Scott Walker's messianic parting message: Christlike governor says he died for the party's sins

Walker’s failure can’t be obscured by silly claims that he’s “leading” by dropping out to save his party

By Joan Walsh
Published September 22, 2015 5:00PM (UTC)
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(Reuters/Brian C. Frank)

Thank God for small blessings: At least Scott Walker didn’t credit God with his decision to drop out of this race, as he did with his fledgling 2006 campaign against Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle. "I believe that it was God's will for me to run," Walker said back then. "After a great deal of prayer during the last week, it is clear that it is God's will for me to step out of the race."

In fact, then, as now, Walker faced a harsh truth not from God, but from big donors: They didn’t like the campaign he was running, they didn’t believe he could win and they were looking to place their money with other candidates.


This time time around, Walker didn’t play the God card as he withdrew. But he did promote himself as a Christlike figure, dying so the GOP can win the White House in 2016.

“Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive, conservative message can rise to the top of the field,” he told reporters at his Madison press conference Monday night. “With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately.”

That’s selfless Scott Walker, "leading" by dropping out, sacrificing his half-percent of support and offering to throw it to another candidate just to save his party. Of course, Walker didn’t say which candidate he would support, nor did he have the courage to name Donald Trump when he lamented that the race had "drifted into political attacks." His boast about sacrificing his campaign, and his effort at seeming courageous, was entirely self-serving -- self-defense for running a terrible race marked by gaffes and walkbacks and myriad other embarrassments.


I'll admit it: so much is satisfying about Walker’s demise – including, let’s face it, the fact that I said he would never be president last year, and again the year before that. He was a candidate unique to the ideological and racial polarization of Wisconsin. Though he was Milwaukee county executive, he ran campaigns that pitted urban, heavily black Milwaukee against the rest of the white state. I never believed his regional appeal would translate to the national stage.

But it’s not just that I get to say “I told you so” (of course I would never say that literally). Or that I get to laugh at the loons at Twitchy, who mocked me for saying Walker was doomed last year. What's most rewarding is that his last major policy proposal, just a week ago, would have abolished the National Labor Relations Board and rolled back union protections established in the New Deal (and before that, the great state of Wisconsin.) But the cruel move did nothing to prop up Walker. He served the Koch brothers but never tuned into what mattered to the GOP base. Unions are rightly celebrating his political demise.

Despite his plummeting in the polls, Walker surprised everyone with his early exit. His super PAC still has an estimated $20 million. But Walker’s failure at the last debate guaranteed an early exit. He was limping ahead to sheer humiliation and electoral annihilation; why not quit when you still have a half percent support from likely GOP voters, instead of zero?


It’s hard to say what it means to the GOP race. In some way, it narrows the Establishment Primary to Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Marco Rubio (Chris Christie used to be in that group, but he’s polling near Walker levels.) There’s talk that Walker was the first of several single digit candidates who faced pressure from establishment donors to leave the field and give someone stronger a chance to face down Trump.

But who is that, and how do they benefit from Walker’s decision to sacrifice his half-percent of support? It’s the extremist and/or outsider candidates who have the big numbers: Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. If all nine candidates who currently have less than 5 percent (based on standings in the last CNN poll) dropped out and threw their support to one candidate, it would only add 13 percent to his total; Trump, Carson and Fiorina have a combined 53 percent of the vote.


I also find the notion that this somehow sets up Scott Walker for future national political glory kind of ridiculous. The idea of him as vice president is hilarious; In 2012 Rep. Paul Ryan showed that right-wing VP nominees can’t pull Wisconsin into the GOP column during presidential election years.

Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins has an even more outlandish report, saying Walker confidantes are floating the notion of their guy emerging as the nominee at a brokered convention in Cleveland this summer. The only thing less likely than a brokered convention -- a quadrennial fever dream of disgruntled political junkies and bored media -- is that Walker would be its winning candidate.

I think this is adios, Scott Walker, in terms of his national dreams. The only downside is now the people of Wisconsin have to keep him as governor for another three years.

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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