Listening to Walker rev up the Waukesha crowd, in the heart of rightwing talk radioland, where the politics of divide and conquer got their start, was instructive.That the Milwaukee Public Schools are failing to teach, and that many Milwaukee neighborhoods are no longer safe for people of any color is irrelevant. And that the economic stimulus failed to stimulate, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is two lies for the price of one vote doesn't matter. Better for the supposed claimants to the mantle of Robert LaFollette to tune up the dog whistle for their pack of hounds.
Just as Donald Trump got a bump for calling a spade a spade with his racist attack on Mexican immigrants, Walker, in his announcement, was speaking to a strain of race-baiting in the white suburbs of Milwaukee that has played a significant role in his political rise.
What do voter ID, drug tests for food stamps recipients, warnings about Islamic terrorists coming for your children, Castle Doctrine, and concealed carry have in common? They all appeal to paranoid white voters who want to put black and brown people in their place.
The Obama presidency has exposed a bitter strain of race hatred in American politics, and Republicans, including Walker, are dancing with the devil when they play to their racist base.
In Walker’s case, it has been easy to miss. The crowds of 100,000 protesters who came out to oppose his attack on unions were mostly white. When he “stood up” to the teachers and firefighters and snowplow drivers of Wisconsin, there was no obvious racial subtext.
But as Alec MacGillis wrote in a terrific cover story for The New Republic, Walker’s rise, and the whole rightwing takeover of Wisconsin politics, has been fueled by the very powerful and explicitly racist radio talkers from the suburbs of Milwaukee.
And in his announcement speech, you could hear Walker tuning up the dog whistle for that same group.
“America is great. And it’s not too late. We have to start leading again,” he told the adoring crowd.
The upward redistribution of wealth and the apparent abandonment of a social contract with the people by the government of Wisconsin over the past four years has taken a toll on our schools, our water, our local governments’ ability to maintain basic public services, and many people’s ability to earn a living and raise healthy children. How much further can struggling communities can be degraded before they push back in a meaningful way?Scott Walker, Donald Trump, a different sort of push-back.