Wisconsin historian Gurda seals the deal: Walker is "divider-in-chief"; meanwhile, conservative Wis State Journal endorses Burke | WisCommunity

Wisconsin historian Gurda seals the deal: Walker is "divider-in-chief"; meanwhile, conservative Wis State Journal endorses Burke

Not many opinion pieces on the Burke-Walker contest for governor have been this clairifying or original. Even if you think you understand what's wrong with Scott Walker and what drives him, John Gurda's piece in the Sunday Milwaukee Journal opinion pages is going to make everything crystal clear, in an economy of words and solid exposition.

Unlike Walker, even George W. Bush was smart enough to know it would be foolish and arrogant to not only act like but also talk like a divider instead of a uniter. Two choice quotes from Gurda's commanding piece:

What's fascinating about our governor is the specific use he's made of the warrior narrative. Walker is not a spell-binding orator — the eyes are a little too sleepy, the voice a bit too nasal — but he's a gifted rhetorician. He is our own Governor Glib, whose thoughts go from his brain to his lips through a natural spin filter, coming out as bite-sized morsels that deflect criticism, assign blame and offer a distinctive take on reality. In the process, Walker has completely inverted the traditional understanding of the fighter's role. When La Follette and Hoan attacked "the interests," everyone knew they were taking on the fat cats and plutocrats, the unbridled capitalists and grasping utility magnates.

Walker has used similarly cartoonish rhetoric to attack ... public school teachers. During the Act 10 firestorm, he railed against the "thuggery" of "union bosses" who were, in his view, trying to rob the public blind. Voters always have resented what they consider undue privilege. Perhaps Walker's most remarkable achievement has been turning the public's traditional enmity from tycoons to teachers, from those bent on private gain to those working for the public good.

Meanwhile, surprisingly, the Wisconsin State Journal, that major daily newspaper bastion of conservatism, has reversed course and endorsed Mary Burke. From that editorial:

The State Journal endorsed Walker four years ago to foster private-sector job growth and balance the state budget. Walker’s signature jobs agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC), has been sloppy and disappointing. State exports slipped last year, and job growth has been slow — less than half what the governor promised... .

... The historic protests over collective bargaining in 2011 and subsequent recall elections in 2012 slowed Wisconsin’s economy by discouraging private investment. The “laser-like focus” Walker promised on jobs was distracted by labor strife. He said he “dropped the bomb” on public unions to close a $3.6 billion budget shortfall. But once the state’s balance sheet improved, the governor and Republican-run Legislature prioritized showy tax cuts over fiscal responsibility. Now a $1.8 billion budget shortfall looms, plus $1 billion in spending requests.

Burke promises to “solve problems, not pick fights."

Meanwhile the Winona (Minnesota) Daily News, in a Mississippi River town with a circulation area extending eastward into Wisconsin, declined to endorse either candidate  increasingly common practice among newspapers that are fighting to retain subscribers in the sharply divided politics of Wisconsin. The Winona paper said Burke is too much of an unknown. Of course, Walker himself has turned out to be an unknown after the fact; he has invoked many drastic, controversial and damaging "reforms" he never campaigned upon. The newspaper did, however, say this about him: 

We have concerns that Walker has made Wisconsin a laboratory for legislation and policies written by outside groups that have been rammed through the Legislature without change or a discussion about whether they are right for Wisconsin. We also believe Walker needs to stop hiding behind his legislative leaders who foster extreme social agendas and use the threat of his veto power to ensure that we remain focused on legislation that benefits all, not just the few.

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November 2, 2014 - 10:06am