The Conservative Leadership Project — The Scott Walker Dilemma

Barb Wire

Note: In response to our recent open letter to the conservative movement, we continue “The Conservative Leadership Project” here at CR™. A series of articles that will first look to answer why we lose, and then come up with a plan for us to win.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

While running for higher office, or holding a lesser office, a Republican candidate becomes a conservative hero for taking all the right positions and not pandering to squishy party elites or the liberal media. For showing courage of conviction while others show cowardice. For being willing to take on the fights most of his peers flee from.

But then once that candidate gets elected, or starts running for a promotion from his previous job, he ceases being the leader we’ve been waiting for. Instead, becoming a human arithmetic formula, literally determining on the fly what to say and stand for based on the latest math.

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Sadly, we’ve not only heard this one before, but we know this tragedy by chapter and verse. The graveyard of the artist formerly known as the Republican Party post-Reagan is filled with the tombstones of failed potential heir apparents, who were weighed, measured, and found wanting when called upon.

Into this fray steps Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Arguably the most unified the Republican Party has been since the 2004 presidential election was Walker’s recall in 2012.  When I wrote the original manuscript for my latest book Rules for Patriots, it was so littered with favorable references to Walker’s dismantling the Left’s ability to use the taxpayers to fund their partisan political efforts, that it was recommended to me I tone down the praise a bit because it was starting to read like a love letter.

Being the one Republican since Reagan to actually defeat the Left on an important domestic policy issue created great anticipation about Walker running in 2016. Even the legendary Rush Limbaugh, normally not one to gush about GOP candidates in primaries, got caught up in the excitement. Some of the conservative media became all-Walker, all-the-time.

Except now some of the same conservative media that seemed willing to cancel the primary vetting process altogether on Walker’s behalf, is beginning to turn on him. And it has nothing to do with Marxist media trolling. That was actually helping Walker’s street cred. Instead, it’s the substance of Walker’s policy answers, or in some cases the lack thereof, that threatens to become his self-inflicted Kryptonite.

To wit:

  • At a recent meeting with the Club for Growth, a member of its board of directors told Walker “you were not prepared to talk about foreign policy,” and Walker “gave vague answers” about whether to repeal the disastrous Dodd-Frank bill.
  • Frank Cannon at the American Principles Project said Walker gave Fox News Sunday “the worst interview on the life issue I have seen from a Republican in recent memory.”
  • After giving a pro-amnesty interview as governor, that Mark Levin said was “more radical than Obama,” Walker candidly admitted he was now flip-flopping to an anti-amnesty stance as a presidential candidate.
  • After opposing the federal ethanol mandate as governor, Walker flip-flopped in favor of the renewable fuels standard to pander to a shrinking segment of Iowa Caucus voters tied to “King Corn.”
  • Walker just sent Iowa Caucus voters an email that said he wanted to emulate what Governor Terry Branstad is “doing in your state.” Well, Branstad just raised the gas tax by 45%, which 80% of Iowans opposed. He’s also poised to sign the largest budget in state history into law, which includes Obamacare implementation as well as the Common Core curriculum. Oh, and Branstad still hasn’t kept his promise to stop taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, despite the fact he has the line-item veto. Is that really the messaging Walker wants to send to the conservatives who dominate caucus turnout?

Ladies and gentlemen, these are all headlines Walker has generated in the past 10 days. That is a breathtaking display of not being ready for primetime.

Yet how can this be? How can a man like Walker, who has essentially had to run for governor three times in the last five years in a blue state, and has successfully overcome more scrutiny from the Left than any Republican of his era, suddenly become the caricature of all his predecessors who let us down?

What possible sense does it make to face all that adversity, defeat it, and then just as you’re about to ride that resume to the highest office in the world go weak in the knees? Where is the Walker who told the mobocracy in Wisconsin to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine? What does Walker have to gain by trying to out-squish Jeb Bush, who will always have more resources to buy low-information primary voters anyway?

I’ll answer that one — absolutely nothing.

Walker and his inner circle have a decision to make post haste. They can either follow the template of every other Republican presidential failure. Or he can show the same guts he showed in Wisconsin on the national issues conservatives care about, and become the next transformative leader of the GOP.

There is no in-between. Trying to find that lukewarm in-between, as Walker is currently doing, will just have him vomited out of conservatives’ mouths.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Steve Deace
Steve Deace is one of the "Heavy Hundred" talk show hosts in America according Talkers Magazine. His influence in the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses has been profiled in much of the national media, and he's also a columnist for The Washington Times. His new book, out now and endorsed by a who's who of conservative leaders, is titled Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.

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