Fresh off a 10th place finish in the most recent Quinnipiac Iowa poll, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker thinks it’s time to return to the policies that launched his national political career. On Monday he’ll announce a brutal assault on labor rights that would strip away worker protections earned as far back as the New Deal.
The flailing Walker has previewed a policy agenda that includes eliminating unions for federal employees, making all workplaces “right-to-work” unless states opt out, and eliminating the National Labor Relations Board.
"This will not be easy," Walker told the Associated Press. "Many — including the union bosses and the politicians they puppet — have long benefited from Washington rules that put the needs of special interests before needs of middle-class families."
The time and place of Walker’s announcement ought to prove to America once and for all that he’s dumb as a box of rocks. Walker is rolling out his anti-union agenda in Las Vegas, one of the most heavily unionized cities in America. Ninety percent of the jobs in Vegas hotels are union jobs, and almost half of all non-supervisor positions in the hotel, restaurant and gaming industries are unionized, compared to 19 percent of such jobs nationwide.
Meanwhile, in the last few days analysts have drilled to the core of Donald Trump’s base to identify his most fervent supporters: working class white men. That once-loyal Democratic voting bloc has been steadily trending Republican since the days of Richard Nixon. Now they see their savior in a bloviating billionaire who brags about how he’s going to improve their lives but never quite says how.
So does Walker think he’s got a plan to win these men back from Trump? I’m pretty sure they aren’t sitting around the tavern grousing, “That damn NLRB! That’s the reason I haven’t gotten a raise in 15 years!”
But Walker is a master of the politics of resentment, turning Wisconsin into an ideological war zone and pitting the good white people of the state against the cities, particularly heavily African American Milwaukee. In his crusade against public sector unions, Walker counted on the ire of private sector workers who’ve watched their own wages and benefits decline, at paying for a public sector where employees have it better than they do.
In that prank phone call he received from “David Koch” in 2011 – it was actually Buffalo blogger Ian Murphy -- Walker boasted of a story in which “every stereotypical blue-collar worker type” supported his moves against public sector unions. (Actually, falling for the Koch prank was an early sign that Walker isn’t too bright, but the local and national media dismissed it and moved on.)
Still, it’s hard to believe that Walker will cut into Trump’s lead with a bold play to crush unions. It will be interesting to see how Trump responds. He may even take a populist approach and frame Walker’s move as a sop to his plutocratic paymasters like the Kochs.
One thing is clear: Walker’s been trying to reboot his campaign with tough talk about how he’s going to “wreak havoc” on Washington. I’m not sure he understands the term, but it’s evident he’s already wreaked havoc on his own campaign. Polling 10th in Iowa, with 3 percent, is a disaster for a guy who staked his entire campaign on his appeal in the nearby state.
Instead, he’s closer to joining Rick Perry on the list of former 2016 candidates than to winning the crucial first caucus state.