Ring out the church bells! Strike up the band! Crack open that bottle of scotch labeled “to be drank out of spite only!” Scott Walker’s out on his keister, let the festival begin, the wicked witch of the Midwest — or at least his political career — is dead!
Or not. The victory speeches of Democrats early Wednesday morning often struck a conciliatory tone, with governor-elect Tony Evers proclaiming his desire to avoid “picking political fights” and focus on moving “forward together.”
In wake of midterm elections, Wisconsin voters are not subject to ideological shiftReading political analyses of Wisconsin can sometimes feel like reading about cold-case murders — it’s all the more horrifying because Read…
Eh. Some politicians may feel, out of some bizarre kinship or misplaced geniality, that they have to play nice with their opponents after they win. This is politics. It’s not a game. It’s not a cute little show that we engage in every four years, after which we all laugh about it and get back to being buddy-buddy. Well, OK, it might actually be that way for economically secure white people, or anyone that is not really affected by lack of health insurance or poverty wages. But the fact is, politics only transcends theater when it becomes about conflicts between competing and irreconcilable interests.
Walker understood this. Maybe his speeches never represented incisive political science, but he knew who his enemies and his base were. Walker was always mind-numbingly drab and he seemed to aw-shucks his way through some of the fiercest political conflicts the state had seen in decades, but he knew he wanted to break the backs of workers — especially in the public sector— and help businesses.
To a large extent, he succeeded. In the eight years Walker was in office, worker’s rights have been slashed, most notably by Act 10. Teachers have taken the brunt of the impact, seeing their salaries and benefits decimated. Commensurate with the attacks on public education workers has been the attacks on public education itself. Funding has been cut dramatically, forcing experienced teachers or skilled researchers to look for work elsewhere. Tenant’s rights have been rolled back so much that it appears to many tenant advocates that they are running out of things to cut. On the business front, Walker’s keystone achievement in his second term was essentially using comically large sacks of public money to lure a notorious multinational corporation into Wisconsin and placing them on top of people’s houses. And in what turned out to be his swansong, Walker pushed through work requirements for impoverished Medicaid recipients, leaving them wanting more.
All of this is to say, Walker was single-minded in his battering of his political opponents. It’s why he achieved his political agenda. It’s why workers, teachers and the poor lost. Walker never gave quarter to the people he was fighting. He never played nice or even pretended to.
That’s why, at least for a little while, we should dance on the grave of his political career. It might be inane to do so. It probably helps no one. But — and this can hardly be overstated — it feels amazing. There is precious little to be excited about on the left side of Wisconsin. Walker may be out, but his replacement has a lukewarm vision and no legislative support. But, at the very least, the worst may be over. The very real, and very bad effects of Walker’s governorship are, at least partially, paused. He should be treated with the same respect that he gave the people of Wisconsin.
Strike up the band. Bury Walker’s legacy and salt the Earth.
Sam Palmer ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in biology.