Scott Walker and a ‘Return to Normalcy’

 

Scott WalkerDespite what The Donald and Jeb! and Carly said in last week’s debate, Scott Walker’s closing statement tackled an even larger elephant in the room: “I’m a guy with a wife, two kids, and a Harley. One article called me ‘aggressively normal.'” The Wisconsin Governor’s detractors aren’t as euphemistic. Let’s face it: Scott Walker is B-O-R-I-N-G.

He brags about the bargain rack at Kohl’s. He spends his Sunday mornings at church and his Sunday afternoons watching the Packers. He live-tweets his haircuts and getting the oil changed in his Saturn. His only unhealthy obsession seems to be an addiction to hot ham and rolls after church. (He really loves hot ham.)

In a news cycle filled with burning cities, beheaded Christians, and transgendered Kardashians, how does a dull Midwesterner stand out? He showed how Thursday night. To paraphrase a reporter talking about Barry Goldwater’s presidential strategy, “my God, Walker is running as Walker!”

This isn’t the first time a politician listed “aggressively normal” as a selling point. In 1920, America’s political climate was in even greater tumult than today’s. President Wilson had fundamentally transformed the federal government into an oppressive entity that regularly jailed detractors, instituted a then-unimaginable level of regulation, and created the first income tax. Our battered soldiers returned from the charnel houses of Europe to find an executive branch pushing for an even more robust internationalism. By the time the president was incapacitated by stroke (a fact hidden for months), most Americans had had enough.

In a field of flashy candidates, a dull Midwesterner caught the zeitgeist by calling for a “Return to Normalcy”:

“America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality.”

Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding’s promise of a boring four years delivered a landslide victory from an exhausted electorate. After dying in office he was replaced by our dullest president, Calvin Coolidge, who was succeeded by a third steady hand, Herbert Hoover.

In many ways Walker is the heir to Silent Cal; a leader focused on concrete results with minimal rhetoric and even less drama. He spent his time as a county executive and governor methodically rolling back the worst excesses of government as the world flailed around him. The unwashed progressives in Madison ranted and raved, but Walker remained the eye of the storm. Unions threatened his family, judges harassed his friends, and MSNBC’s Ed Schultz held a year-long St. Vitus’ dance, while the governor stretched in his church pew, dreaming about hot ham.

As an ideologue, I’m more attracted to conservatarian activism. If a candidate promised to cut government in half, I would think it was merely a good start. Forget balancing the budget, I want spending well below incoming revenues for the next decade. And if the next government shutdown doesn’t last a year, don’t bother. So, on paper, a “return to normalcy” shouldn’t be that appealing.

But Walker appeals to an exhaustion with politics in general. Like most small-government enthusiasts, I don’t want to think about Washington, D.C. every minute of every day. My ideal politician is someone I only hear about at election time and maybe in January when he submits his State of the Union address in writing. I would much rather focus my time on family, business, and art, than waste Christmas Eve watching C-SPAN’s live congressional feed. I long for the days when supermarket magazine racks featured celebrity weight loss tips instead of FLOTUS lecturing me about kale.

If we’re frustrated with politics now, we’ll be desperate for relief by November 2016. If Scott Walker is able to capitalize on that mood — starting with a definition of what “normal” even means anymore — the White House chef might need to stock up on hot ham and rolls.

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  1. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    Songwriter:

    Frozen Chosen:I like Walker and think he would be a good president but I don’t know if he’s got the charisma to be elected. You need some flash to appeal to the LIVs.

    Hope you’re wrong. Afraid you’re right.

    Yet somehow he won three elections in a blue state, and two of those elections drew attention from the Democrats’ powerful national machine.

    My favorite take on Scott Walker:

    “Does Walker sizzle? Not exactly. Is he a particularly charismatic speaker? No, he isn’t. But does he sit upon a throne made of the skulls of his enemies? Yes, yes he does.”

    • #31
  2. Mama Toad Member
    Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Marion Evans:Why did he tell us he has a Harley? Great for him but would someone say “I have a wife, two kids and a GE dishwasher”? Or is it a feeble attempt to appeal to middle America protectionism? I guess a Kawasaki would have made him unelectable.

    Not for nothing, but “Harley” and “GE dishwasher” are not really comparable.

    He told us he has a Harley because they are cool. There is no “cool” factor in a GE dishwasher. Really not.

    Can’t really see Chris Christie, or Jeb!, or Carley, or Rick Santorum for crying out loud, on one of these, can you?

    • #32
  3. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    The regular guy thing is fine, but this is a man who stood up to violent union thugs and did what was best for his constituents. That is not boring. Walker needs to show us some of that fight, and unlike some other candidate, he can do that without being a jerk.

    • #33
  4. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Vance Richards:The regular guy thing is fine, but this is a man who stood up to violent union thugs and did what was best for his constituents. That is not boring. Walker needs to show us some of that fight, and unlike some other candidate, he can do that without being a jerk.

    The thing is, when you hear “fight” you picture — oh, I don’t know, somebody jumping and screaming and carrying a sign.  What the other side was doing.  What Walker was actually doing was, well, this.

    Kind of boring.  But it worked.

    • #34
  5. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    From Wikipedia:

    In high school, he attended two weeks of American Legion-sponsored training in leadership and government at Badger Boys State in Wisconsin and the selective Boys Nation in Washington, D.C.He attained the highest rank, Eagle Scout, in the Boy Scouts of America, and graduated from Delavan-Darien High School in 1986.

    In 1986 enrolled at Marquette University.Within a few weeks of beginning studies, Walker became a student senator and later led a probe involving student government leaders misusing funds during homecoming. Walker’s committee recommended impeachment of those being investigated, leading many to resign, and earning Walker enemies. In 1988, he ran for student government president. The election was close, with Walker touting a 19-point resume, and was a cause for division on campus. On election day, a record number of students voted, with Walker losing 927 to 1,245, following an alleged infringement of campaign guidelines; an election commission later found Walker guilty of beginning his campaign one week before he was allowed. His opponent was impeached shortly after taking office but Walker did not apply for the position.

    Walker discontinued his studies at Marquette in the spring of 1990. He earned 94 of the 128 minimum credits needed to graduate. He left in good standing with a 2.59/4.0 grade point average but without obtaining a degree. Walker has said he dropped out of college when he received an offer for a full-time job with the American Red Cross.

    • #35
  6. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    I dropped out of high school because I was so frustrated with the teachers who seems to have no regard for my hearing impairment. It never occurred to me to go to a school counselor for help. I just dropped out of school. I obtained employment as an account clerk with the Rochester Times Union working for a year. No diploma, but I passed the entrance exam to Columbia University School of General Studies. Allowed to stay as a probationary student as long as my grades stayed at 3.0 or better. So not having a formal education does not disqualify anybody for the office of POTUS, providing they have knowledge, and Walker has proved his does. I think those who keep stating that “He didn’t get a college degree” are mis-understanding that does not mean he is not educated.

    • #36
  7. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Kay of MT:I dropped out of high school because I was so frustrated with the teachers who seems to have no regard for my hearing impairment. It never occurred to me to go to a school counselor for help. I just dropped out of school. I obtained employment as an account clerk with the Rochester Times Union working for a year. No diploma, but I passed the entrance exam to Columbia University School of General Studies. Allowed to stay as a probationary student as long as my grades stayed at 3.0 or better. So not having a formal education does not disqualify anybody for the office of POTUS, providing they have knowledge, and Walker has proved his does. I think those who keep stating that “He didn’t get a college degree” are mis-understanding that does not mean he is not educated.

    It means he is not completely socialized into the ruling class hegemony.

    • #37
  8. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    The Reticulator: It means he is not completely socialized into the ruling class hegemony.

    Thank Goodness!

    • #38
  9. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    I wasn’t being flippant about nixon.  He got 60-61% of the vote and more of the african american vote than any republican post-FDR (19%)

    1972 Nixon dominated.

    • #39
  10. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Marion Evans:Why did he tell us he has a Harley? Great for him but would someone say “I have a wife, two kids and a GE dishwasher”? Or is it a feeble attempt to appeal to middle America protectionism? I guess a Kawasaki would have made him unelectable.

    Harley-Davidson is a major point of pride to Wisconsinites. The brand also has one of the most fanatical fanbases in the Western world. His Harley comment was true, and also solid piece of middle-class signaling.

    • #40
  11. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Fricosis Guy:Only quibble with this piece is that Hoover wasn’t a steady hand. Herbert Hoover was in many ways a great man, but he was a progressive at heart.

    By steady, I meant steadier than Wilson before the GOP trio and steadier than Roosevelt after them. Hoover was a technocrat, but Harding forged a three-president string by promising to avoid technocracy. Coolidge was better at this than Harding himself.

    • #41
  12. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Fricosis Guy:Only quibble with this piece is that Hoover wasn’t a steady hand. Herbert Hoover was in many ways a great man, but he was a progressive at heart.

    This was one of my two minor quibbles with the OP, as well.

    The other was that Wilson “created the first income tax.”  Actually, it was Lincoln who imposed the first US income tax.  The first peacetime US income tax was in the 1890s, under Cleveland (and was invalidated by SCOTUS in 1895).

    • #42
  13. donald todd Inactive
    donald todd
    @donaldtodd

    Marion Evans:Why did he tell us he has a Harley? Great for him but would someone say “I have a wife, two kids and a GE dishwasher”? Or is it a feeble attempt to appeal to middle America protectionism? I guess a Kawasaki would have made him unelectable.

    There is no comparison for a man between a Harley and a GE dishwasher.  Nobody rides a dishwasher.

    • #43
  14. Cat III Member
    Cat III
    @CatIII

    Leigh:Cat, I think we’re going to be stuck swallowing some spin on that issue. If it’s not that issue, it will be someone else pandering on something else. Politics is messy.

    Walker says he wants to phase the subsidies out in two years (I think that’s the timetable). He opposed subsidies at the state level in Wisconsin, but says there’s a difference between introducing new subsidies and ending old ones. Basically, he opposes the subsidies but has found a way (for now) to tell the audience what they want to hear, more or less. I can live with that position and would call it more spin than an actual flip.

    Thanks for the clarification, Leigh. I should do more research before I believe what I hear second hand. I realize presidential candidates have to appease the corn lobby to get elected so I understand the need to at least pay lip service to subsidies. It just struck me as being weak on government cronies which is the opposite reason I was attracted to Walker in the first place. Guess I’m getting too pessimistic or my expectations too high (or both).

    It’s a long shot at this point, but a Walker/Rubio ticket would give me hope.

    • #44
  15. donald todd Inactive
    donald todd
    @donaldtodd

    minksnopes:The temptation to cave to the unions (especially the “Educators”) must be powerful. He took them on and won in a libby state. Rubio sounds great but if we elect him it will be to stop sounding great and start being tough as nails with the crooks that are destroying a great country. Walker is ready for this. The others are not.

    Actually I think a number of the governors or former governors might be ready for this, but the most recent and most heavily trialed of the governors is Walker.  That does count for something.  He is recently tested and has come through the fire successfully.

    • #45
  16. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Mama Toad:

    Marion Evans:Why did he tell us he has a Harley? Great for him but would someone say “I have a wife, two kids and a GE dishwasher”? Or is it a feeble attempt to appeal to middle America protectionism? I guess a Kawasaki would have made him unelectable.

    Not for nothing, but “Harley” and “GE dishwasher” are not really comparable.

    He told us he has a Harley because they are cool. There is no “cool” factor in a GE dishwasher. Really not.

    Can’t really see Chris Christie, or Jeb!, or Carley, or Rick Santorum for crying out loud, on one of these, can you?

    Trump equivalent: “I have three wives, five kids, and a Maybach, a Boeing, a helicopter etc.”

    • #46
  17. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    Fricosis Guy:Only quibble with this piece is that Hoover wasn’t a steady hand. Herbert Hoover was in many ways a great man, but he was a progressive at heart.

    By steady, I meant steadier than Wilson before the GOP trio and steadier than Roosevelt after them. Hoover was a technocrat, but Harding forged a three-president string by promising to avoid technocracy. Coolidge was better at this than Harding himself.

    There are a lot of conservatives who make this final claim, because Harding was tainted by the corruption of some of his cabinet, but I don’t believe it’s true. The really radical reforms dismantling the technocracy mostly took place under Harding. Coolidge achieved his high level of success mostly through inaction.

    • #47
  18. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    Marion Evans:Why did he tell us he has a Harley? Great for him but would someone say “I have a wife, two kids and a GE dishwasher”? Or is it a feeble attempt to appeal to middle America protectionism? I guess a Kawasaki would have made him unelectable.

    Harley-Davidson is a major point of pride to Wisconsinites. The brand also has one of the most fanatical fanbases in the Western world. His Harley comment was true, and also solid piece of middle-class signaling.

    Wisconsin is as strong in Walker as Texas is in Perry (for all he talks about having lived in Iowa these days).  It’s certainly one thing that makes him different from much of the rest of the field — Rubio, Bush, Fiorina, etc. are all more cosmopolitan.  It’s a mixed blessing: I think Americans like a little regional loyalty and the heartland pitch rings true, but it can become a disadvantage for a national candidate to seem too regionally limited.  Perry couldn’t overcome that challenge; we’ll see if Walker can.

    • #48
  19. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    donald todd:

    Marion Evans:Why did he tell us he has a Harley? Great for him but would someone say “I have a wife, two kids and a GE dishwasher”? Or is it a feeble attempt to appeal to middle America protectionism? I guess a Kawasaki would have made him unelectable.

    There is no comparison for a man between a Harley and a GE dishwasher. Nobody rides a dishwasher.

    Speak for yourself. Have you tried it?   ;-)

    • #49
  20. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Leigh: Here’s Walker’s other challenge: he’s not used to defending himself from attacks on the right. He’s used to explaining to Wisconsinites that his very conservative positions really aren’t that far out after all. This shows.

    Which is exactly what we need, someone who can convince a skeptical audience that conservative reforms are not as scary as the media wants them to think.

    • #50
  21. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Cat III:

    Leigh:Cat, I think we’re going to be stuck swallowing some spin on that issue. If it’s not that issue, it will be someone else pandering on something else. Politics is messy.

    Walker says he wants to phase the subsidies out in two years (I think that’s the timetable). He opposed subsidies at the state level in Wisconsin, but says there’s a difference between introducing new subsidies and ending old ones. Basically, he opposes the subsidies but has found a way (for now) to tell the audience what they want to hear, more or less. I can live with that position and would call it more spin than an actual flip.

    Thanks for the clarification, Leigh. I should do more research before I believe what I hear second hand. I realize presidential candidates have to appease the corn lobby to get elected so I understand the need to at least pay lip service to subsidies. It just struck me as being weak on government cronies which is the opposite reason I was attracted to Walker in the first place. Guess I’m getting too pessimistic or my expectations too high (or both).

    It’s a long shot at this point, but a Walker/Rubio ticket would give me hope.

    It’s not your fault. You were lied to. There were a lot of people who spun Walker saying that he wanted to end the subsidy in a reasonable manner as a massive flip flop.

    If you end the subsidy overnight, you cause needless economic harm. If you transition it out, you give farmers some opportunity to adapt their finances. Walker proposed implementing his previously announced principle in a sensible way and CATO and Breitbart went straight into screaming about betrayal. The Daily Shot was downstream from CATO.

    • #51
  22. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Manny:

    :I like Scott Walker, but I found him to be a nothing in the debate. Sure he was boring. I can live with boring, but he struck me as completely inexperienced on the national stage. He reinforced his big negative. I’m sure he can recover, unless he really isn’t ready for the national stage, which is what I’m leaning toward.

    What did he say that suggested inexperience?

    I don’t know if it was anything he said. He spoke with such a placid face that it seemed he was overwhelmed. I can’t recall any emotion or casual charm, which struck me as he was frightened. I’ve gotten that sense from other outlets where’s been interviewed. Apparently he’s very cautious. He seems to lack the retail politician personality.

    Romney was also cautious in making claims about economics. Much more so than Santorum. That wasn’t because he was inexperienced, it was because he took the question seriously. If you go to a quality investment manager and ask them about the future of the Euro, they’ll give you careful, hedged, advice. Watch Bill O’Reilly on the subject and you’ll get glib, strong, opinions. It would be mistaken to take from this that O’Reilly was more experienced.

    Walker has spent years with his every statement being minutely examined for falsehoods. He’s thus careful not to say things that aren’t true, to a much greater extent than most of the candidates.

    • #52
  23. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Umbra Fractus:

    Leigh: Here’s Walker’s other challenge: he’s not used to defending himself from attacks on the right. He’s used to explaining to Wisconsinites that his very conservative positions really aren’t that far out after all. This shows.

    Which is exactly what we need, someone who can convince a skeptical audience that conservative reforms are not as scary as the media wants them to think.

    Oh, I totally, completely agree.  Now he’ll never do it in the same way Rubio would, for instance.  His debate answer on abortion was classic Walker — state his position, argue it aligns with the mainstream, point to his opponent’s extremism.  He can do it a little more effectively than he did there, I think, but that’s his basic pattern.

    Primary voters sometimes want a little more red meat.

    Somebody — probably Cruz — is sooner or later going to find a way to attack his record in Wisconsin from the right.  Walker has to be ready.

    • #53
  24. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    James Of England: He’s thus careful not to say things that aren’t true, to a much greater extent than most of the candidates.

    Especially Hillary, and every other Democrat?

    • #54
  25. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    James Of England:

    If you go to a quality investment manager and ask them about the future of the Euro, they’ll give you careful, hedged, advice. Watch Bill O’Reilly on the subject and you’ll get glib, strong, opinions. It would be mistaken to take from this that O’Reilly was more experienced.

    Very well said, James.  It’s easier to be brash in your opinions when you don’t know what you are talking about.

    • #55
  26. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Leigh: Somebody – probably Cruz — is sooner or later going to find a way to attack his record in Wisconsin from the right. Walker has to be ready.

    I agree, though I’m not sure it’d be Cruz; I think he might be too principled to do something like that.

    It didn’t come across in written form, but the comment to which you responded was written with a sense of trepidation. I fear, as you do, that Scott Walker is exactly what we need right now, but some (possibly too many) primary voters will mistake his non-threatening persona for squishiness.

    • #56
  27. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Umbra Fractus:I agree, though I’m not sure it’d be Cruz; I think he might be too principled to do something like that.

    I don’t mean that Cruz would (deliberately) misrepresent Walker’s governance — I hope not.  But Cruz is an idealist and a talker and thinker.  Walker had to govern.  Cruz will find things to criticize.  Some of them might even be fair.  Some of it I could probably predict.

    It didn’t come across in written form, but the comment to which you responded was written with a sense of trepidation. I fear, as you do, that Scott Walker is exactly what we need right now, but some (possibly too many) primary voters will mistake his non-threatening persona for squishiness.

    Yes. In the end, the governor is going to have to sell himself, and he can’t just point to a checklist of accomplishments forever.  He is going to have to show what kind of leadership he brings to the table, and why it matters.  Governing is hard, and “fight” takes more than fancy defiant speeches.  When it comes time to repeal Obamacare, with 51 nervous Republican senators, who has the credibility to keep them on board?  Very likely, the one who kept his head through horrible polls and the protests and the flight to Illinois, who persuaded the nervous Senate to change the bill to avoid the quorum requirements, got it through with one vote, defended it, and won.

    • #57
  28. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Leigh:

    Umbra Fractus:I agree, though I’m not sure it’d be Cruz; I think he might be too principled to do something like that.

    I don’t mean that Cruz would (deliberately) misrepresent Walker’s governance — I hope not. But Cruz is an idealist and a talker and thinker. Walker had to govern. Cruz will find things to criticize. Some of them might even be fair. Some of it I could probably predict.

    It didn’t come across in written form, but the comment to which you responded was written with a sense of trepidation. I fear, as you do, that Scott Walker is exactly what we need right now, but some (possibly too many) primary voters will mistake his non-threatening persona for squishiness.

    Yes. In the end, the governor is going to have to sell himself, and he can’t just point to a checklist of accomplishments forever. He is going to have to show what kind of leadership he brings to the table, and why it matters. Governing is hard, and “fight” takes more than fancy defiant speeches. When it comes time to repeal Obamacare, with 51 nervous Republican senators, who has the credibility to keep them on board? Very likely, the one who kept his head through horrible polls and the protests and the flight to Illinois, who persuaded the nervous Senate to change the bill to avoid the quorum requirements, got it through with one vote, defended it, and won.

    My hope is that the record is enough in Iowa, where they know him pretty well. After Iowa and New Hampshire, we’ll have a lot fewer candidates, and quiet decency and competency is enough to make him the second choice for a lot of people. The Nevada caucus system works pretty well to educate voters and screen out LIVs, and the Nevadan conservative temperament is pretty temperamentally friendly to Walker. For South Carolina, I hold out hope for a Scott (Walker) endorsement from Scott (, Tim), who is also a solid conservative who avoids showboating and whose education priorities adhere closely to Walker’s reforms.

    2/3 of those races (New Hampshire doesn’t seem so hopeful to me) would mark Walker out as the conservative frontrunner, and from there he could do as he did in Wisconsin, making mild mannered claims and letting the hysteria of the left do his campaigning for him. No one on our side can afford to compete with that sort of free media, except possibly Bush. After Super Tuesday, with luck, we’d be down to Bush, Walker, and clear also rans. In that sort of a two horse race, I don’t see Bush as a plausible outcome. Class resentment is just too strong and the primaries will persuade too many conservatives, somewhat unfairly, that Bush is a moderate. Those two factors are mutually supporting.

    Anyway, that’s my dream.

    • #58
  29. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    James Of England

    Walker has spent years with his every statement being minutely examined for falsehoods. He’s thus careful not to say things that aren’t true, to a much greater extent than most of the candidates.

    Well, that’s to his credit, and he might make a great president.  But so far I have heard anything noteworthy.  I’ll be a strong supporter if he wins the nomination, but so far he hasn’t given me a reason to vote for him in the primary.  He’s fallen to fourth place on my pecking order, and he was number one at one point.

    • #59
  30. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    James, you sound like you’re essentially endorsing Walker and writing off Rubio.  Am I reading you correctly?

    Here’s a piece of trivia, for what it’s worth. Walker just announced his campaign chairman here in Virginia: Sen. Mark Obenshain, who as candidate for attorney general came came closest in all Virginia’s recent heartbreakingly close statewide races, and is very possibly the next governor.  I know, endorsements mean little, but that’s a big catch and a sign of solid organization in the making.

    • #60
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