting Medicare and Medicaid while cutting taxes on the wealthy. It's not playing well in Peoria, or Portage.

All this is not to say the Wisconsin GOP doesn't remain mostly in lock-step on its ideological putsch of bad new laws. For instance, its plan to expand private school vouchers at the expense of Milwaukee public schools appears to remain on course. Or its apparent willingness to go along with Walker measures that would all but destroy mass transit funding in this state. Or its strong impetus to do away with the state's existing alternative energy and energy conservation programs. And more bad stuff is in the pipeline, such as the GOP move to greatly shorten the permitting review period for new strip mines -- all the better to prevent grass-roots opponents from getting their act together.

But Republicans clearly have taken notice of the populist uprising against its single worst initiatives, namely killing collective bargaining for public workers while slashing aid to local communities and public schools and cutting taxes some more for corporations. They have, in a word, blinked.

Trouble is, the reptilian political brain is more capable of blinking than ordering its body politic into full retreat. So watch as the Wisconsin newts blunder forward and ram right into a wall of voter solidarity.

Meanwhile, the GOP authoritarian mindset is -- despite all its contrary and frequent political rhetoric -- about investing more power at the top and taking power away from the bottom. Thus, most of the vast set of Walker measures that would give Walker himself more power at the expense not only of local governments but also the legislature itself appear perfectly acceptable to that same legislature. It's going to vote itself out of power in deference to the governor. But an even greater loss of power will come later in special and regular elections dominated by unhappy and angry voters.


May 7, 2011 - 11:47am