In a scathing column for The New Republic, Alec MacGillis charged–with scarce evidence–that Governor Scott Walker’s (R-Wis.) political success is the result of racial politics in the state of Wisconsin. MacGillis’s headline is predictable left-wing race baiting: “The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker”.
MacGillis suggested that the Badger State governor’s political rise is the product of the urban-suburban divide that exists in the metro Milwaukee area, and then proceeded to explain the long history of the racial tensions that have existed in the state, connecting precisely none of it to Walker himself, unless you count a few forwarded emails by low-level Walker staffers.
MacGillis seems most disturbed by Walker’s successful push to curb the power of the public-sector unions through modest increases in employee contributions to health care and pensions. That the resulting cost savings benefits all state taxpayers regardless of skin tone doesn’t seem to register with MacGillis.
Overall, MacGillis believes that three factors have enabled Walker’s ascent to power: “profound racial inequality, extreme political segregation, [and] a parallel-universe news media.” The New Republic writer carefully admits that these trends predate Walker, and gives no explanation of how Walker helped proliferate these problems, aside from being a principled conservative.
Yet another attack on Walker’s supposed racial politics is for his advocacy of voter ID laws when he served in the state legislature. According to MacGillis, this push to crack down on voter fraud has been “long seen as an effort to limit minority access to the polls.” Nevermind that polling data show signifcant African-American support for common-sense voter ID provisions.
MacGillis also pointed to Walker’s overwhelming white support in the suburban Milwaukee counties during his recall election as evidence of a racial divide in the area. Apparently winning the white vote handily is now a sign of Republican racism, whereas, of course, black support for Democrats in the 90 percent range and for Mr. Obama in the 95 percent range is never seen as racially-animated but rather a result of historical voting patterns and the African-American community being more generally left-of-center than the population as a whole, and hence more strongly adhering to the Democratic Party.
In the end, MacGillis’s smear piece on Walker is not much more than guilt by the vaguest of associations. Walker has a good shot at reelection this November, and if he succeeds, could stand him in good stead for a strong 2016 presidential run.
MacGillis’s attack piece serves well to set the stage early to attack the genial Walker as a bigot, giving liberals another line of attack now that bashing him as an anti-labor meanie has gotten no traction. As such, it’s excellent left-wing political messaging, even where it fails as a work of journalism.