Manchester, NH—When I asked Newt Gingrich if he planned to campaign for Scott Walker in the recall election the labor-bashing governor of Wisconsin will almost certainly face, Newt answered, “Sure!”
“Scott Walker’s fight in Wisconsin has made him a national leader on issues [that are] important to Republicans,” said the former Speaker of the House. “Of course I would campaign for him.”
The Republicans who would be president disagree on some issues. But they are pretty much united in their affection for the nation’s most embattled governor.
What is it about Walker—who is so unpopular that hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites are petitioning for his recall and removal—that makes him so appealing to the leading figures in the national Republican Party?
That’s simple. Scott Walker is an anti-union zealot. And anti-union zealotry has become a core premise of the twenty-first-century Republican Party.
Attacks by Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich on public-employee unions may have gotten the most publicity. But other governors, most notably Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, are striving to undermine the collective bargaining rights of private-sector workers.
But nowhere is the disdain for organized labor more evident than on the Republican presidential campaign trail. Never in the modern history of the Republican Party, which once made a serious effort to compete with Democrats for labor endorsements and the votes of union members, has a field of GOP presidential candidates been so united and so aggressive in opposing collective-bargaining rights for public-sector and private-sector workers. As recently as 2008, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee appeared at the annual convention of the International Association of Machinists and received the industrial union’s endorsement in the Republican primaries. Today, just four years later, the Republican contenders are not just refusing union invitations. They are using every opportunity to explain their opposition to labor’s agenda, along with their support for legislative initiatives that are designed to undermine collective-bargaining rights.