Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker plays politics to win. As a political careerist who has run two dozen primary and general election campaigns since 1990, he leaves nothing to chance. And the partisans who have allied with him have embraced the view that the best way to prevail in politics is to “have it all”—control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
This week, Walker’s allies are focused on securing control of the judicial branch of state government in Wisconsin. The Republican Party of Wisconsin and groups that have consistently backed Walker’s agenda are leading the charge to oust a state Supreme Court justice who has championed judicial independence and to change the way in which the high court is organized—with an eye toward ousting another independent jurist from the position of chief justice.
The Wisconsin fights, which will play out in two statewide votes Tuesday, have received little national attention. Yet they are instructive for those who seek to understand the relentless pursuit of power by Walker and his political allies—and the approach that the all-but-announced Republican presidential contender and his associates would bring to Washington if they realize their national ambitions.
Since his election in 2010, Walker and his legislative cronies have grabbed every opening to secure and advance their authority. They have employed ambitious gerrymandering schemes, reorganized the election calendar, rewritten voting rules and invited the wealthiest men in America to flood the state with special-interest money. They have disregarded rules and regulations designed to maintain transparency and fairness. They have played what Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson describe as “winner-take-all politics.”
Since the wave election of 2014, Walker and his Republican allies have enjoyed absolute control of the governorship and both houses of the state legislature. They have used that control to further an anti-labor agenda—begun in 2011 with assaults on public-sector unions—by enacting so-called “right to work” legislation. And they plan to do a lot more. In addition to proposals to cut funding for the University of Wisconsin and expand private K-12 voucher schools using money that would otherwise be earmarked for public education, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Walker has plans for “ending state funding for highway beautification, and Wisconsin Public Radio and Television; phasing out a long-standing racial integration program for students; and leaving most prison watchtowers vacant at night.”