Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), the son of a Baptist preacher, frequently talks about his Christian faith. But his familiarity with other religions, especially in a state in which minority faiths represent a tiny percentage of the population, appears to be rather limited.
Occasionally, that can be a problem.
The Capital Times in Madison reports today, for example, on an unfortunate incident from Walker’s tenure in Milwaukee, before he was elected governor.
In an undated letter unearthed by the liberal group One Wisconsin Now during the August release of documents from the first of two John Doe investigations related to the governor, Walker responded to a letter from Milwaukee attorney and chairman of the Wisconsin Center District Franklyn Gimbel.
Walker told Gimbel his office would be happy to display a menorah celebrating “The Eight Days of Chanukah” at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, and asked Gimbel to have a representative from Lubavitch of Wisconsin contact Walker’s secretary, Dorothy Moore, to set it up.
The letter is signed, “Thank you again and Molotov.”
In all likelihood, Walker intended to write, “Mazel tov,” which is a Jewish phrase used to congratulate someone or wish them well.
“Molotov,” on the other hand, is a word more commonly associated with “a variety of bottle-based improvised incendiary weapons.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 10, 2014
One of the silver linings Democrats were looking for on Tuesday was the possibility that some particularly nasty Republican governors might be shown the door. The most repellent had to be Maine’s thuggish Paul LePage, who due in large part to an independent candidacy will enjoy four more years to embarrass and immiserate the people of that fine state. Far more consequential, however, was Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Having survived a close shave, Walker can now board a train of destiny leaving Madison and heading all of 300 miles southwest to Des Moines.
Of all the potential GOP 2016 candidates, Walker may be the most terrifying. Yes, it would be a calamity of apocalyptic proportions if Ted Cruz were to become president, but we all know that’s never going to happen. Walker, however, is a much more credible candidate. Ed Kilgore has some insightful thoughts:
But it’s hard to think of any of the domestic government priorities of today’s conservative movement—from election suppression to rolling back abortion rights to undermining entitlements to erosion of collective bargaining rights to an entire economic strategy based on making life easy for “job-creators”—on which Walker hasn’t distinguished himself, against enormous resistance. In many respects (as I argued in a TNR essay about Walker in 2011), Scott Walker is exactly what you get if you take southern Republicanism in all its sordid glory and apply it in a frosty and unfamiliar environment. So the man is going to have an instinctive appeal to conservative activists everywhere, and has an electability argument few can make.
It’s true—Walker could stand up in a Republican debate, look around at his competitors, and say, “All these guys say they hate labor unions, but who’s done more to hasten the death of collective bargaining than I have?” then repeat the argument on any number of issues. So one could certainly see him catching fire in the primaries.
But as Ed says, Walker isn’t exactly brimming with charisma. With prior GOP nominees, even the ones who lost, you could understand why they might have some plausible appeal to the general electorate. Mitt Romney was a handsome, can-do business leader with a record of working with the other party. John McCain was a mavericky maverick. George W. Bush was a good-natured fella who wanted to be “compassionate.” But Walker? He’s all hard edges and ideological search-and-destroy missions, leaving bitterness and anger in his wake even when he wins.
Of course, if you aren’t in Wisconsin you’ve only seen so much of him. Maybe in the long slog of a primary campaign, he’d reveal depths of complexity and charm that aren’t yet apparent. But let’s hope not.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 7, 2014
“The Broader GOP Benefits Of Walker Losing”: Intra-Party ‘Feud’ Complicates Walker’s Race In Wisconsin
No gubernatorial race in the country is as competitive as Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) re-election bid in Wisconsin. The last four publicly released polls have shown the race either tied or within one percentage point.
And with just a week until Election Day, the incumbent governor isn’t convinced the Republican Machine is rallying to his defense to the degree he’d prefer.
At a morning campaign stop in Mayville, Wisconsin, Walker openly groused that the outside spending supporting his campaign “pales” in comparison to the Democratic effort to defeat him. He spoke dismissively of an upcoming campaign visit from [New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie], telling reporters that the Garden Stater was visiting because “he asked if he could come and we weren’t going to say no.”
In fairness, Walker later clarified that he’s grateful for Christie’s support, but he’s frustrated because he believes Democrats are rallying behind Mary Burke’s campaign with even stronger support.
The result is an awkward “feud” of sorts – Walker desperately needs backing from the Republican Governors Association, which is chaired by Christie, but at the same time, Walker believes the RGA is holding back, in part because of 2016. And he may have a point – both Christie and Walker are preparing to run for president, and if the Wisconsin governor comes up short, Christie will have one less credible rival for the GOP nomination.
It’s created a dynamic in which Christie’s RGA wants Walker to win, but it also sees the broader benefits of Walker losing.
And that in turn has generated chatter about whether the New Jersey Republican is undermining his Wisconsin ally on purpose to advance Christie’s ambitions.
The Weekly Standard, which is clearly attuned to Republican insiders’ thinking, had an interesting report on this late last week.
Is New Jersey governor and Republican Governors Association chairman Chris Christie undercutting Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s reelection effort? That’s a question a number of influential Wisconsin Republicans have been asking behind the scenes over the past week after an October 16 Associated Press report indicated that Walker and his allies were being outspent by Democratic challenger Mary Burke and her allies. […]
Why would the RGA spend more on Rick Snyder than Scott Walker? A number of top Wisconsin Republicans have expressed the same concern in separate conversations with THE WEEKLY STANDARD: That RGA chairman Chris Christie might be tanking Walker, a potential rival for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. As Republican governors who took on public employee unions in blue states, Christie and Walker would be chasing after some of the same donors and voters in the 2016 race (if both men decide to run). Knocking Walker out of the running now (while giving extra help to Rick Snyder, a governor of an important early GOP primary state) could be in Christie’s interest.
As for Democrats, President Obama will be in Wisconsin today, rallying support for Burke’s campaign, which “comes on the heels of high-profile events with Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 28, 2014
The poll tax is looking pretty tempting in the rear-view mirror. It was $1.50 in 1964, when the 24th Amendment outlawed it as a requirement for voting in federal elections. Adjusted for inflation, the tax would be less than $12 today. That makes it a lot cheaper — and infinitely easier — than getting hold of exactly the right documentation to cast a ballot under some state laws.
The recent wave of rulings and opinions on voter ID laws makes for depressing, at times infuriating, reading. There is the parade of “practical obstacles” summarized by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, writing on the Wisconsin law. Trying to learn what you need, collecting the documents, getting to and standing on line at one or more state offices that are open only during business hours, and perhaps having to deal with multiple other state and federal agencies to address discrepancies — just skimming the list will make your stomach clench and your head ache. It’s a major undertaking for a high-income, highly educated person with flexible work hours and access to public officials. It’s prohibitive in multiple ways for others.
There are the calculated choices majority Republicans made in Texas about what kinds of ID to accept and reject. They said yes to gun permits and military IDs and didn’t mess with absentee ballots — all ways to “broaden Anglo voting,” U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos wrote. They rejected student IDs, state government employee IDs and federal IDs, all “disproportionately held by African-Americans and Hispanics.”
There is the barrier of cost, addressed in an opinion on the Wisconsin law by Judge Richard Posner, a conservative named by Ronald Reagan to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He cited a Harvard Law School report that found the cost of documentation, travel and waiting time to get an ID to be $75 to $175. That’s 50 to 100 times more than that $1.50 poll tax, and all you’d have to do is pay at the polling station before voting.
The poll tax, in many cases applied selectively and used to discriminate, had no place in a democracy. Yet how different was it from the hurdles placed in the path of so many voters today?
These burdens, and possibly even the outcome of a close race or two, hang in the balance as the courts whipsaw back and forth in the weeks before the Nov. 4 election. Ramos blocked the Texas law last week, she was reversed by a three-judge appeals panel this week, and the next day the Supreme Court was asked to again block the law from taking effect. The Wisconsin law went through a similar judicial rollercoaster before the Supreme Court last week said it could not go forward this year.
Posner’s dissent in the Wisconsin case is memorable for personal asides that inject bracing reminders of the real world, and an overall scathing tone. His 11-page appendix, for instance, is called “Scrounging for your birth certificate in Wisconsin.” All 11 pages are required forms and instructions on how to fill them out.
“Scrounge” was the Seventh Circuit panel’s verb of choice in its short-lived ruling to let the law take effect. The panel referred disapprovingly to people “unwilling to invest the necessary time” to “scrounge up a birth certificate and stand in line at the office that issues driver’s licenses.” To which Posner responded that “the author of this dissenting opinion” — that would be him — “has never seen his birth certificate and does not know how he would go about ‘scrounging’ it up. Nor does he enjoy waiting in line at motor vehicle bureaus.”
Posner wrote that since voter-impersonation fraud is virtually non-existent, the only motivation for such requirements is “to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.” He uses charts to show that of the nine states with the strictest ID requirements, eight laws were passed by all-GOP legislatures and seven of the eight also had GOP governors.
The morality of all this is bad enough — we’re talking about voting, for Pete’s sake, the bedrock of the republic, a right people died to win. But the voter ID fad also reveals flawed political strategy. It courts backlash, in the form of higher minority turnout. And it will make it harder to repair relations with the affected groups when demographic reality takes hold and the GOP needs their votes.
If the Supreme Court decides to rule on the merits of voter ID laws, let’s hope it acts with more dispatch than it did on poll taxes. The taxes were declared constitutional in 1937. It was not until 1966, two years after the 24th Amendment banning them in federal elections, that the high court ruled them unconstitutional in all elections. We don’t need 29 years to know that voter suppression is wrong.
By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, October 16, 2014