Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at an inauguration ceremony at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, on January 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is an exceptionally ambitious career politician who loves the sound of cheering crowds in the presidential primary states where he hopes to be a 2016 contender.
But he’s does not care for the sound of dissent.
In fact, dissident voices bother the conservative Republican governor so much that he has ordered state police forces to begin arresting Wisconsinites—from 85-year-olds to young moms with kids—who dare to join a long-established noontime “Solidarity Sing Along” at the state capitol in Madison. In this summer of protest, crowds have gathered at state capitols nationwide—from women’s rights activists in Austin to “Stand Your Ground” foes in Tallahassee to voting rights champions in Raleigh. There have been mass arrests, especially during the “Moral Monday” protests in North Carolina.
But Walker has distinguished himself by targeting tunes.
The singing, which traces its roots to the mass protests against Walker’s anti-labor initiatives of February and March 2011, has been a steady presence in the capitol for two years. But, this summer, the governor’s cracking down. So far, seventy-nine Wisconsinites have been arrested and ticketed, and dozens more are likely to face charges for singing songs like “Which Side Are You On?” and “On Wisconsin” without following a new set of permitting rules developed by the governor to limit the right to assemble.
It is hard to understand why the governor is so perturbed.
He’s not often in a position to hear what’s going on in the capitol.
Unless, of course, the voices of the singers are loud enough to carry to states like Alabama.
The governor, who makes little secret of his 2016 presidential enthusiasm, is spending this summer traveling to states that are likely to play a role in naming the Republican nominee who will pick up where Mitt Romney left off. He’s already been to Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, New York, Tennessee and Texas. And he’ll be back in many of those state this fall to hawk his upcoming book, Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge (Sentinel/Penguin), which he’s written with Marc Thiessen, who previously served as chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush. The conservative Washington Examiner says that “according to those familiar with it, might as well come with a ‘Walker for America’ bumper sticker.”
But before he distributes the bumper stickers, Walker is spending his off-year summer vacation on the partisan dinner circuit.
When seventeen singers were arrested Friday at the state capitol, Walker was in Denver keynoting the fourth annual Western Conservative Summit.
Soon he’ll be off to Alabama for the annual Republican Party summer dinner.
He’s already been to the first primary state of New Hampshire and the first caucus state of Iowa.
Walker’s certainly seems to be running.
But he’s not getting much traction.
Against prospective Republican contenders, according to a new TheRun2016 poll, Walker finished eighth with 2.1 percent support among possible Iowa Republican Caucus participants.
There are a lot of explanations for why Governor Walker, despite a very high national profile, attracts so little support. But some of the burden the governor carries undoubtedly has to do with his image as a “divide and conquer” politician who is determined to crack down on teachers, public employees, conservationists, local officials and anyone else who isn’t using his songbook—even going so far as to have grandmothers, veterans, teachers and mothers with children arrested for carrying a tune in the capitol—but who is not very good when it comes to managing his state, maintaining great schools, building a strong infrastructure or creating a climate that encourages job creation.
John Nichols and Bob McChesney are the authors of Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America (Nation Books). Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press, Harvard University, says, “As Nichols and McChesney’s new book shows, the robber barons of the late 19th century were pikers compared with today’s moneyed interests. They have hijacked our elections at all levels, and nothing short of the sweeping reforms called for in Dollarocracy can fix the problem. The book is a must read for anyone who cares about the integrity of our democratic system.”
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