Political Animal


April 08, 2012 9:20 AM Scott Walker: Not Just the Scrouge Of Public Employees

By Matthew Zeitlin

In the past few days, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is internationally (in)famous for his campaign against the collective bargaining rights of his state’s public employees, signed two pieces of legislation that, while totally in keeping with a conservative agenda, seem to have little to do with the crisis in the state’s finances and economy that he was elected to fix. The first bill, which actually garnered a fair amount of attention after Walker signed it on Thursday, repealed a 2009 law which allowed women who were victims of workplace discrimination to sue their employers for damages. The second, signed on Thursday but only announced by Walker on Friday, mandates that sex education in Wisconsin schools “stress abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.”

Now, these two issues — limiting access to the courts to seek redress against employer discrimination and emphasizing abstinence in sex education — are core Republican concerns. What they are not, however, is at all part of some radical reorganization of state finances and spending priorities in order to maintain solvency and limit the size of state government. That Scott Walker, the governor most well known for his agressive actions against state employees as part of his strategy to reorient the state government’s priorities and scope, has signed these two pieces of culture war legislation is particularly vivid demonstration that the portrayal of the Tea Party as somehow unconcerned with traditional social issues was totally out of line with reality.

Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert, in a paper published by the Roosevelt Institute and an article in the Nation, have a more comprehensive look at the Republicans who were swept into statehouses in 2010 on a wave of Tea Party discontent. One of their more telling findings is that the Republicans pursuing the core Tea Party priority of reducing their state’s public workforce were also passing legislation anti-abortion legislation and laws restricting voter registration:

Our analysis has shown that this conservative, anti-public worker agenda works hand-in-glove with both restrictions on reproductive freedom and attempts to curtail voting rights. In 2010, Republican Governor Mitch Daniels argued that conservatives should call a “truce” on culture issues and focus on reducing the deficit. Instead, conservative state governments managed to do both at once: push through a record number of government layoffs while also restricting reproductive freedom and democratic voting rights. As the Guttmacher Institute noted, “issues related to reproductive health and rights at the state level received unprecedented attention in 2011.” Ninety-two provisions in 24 states directly restricted access to abortion services, almost triple the previous record. The midterm turnover gave the anti-choice movement its chance. When asked by the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff about the pro-life’s successes, Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, said, “The most obvious thing was the 2010 election…. When we saw this big wave come in, we were ready to grab the ball and run with it.”

The same pattern emerges in states that have passed voter suppression laws. As The Nation’s Ari Berman described it in Rolling Stone, “a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots.” These laws range from requiring a government-issued ID to vote, to requiring proof of citizenship to register, to not allowing citizens to register on election day and closing the early voting period. They all produce the same result: decreased access to voting and the democratic process.

Many of the states that passed or considered anti-choice, anti-democracy bills were those that targeted public workers. Again, we see that the states that the GOP took over in 2010 are much more likely to pass abortion-related restrictions compared to other non-GOP state legislatures, just as they were more likely to make public sector cuts.

Of course, it seems obvious that Republican state legislators and governors would be interested in passing the whole gamut of conservative legislation. However, if you remember back to 2010 and earlier, when the Tea Party emerged as a political force, it was sometimes portrayed as a spontaneous, grassroots movement that was primarily concerned with fiscal issues and the size of government. I think it has become clear now — and Walker is a particularly telling example — that the Tea Party was mostly a reorganization and relabeling of the conservative base of the Republican party.


  • Ron Byers on April 08, 2012 10:13 AM:

    There was nothing spontaneous or grassroots about the tea party. It was created to help Republicans rebrand themselves. If memory serves Dick Army was the godfather of the Tea Party, and the Koch Brothers paid for all the busses.

  • Ron Byers on April 08, 2012 10:16 AM:

    The tea party is an astroturf movement invented by Dick Army and funded by the usual billionaire wack jobs. It's purpose was to help rebrand the tarnished Republican party. It worked. The compliant press eat it up and gave it legs.

  • ron byers on April 08, 2012 10:18 AM:

    I didn't know the first post took. I was told to back up and try again.

  • DKDC on April 08, 2012 10:37 AM:

    "...the Tea Party was mostly a reorganization and relabeling of the conservative base of the Republican party."

    Master of the Obvious.

    Why the media played up the Tea Party as something novel, I will never understand.

    Man what short memories we American's have. Some of us saw this as a replay of the emergence of the so-called Constitution Party in the early 1990s. Really that wasn't that long ago folks. Here's the first two sentences from Wikipedia.

    "The Constitution Party is a paleoconservative political party in the United States. It was founded as the U.S. Taxpayers' Party by Howard Philips in 1991"

  • menthol on April 08, 2012 10:41 AM:


  • Kathryn on April 08, 2012 10:50 AM:

    The media continues to credit the Tea Party movement with grass roots gains without acknowledging the funding and logistics by Dick Armey's Freedom Works and others that propelled a bunch of angry old white people. The so called tea party participants were bused to events by corporate backers, trained to rudely disrupt town hall meetings in ways that would have resulted in arrests had the protesters been minorities or 99% , and covered by the media as if they were the second coming. Further, any tea party event was filmed if it contained 50 people or 5,000 (which was rare) and the rascist content of their message was downplayed or outright denied.

    Yes, I'm still pissed off about it.

  • Fess on April 08, 2012 10:58 AM:

    On the TP platform of anti-choice: Today, again, the Santorums are at the hospital with their daughter Bella. Bella has Trisomy 18. What's Trisomy 18? Like Down Syndrome, it's the result of a baby getting 3 copies of a chromosome instead of the requisite 2 - in this case the 18th chromosome.

    "50% of babies [with Trisomy 18] who are carried to term will be stillborn, with baby boys having higher stillbirth rate than baby girls....less than 10 percent survive to their first birthdays "

    "Babies who have Trisomy 18 suffer from many trying conditions. There are kidney problems, heart defects, developmental delays, and issues with the intestinal tract and esophagus."

    Trisomy 18 can be diagnosed in utero. Some parents may feel that it would be cruel to both the parents and the child to continue such a pregnancy. Others would choose to carry on. The point is choice. Neither choice is right or wrong, either choice is difficult in the extreme. Some parents like the Santorums would always choose to carry on. Of course it helps that they likely have excellent health coverage and a bank account which can absorb the extra costs, including 24-hr nursing care during the baby's well periods. For parents who can't face this burden, who feel that the child's life would be one of pain and medical procedures, who feel that the better decision is to let this child go, they should have the choice. What would I do? What would you do? Doesn't matter - we don't have the decision to make and live with. Every parent should be able to make that choice without being hounded by the state and by the anti-choice fanatics.

    It's not unlikely that little Bella's death may happen before this election, and that is so sad. The Santorum's made their choice and they live with it; the rest of the country should have the same options.

  • Anonymous on April 08, 2012 11:43 AM:

    "limiting access to the courts to seek redress against employer discrimination and emphasizing abstinence in sex education — are core Republican concerns."

    Can ANYONE tell me the deeper motivation behind the 'abstinence only' sex ed? Are men hankering for the time when they could 'talk a girl into it' and then leave her when she gets pregnant?

    Hasn't it been shown time and again that 'abstinence only' sex ed leads to greater teen pregnancy? What's with this desire to create overpopulation among the poorer and working classes? Cheap labor? Their motivations are highly suspect to me.

  • Fess on April 08, 2012 11:47 AM:

    Anon - the abstinence only thing appeals to the religious righters, who may now use some other name - Tea Party? If everyone would just stay virginal until marriage (and women follow the lead of their lords and masters), then all would be right with the world. It's a dog whistle thing.

  • TCinLA on April 08, 2012 12:13 PM:

    Missing our first cuppa this morning Mr. Zeitlin? What's a "scrowge" (or at least that's how I pronounce it). One of the hallmarks of a good lefty blogger as opposed to the typical wingnut moron is an ability to use the "nails" of the English language, driven straight and true, to construct an excellent edifice. :-)

    I said it the day they first announced the "Tea Party" that it was just the American Nazis (i.e., The Republican "Al Qaeda" - the base) with different names.

  • J.T. on April 08, 2012 12:51 PM:

    Scourge + scrooge = scrouge??

  • Erik the Red on April 08, 2012 1:41 PM:

    I think the reason for this culture war crap from GOoPers now is that they know their coming to the end of their shelf life so there's no reason to pretend they're just about about "fiscal responsibility" (notice I put that in quotes - should be obvious why).

  • exlibra on April 08, 2012 1:43 PM:

    JT, @ 12:51 PM

    My reading, too. If Zeitlin ain't careful, The Hot Chick Quitter from Wasilla will be asking him to refudiate this, else she'll sue him for copyright infringement.

    "hundred nimbarr". Oh well now, Craptcha. It's not *that* bad. Zeitlin needs to get just a little nimbler, not a hundredfold.

  • emjayay on April 08, 2012 4:21 PM:

    I always knew that the Tea Party was the same thing as the John Birch society etc., formerly the far right fringe of the Republican Party, and now of course most of it. The operative word is REACTIONARY right wing. They were already reacting to social changes in modern society, and having a black looking president was icing on the cake, provoking way more reactionariness than before.

    They never cared about the deficit or spending. They never complained about two recent big pointless wars, or the Viet Nam one either. They care about spending they think might be going to blacks or gays or hippies or artists.

    By the way, who is supposed to pay the enormous expense for the care of Trisomy 18 babies in the other virtuous families who didn't get an abortion but can't afford or get medical insurance? Oh that's right, everyone else with medical insurance. Just like with brocolli.

  • sparrow on April 08, 2012 8:10 PM:

    "It has now become clear..." No, it was always clear from the get go for anyone taking the time to see the puppet masters at work.

  • boatboy_srq on April 08, 2012 11:28 PM:

    Has it occurred to anyone else that the War on Women being waged by the Teahadists is one campaign to "rectify" the labor pool? All those unemployment figures will look a lot better when it's unwed mothers and battered women claiming benefit - that way all the unemployed men can find real work again, and all will be right with the world.

    Add this to the squeeze being put on labor unions, and we're inching closer to a Galtian utopia where meritorious workers succeed because they're good, overworking, overachieving proles happy to take the scraps they're offered.

    This is not war on the poor. This is the age-old war on the middle class reawakened. Only the terminology is new.