Wisconsin hostage to blind ideological ambition

By Bill Kaplan

Gov. Scott Walker's blind ideological ambition for the GOP presidential nomination came to an inglorious, sputtering end:

- Washington Post editorial writer Stephen Stromberg said: "Walker didn't need Trump to fail. He didn't just have bad luck. He couldn't be any more than he is: walking proof that a combative style, a hard ideological edge and identity-based pandering can't always make up for cluelessness";

- New York Times magazine writer Robert Draper wrote that "Walker, for all his manifestly evident ambition, did little to prepare himself for the scrutiny that comes with a national campaign";

- Wisconsin voters have been tougher. The Marquette University Law School Poll, done after Walker dropped out, had his approval rating down to 37 percent. And, 62 percent oppose a third gubernatorial term for Walker. Politico's headline was blunt: "Wisconsin voters reject Walker";

- Finally, former Wisconsin GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson, prior to the release of the Marquette Poll, said: "I can't envision a possibility of (Walker) running for reelection for governor or for presidency of the United States again". Thompson brilliantly prescient. 

What's next? Wisconsin has been in Walker's rear-view mirror for a long time. However, his disastrous and failed presidential campaign has left Walker greatly diminished and no longer invincible. Wisconsinites - Democrats, Republicans and independents - can see more clearly how Walker has held our beloved state hostage to his ill-advised ideological crusades and blind delusional ambition. Two examples. Walker has ideologically opposed Medicaid expansion, turning down $560 million in federal funding which could cover over 80,000 Wisconsinites. Moreover, last week GOP-led South Dakota and Utah signaled they want to join other GOP-led states in expanding Medicaid. When will Walker and GOP legislators talk to state GOP Sen. Luther Olsen about expanding Medicaid?

Then there is the Export-Import Bank which the GOP-led House has refused (unlike the Senate) to reauthorize. The bank provides loans to foreign buyers of Wisconsin- made products, credit insurance to Wisconsin sellers, supports 27,000 state jobs and returns a hefty profit to the U.S. Treasury. Yet Walker put his presidential ambition ahead of Wisconsin, bowed to the Club for Growth and came out against reauthorization. Now GE says it will stop making engines in Waukesha, cutting 350 jobs, while blaming congressional inaction on the Export-Import Bank. Fortunately, more practical House Republicans with the Democratic minority, against the Tea Party and the Koch brothers, are poised to successfully force a vote on reauthorization.

Finally, the death of labor leader Marty Beil reminds us of what we have lost under Walker. Former Gov. Thompson said: "Marty was a giant of a man in size as well as in ability. If he considered you a friend, which I know he did of me, he was always there for you." Thompson, compassionate and eloquent, reminds all of us that we are Wisconsin and can be great again.

- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009

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