Wisconsin governor Scott Walker seldom fails to stimulate discussion, whether he is being lauded by the GOP for his propensity to take decisive action such as his efforts to quell unions or derided and mocked by liberals for those same actions. He is also infamous for making controversial statements, putting his foot in his mouth often enough that he can probably manage to skip the complementary shoe shine before his daily meetings.
Most recently in this stream of inflammatory and ill-timed statements were those that likened union protesters to the terrorist group ISIS. Walker was quoted as saying, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe.”
The suggestion here is that Walker’s experience with Wisconsin protests makes him a qualified candidate to deal with groups like ISIS as the president. This quote was met with disdain from the left and right, with many people on Twitter calling out the troubling comparison. Reactions have been polarizing, but some implications have been seemingly exaggerated in general media coverage of the statement.
Word-of-mouth generally describes Walker comparing protesters to ISIS, which is fair, but the metaphor does not go so far to suggest violence against protesters. The really difficult part of this statement is that it equates the two groups, villifying protestors and equating them with terrorists. Even further, it suggests an ideological opposition in regard to unions that is on par with that between the U.S. and ISIS, suggesting that in Walker’s view, unions are as far from the ideal American system as religious extremism and violence are.
Walker has also recently made plans to slash state funding for the University of Wisconsin school system, taking away 13 percent of the normal funding over the next two years. He claims that this is purely bookkeeping; the two-year suspension is a short-term change in which administrators will have new flexibility to toy with fiscal policies on campus regarding payment and other factors. The assertion that it does not go beyond bookkeeping is misleading, as it a cut of such a large size. Walker made comparison of this cut to his political movement four years ago, where he made a push against public-sector unions.
These actions are similar because beyond being economic or structural issues, they both serve as a means of political propagation and building Walker’s popularity. Many argue that protests against this reduction of state funding will serve to play into Walker’s success, framing him as a powerful figure who takes clear action. It is clear that these cuts will result in outrage, but outrage is polarizing, and protests will create a clear opposing force for Walker, which will likely serve to compound support from many on the right.
Scott Walker is the current GOP frontrunner for the presidential nomination, making his chances at the presidency a fairly real prospect. With this in consideration, it is important to keep his current actions in mind, as it is likely he may soon attempt to shape his persona to be more palatable to the population at large in order to broaden his base of supporters. If the time does come that the American public is offered Scott Walker as a potential candidate, it is important to remember who he is now.
Conlan Campbell ’18 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Burnsville, Minn. His major is undecided.
Graphic Credit: ERIN KNADLER/MANITOU MESSENGER