The smell of an upcoming presidential election can be felt in this frosty air. On the GOP side, Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker has dashed to the front of the pack. Like many presidential hopefuls, Scott Walker has a past. He is most notorious for backing bills that have weakened labor unions in Wisconsin. Recently, the Wisconsin Assembly committee passed a right-to-work bill backed by Walker. This bill would allow employees to opt out of unions and dues. Supposedly, this measure will help Wisconsin stay competitive by giving workers more choices. Labor leaders, however, say that this bill actually weakens unions, which always receive abundant Democratic support.
Rather than put a damper to his rise, these events have actually elevated Walker’s status in the party. One of the reasons he has been able to capture so much attention is that he portrays the media and labor union activists as his enemy.
The unions have not remained silent. After the Assembly passed right-to-work, there were many protests throughout Wisconsin. During a recent speech, Walker talked about how protestors would show up outside his house with death threats. He said that for him, it was most shocking when the threats were against his family. With that statement, Walker conveys a few points. The first is that he is a family man, something that is a core theme for Republican candidates. The second message is that he is portraying the protestors as ruthless and himself as the victim of unreasonable attacks. Thus, through Walker’s glib use of words, he is getting the sympathy of the voters. Furthermore, Walker says that if he can take on thousands of protestors, then he can take on ISIS.
While he was criticized for equating labor activist protests with ISIS, the early GOP polls indicate that Walker is still doing well. He clearly has a good chance at the 2016 GOP nomination. The more he paints himself as a victim of the media, the better he does in the polls, it seems.
But here’s the question: where is the line between supporting a candidate out of sympathy versus supporting a candidate for addressing the real issues?
Walker is up against stiff competition. Florida Governor Jeb Bush has funding on his side, while Rand Paul is known for his libertarianism. However, critics argue that Walker has both. Furthermore, he has had about eight years of experience as governor, so he doesn’t fall into the category of Marco Rubio, who has been called inexperienced.
It is interesting to note that the recent Right-to-Work bill was passed just as Walker started his shadow campaign for the presidency. It appears that Walker wants to use his upper hand on controlling labor unions to set him apart from other candidates. While Walker currently appears to be getting the support of voters, it is uncertain whether he can sustain this lead. Once the sympathy story about vicious protestors becomes stale, voters will start to scrutinize Walker and his stance on the important issues.