This is part two of series. Part one is here: Of governors and kings.
The analysts and pundits and other touts of the Presidential horserace looked at a map.
They saw that Wisconsin is next door to Iowa, and I guess many of them assumed Scott Walker would enjoy the advantage of an adopted favorite son status come the Iowa caucuses, much like Bernie Sanders appears to be enjoying in New Hampshire right now, although that didn't work out as planned for Howard Dean, did it?
But there it was, Iowa and Wisconsin, both Midwestern farm states, both blue states with histories of going Democratic in Presidential elections but both shading toward purple, Iowa maybe already there, having in addition to a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature, two Republican United States Senators now---Wisconsin has only one, but there's a good chance the Democrats will take that away next time out. Seems reasonable to suppose Iowa would be congenial ground for Walker, not just in the caucuses but come the general election. If anyone could capture Iowa from the Democratic nominee, it ought to be someone like Scott Walker. And if he could take Iowa and Wisconsin then who was to say? Maybe Ohio too. And Florida and Virginia. Colorado, even. Another blue state flashing purple. And that fact, Walker's potential electability, should have made him even more attractive to Iowa Republicans.
Then there was this.
Walker had already proven himself electable, hadn't he?
He'd won election as governor three times.
Twice in general elections. Once in a recall that was expected to finish him.
Neither of the general elections took place in a Presidential election year and the re-call was held in June of 2012. There's no way to say for certain how Walker would have fared if he'd had to run for re-election in November of 2012 when Barack Obama carried the state, winning 7 percent more of the vote than Mitt Romney (and Democrat Tammy Baldwin was elected to the Senate with 5 1/2 percent more votes than former governor Tommy Thompson) but it's safe to say he'd have had a harder time of it. Still, he'd won re-election in 2014 pretty handily.
(He increased his vote total by about 130,000 votes over his 2010 total, but the percentage was exactly the same, 52.3 percent, so it was a matter of turnout more than an increase in popularity.)
But Walker didn’t even last till the caucuses.
What the analysts didn't take into account is that all politics is local and what voters in one locality want isn't necessarily what voters in another want, even when the voters in both ostensibly share political affiliations and ideologies.
And then it's the case that what voters in any locality are looking for in a governor is not the same as what they're looking for in a President. They'll tolerate a lot more nonsense and incompetence and obnoxiousness in a governor than they will in a President. They simply expect less of the person whose main jobs as far as they're concerned are to bring jobs to the state and keep the roads paved and the bills paid and the schools open without wasting too many of their tax dollars than they do of the person who might have to take the country to war.
Many members of the political press corps have taken an awfully long time to get their collective heads around this in regards to Chris Christie. Even when Christie was riding high at home, New Jersey voters were very clear about they're having no intention to ever vote for him for President. A republican governor was fine with them. But they want a Democrat in the White House.
While it might be fun for reporters to watch Christie shouting at schoolteachers, New Jersey voters and voters elsewhere cringe at the thought of him shouting at Senators and Supreme Court Justices and leaders of other countries.
Besides, Donald Trump has locked up the Shouting at People is Leadership vote.
But, what's more, while Walker has been a winning politician, he has not been a successful governor except in being a destructive governor. And it’s probably the case that what Wisconsin voters want destroyed in America's Dairyland, Republican voters don't want destroyed in the Hawkeye State or the Granite State or the Palmetto State or the Silver State or in the Heart of Dixie or in the Lands of Opportunity, the Midnight Sun, and 10,000 Lakes or in the Old Dominion or in the Peach, Bay, First in Flight, Sooner, Volunteer, Lone Star, Green Mountain, and Cowboy States. (Don’t worry. I’m through Super Tuesday so I’m done.) And even though the Republican base in every state seems to want everything burned down, that doesn't mean they don't care who lights the match.
Walker appears to have impressed even the Right Wingers most fanatically committed to arson as someone who in striking the match would set his own hair on fire.
I don't see what Wisconsin voters see in Walker, myself. Even taking into account that voters don't expect to see in a governor what they want to see in a President, I don't see how they look at Walker and see even a governor.
I see a born county legislator who's somehow gotten above himself, one who even other county legislators of his own party don't like because he can't help showing them how much smarter than they are he thinks he is and whom they can't understand how he got elected except that nobody else wanted to run, another reason for their disliking him---he makes them suspect the same about themselves, that they're only there because nobody better came along. They can't abide that he's so smugly proud about something their secretly ashamed of.
I'm writing fiction here, but it's based on true stories from when I was growing up and watching Pop Mannion, as town supervisor, and then later Mrs M in her newspaper reporting days having to deal with versions of these types. I can tell you that most people who go into local politics are well-meaning and responsible but in one way or another unsuited to the business of politics and good governance. Scott Walker types, however, aren't well-meaning and their only sense of responsibility is to themselves and their ambitions, but they can be good at basic retail politics. Good governance isn't usually one of their concerns except in how they can serve their ambitions through it. Walker's ambitions have been best served through bad governance.
I know, it’s like I said. Or like Tip O’Neill said. All politics is local, and apparently local voters looked at Walker three times and saw a governor every time. Maybe that was just in comparison to his opponents. However it was, it doesn't mean that those same voters would look at him and see a President, even in comparison to his opponents. Obviously, very few Republican voters anywhere did see a President. And it couldn't have helped him that voters wouldn't have been comparing him to his opponents as much as they’d have been comparing him and his opponents to the President Walker and the others keep comparing themselves to and promising to be the most like.
Republicans can't settle on who they want as President because in their minds the only real President is still Ronald Reagan.
Never mind that their idealized Reagan doesn't quite match the actual man.
Seems crazy to me for Republican politicians to constantly invoke Reagan’s ghost since it calls stark attention to the fact that none of them measures up. But Democrats did the same thing to themselves in the first couple of decades after John and Robert Kennedy's deaths, reminding voters of what was lost and would not be regained.
Still, Walker and the rest stood on the stage at the Reagan Library and let themselves be dwarfed in the shadow of that plane, diminishing themselves in their clumsy attempts to aggrandize themselves by aggrandizing Reagan.
You can understand, though, why Walker would see himself as being most like Reagan. Reagan was a successfully destructive governor of a supposedly liberal state too. But Walker's mistake---and it's the same mistake that many analysts made when they argued that Walker's being a governor ought to have helped make him a more formidable candidate or at least a more credible one---was failing to take into account Reagan's other success besides being governor.
Reagan, of course, was governor of one of the three most populous and most economically and culturally significant states in the Union and being governor of a state whose second largest city is San Francisco is tremendously different from being governor of a state whose largest city is famous for a beer nobody drinks.
Just starting with that, Reagan had a national reputation before he ran for President the first time. But, as I explained in part one of this series of posts, Reagan had spent the better part of two decades diligently and craftily making himself the leader of a national conservative movement. What little national reputation Walker had didn't extend far beyond Wisconsin's borders and it was mainly as the tool and flunky of the Koch Brothers and the enemy of people who like good jobs with good benefits , good schools, good roads, and good government.
Believe it or not, there are many Republicans who like those things.
So Walker had to make a truly national and more appealing reputation for himself quickly, and he had to do that right before voters' eyes on TV. And on TV he showed himself as shallow, arrogant, not particularly bright---definitely not as smart as he too obviously thought he was---smirky, whiny, and shifty, and very much as someone who wasn't a President even in the making.
This is all a way of saying he made for lousy television.
All he offered to the viewers at home was that smirk and that whine.
And sad as it may be to say it, a good candidate is, among other things, maybe before every other thing, someone who makes good television.
End of part two.