Even by objective standards, Gov. Scott Walker proved himself to be anything but bipartisan during his first two years in office. In 2010 he ran a semi-populist conservative campaign that immediately alienated liberals because of its ridiculous insistence to stymie President Barack Obama’s national agenda. And then, of course, came the reforms two years ago whose controversy brought hundreds of thousands to the Capitol.
So here we are, a year since the recall petitions were submitted and just two months after a decisive victory for Democrats in Wisconsin. Walker is a new person. Around the holidays he took a vow of bipartisanship that most liberals immediately labeled as cynical and politically calculated.
But who cares as long as something good finally gets done for the state?
One of Walker’s most oft-mentioned political friends is New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie, a firebrand who began his term with a more dilute variation on Walker’s union antagonism. Christie approaches this year’s gubernatorial election not just as a shoo-in for a second term but also as a front-runner to be Obama’s successor in four years. Additionally, Christie’s move to the center hasn’t just helped his political ambitions, but it’s united his state during a difficult time in its history.
Walker has already started copying Christie’s method. Earlier this month, he chastised his fellow Republican, Sen. Glen Grothman from West Bend, for an attention-grabbing press release that ridiculed Kwanzaa. In the State of the State address, Walker used rhetoric favorable to unions and infrastructure development to appease Democrats. Lo and behold, some of the Democrats in the chamber clapped for Walker’s proposals.
We do not have any doubt that Walker’s sudden bipartisanship is an act of political posturing in preparation for next year’s gubernatorial election. This should not matter, though. If both Walker, legislative Democrats and the new Assembly Speaker, Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, play their cards right, Wisconsin might feel a little less polarized than it has for the last two years. Even if that is the only result of Walker’s move to the center, it will still be better than two more years of the same lockstep radical conservatism we have witnessed in the governor and his allies to date.