Saturday, February 26, 2011

Among Scott Walker's Deficits: Moral Authority

[Reposted 12/4/18 from 2/26/11, because what is past is prologue] Scott Walker's poll numbers are dropping as he accelerates his anti-union worker offensives - - starting with his out-of-the-blue abolition of a half-century of collective bargaining, to declining to accept the very economic concessions he'd also demanded, to threatening layoffs into the thousands if he doesn't get that final, suicidal agreement to permanently end nearly all public worker bargaining.

Public employees already conceded - - "Walker Wins! Walker Wins!" could already have been his headline suitable for framing and fund-raising -  to substantially reduced pay.

In effect, they swallowed hard and conceded against their will, but as realists, to be used as political cannon-fodder exactly the way Walker laid it out to the fake David Koch in that famously taped, prank call - - but still Walker wants everything - - without negotiations, without discussions or even adequate notice - - and here is the rub: after less than two months into his first term as Governor, having arrived there with 52% of the votes cast.

So why the peaceful but powerful uprising that followed Walker's pronouncements in Madison, across the state and throughout the country in solidarity with Wisconsin's public employees?

Why the still-growing crowd at the Capitol?

I think people feel Walker's lack of moral authority has enabled him to so swiftly, so stealthily, and so profoundly change so many people's lives, careers and family stability.

If he were in his second or third term as Governor, if he had a reputation as a Wise Old Man, if he had a track record of crisis management or big thinking and successful problem-solving, if he had, or could display sincerely a shred of compassion - - maybe he could justify what he is proposing and the way he went about it.

And only maybe.

But he does not have that background and cannot conjure up its impression.

If Walker could communicate moral authority, the protest crowds would have been smaller and the counter-protesters who briefly showed up would have been present, in large numbers, because they had rushed to follow their leader into the struggle.

Walker sways no one.

He doesn't have the experience, language, influence and intuition required.

Yes, he has an all-consuming interest in political strategy and personal advancement, but those traits fail in solving this mess of his own creation because they enabled him to blunder his way in.

And they illuminated the path to the dark side he traveled in his talk with the fake David Koch (transcript here), where he displayed no real leadership while chit-chatting about planting provocateurs in the peaceful crowds and using the situation to push a far-right political and personal agenda.

I think when Walker is on TV, and certainly as he reveals himself on the prank call tape, he comes across as an arrogant whipper-snapper, intoxicated with his newly-gained position and power, but with no ability to consider a different course or display real empathy.

I think people when they see or hear Walker are saying some variation of. "Who is this guy?"

The younger, harder-edged conservatives now running the GOP nationally and in Wisconsin have chased off the moderates, so there is no calm and deeper presence around Walker to fill in his internal deficits and pull him back from the brink.

There has been ample talk about de-coupling the economic concessions that Walker demanded and won from the bargaining rights' issue - - the politically-driven "bomb" that Walker said he dropped (again, see the tape transcript), and which now threatens to push everyone off the cliff.

Walker knows how to defuse the situation, but his ambition to be Reagan 2.0 by firing today's equivalent of the air traffic controllers, and to be Rush Limbaugh's new best friend, are probably too great a lure to such a one-dimensional, small-picture guy.

A leader with a stronger core would never have made this crazy proposal in the first place, then undercut himself so deeply in that narcissistic phone call, and stood by it so inflexibility as his powers of moral persuasion were exposed as nil.

That leader would have found a way out that was principally in the public interest, along with his own, too - - but first you'd have to have the willingness and awareness to have a pressing and genuine conversation with yourself before you could possibly hope to communicate effectively with people whom you have injured.


Michael J. said...

I tried...
Sent: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 12:42 PM
Cc: Zipperer, Leo; Mark O'Connell
Subject: to Gov- elect Walker
Importance: High

Dear Governor-Elect Walker,

Thanks for the personal note and you must know that I was pleased and mildly surprised to get it. I’m glad to know that Door County is on your mind.

It is an understatement of gigantic proportions to say that you, and all of us, face tremendous challenges in the years ahead. Maintaining the extraordinary quality of life that we enjoy in Wisconsin while paying close attention to the manner in which we do so will require great skill. You, your administration and the legislature will need the Wisdom of Solomon as you grapple with the multiple issues and their constituencies. I’m sure you’ll be getting plenty of advice, solicited and not, as the days and months go by. Keep smiling.

You have my best wishes for success in your endeavors. One thing I’d pass along. When I worked on political campaigns, whenever I was on the winning side I urged my candidate to be magnanimous in victory. I still think that’s what separates statesmen from all the rest. The goodwill of the people of Wisconsin, all of them, rich and poor alike, is a very precious thing and it needs to be nurtured in order to be kept on one’s side.

Best wishes to you.


Michael J. Serpe
Administrator, County of Door
421 Nebraska Street
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
Telephone: (920)746-2303

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man." Pudd'nhead Wilson

Unknown said...

Good column. I tried to make a similoar point in Isthmus this week:

duck duck said...

There is a post on Forbes by Rick Ungar about Walker lying about how pensions and health insurance are funded.

How is he getting away with this? This is all about union busting and bringing down the Democrats, plain and simple.

Here's the link: