State Rep. Melissa Sargent
Op-Ed

Scott Walker Helped Create Trump

Governor's divisiveness and use of fear set stage for Donald Trump's style.

By - Mar 1st, 2016 11:30 am
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Scott Walker and Donald Trump.

Scott Walker and Donald Trump.

Donald Trump’s rise to the front of the GOP field may seem like an overnight phenomenon, but you can directly trace his appeal back to events in Wisconsin in 2011.

Shortly after taking office, Scott Walker caused a political earthquake in Wisconsin. Using union-busting legislation as his vehicle to national prominence in GOP circles, he introduced something into Wisconsin’s culture that did not match the values of our state: fear. People became fearful of their friends and neighbors who happened to be public servants. They were fearful that others were getting something they were not. Phrases like “haves and have-nots” (the “haves” being teachers and nurses, of course) and “divide and conquer” defined his governing style.

The protests in Wisconsin caused a spark around the world. Not long after that historic winter and spring in Madison, the Occupy movement began in New York and spread around the country. Divisions were drawn, and economic injustices were brought into the light of day. Social media was able to highlight just how much of our economy was dominated by the 1 percent. Fast forward a few years and the Black Lives Matter movement had a similar rise after pointing out the alarming racial disparities in our society.

Rather than use this as a moment to find common ground and unite as a country, the Republicans looked at it as a jumping-off point to bring fear and paranoia to a fever pitch. Views that didn’t fall in line with their values were portrayed as un-American. The federal government was shut down in one of the most blatantly obstructionist political maneuvers of our time. Scott Walker wouldn’t even say whether or not he believed President Obama to be a Christian.

Cue 2016. The Republican primary field was bigger than ever before. Because of this, the rhetoric was ratcheted up to make candidates stand out. In his short, 71-day run for the presidency, Scott Walker compared public employees in Wisconsin to ISIS terrorists. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have sparred over who is more strongly against immigration.

Towering above them all, Donald Trump is now poised to take the Republican nomination. With his inflammatory language and dangerous policies, pundits and the Republican establishment insist that his star will fade and cooler heads will prevail.

Scott Walker and other candidates who were publicly opposed to Trump are now singing a different tune. Walker recently called Trump’s candidacy “remarkable” and stated he would support him if he were to become the nominee. To the establishment of the Republican Party, I can only say that this is the bed you have made — it is time to lie in it.

The divisions that were set into motion years ago are now coming to fruition. The subtle, dog-whistle signals that used to guide the far right wing are now manifesting themselves as policies that would build a wall spanning our southern border and a vow to stop any Muslim from entering our country. If a political party’s leaders teach this, their supporters will hold these same views.

I am proud to be part of the Democratic Party. Our leaders seek policies that support our communities, celebrate diversity, and invest in our state and nation. We want to unite people rather than divide. Democrats know that our country cannot reach its potential unless we all do better together.

I believe that Scott Walker’s approval ratings today, hovering around 38 percent, are a foreshadowing of Donald Trump’s eventual political downfall. Hatred has a shelf life. It becomes stale and unappealing. If you divide too much, you end up with nothing. We, as Americans, deserve more than that.

Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, is a member of the Wisconsin Assembly.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

13 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Scott Walker Helped Create Trump”

  1. AG says:

    Wait… we’re blaming the occupy movement, black lives matter, the federal government shutdown and the disgraceful protests (not the fact they were protesting, but the actions they took) in Madison all on Walker? We’re calling HIM the one who’s being divisive and paranoid?

    I also love how the “dog whistle” term was randomly thrown in at the end too.

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    I don’t fault Walker specifically, but I think the GOP in general is to blame for Trump. They basically followed none of the advice in their infamous 2012 election postmortem, and for a long time now they have pandered to and/or tolerated the extreme elements in the party. The fact that in 2016 we are talking about a major party’s presidential contender’s (and the front-runner no less) failure to denounce the KKK is just surreal and sad, but in some ways it’s not surprising that it’s come to this. There’s a lot of old angry white people. But the GOP needs to look in the mirror and ask itself what role it played in causing so many Republican voters to support Trump, a man who white supremacists admire and support and believe speaks their language.

  3. Arnold J. says:

    While you don’t have to convince me to dislike Walker, I think his collective “Frankenstein-ness” was created by multiple influences.

  4. David says:

    I don’t believe the right is angry or rebelling. I think there is finally someone that learned how to speak to them. Trump knows how to reach the electorate on the right…. he’s learned to speak their language. They’ve always existed, but Republican establishment leaders have controlled and appeased them up this point. There are two types of Republicans and this is the 50% that we’re not supposed to see but always knew existed. Establishment Republicans need their votes so they throw them red meat occasionally with provocative talk about carpet bombing Muslims, Jesus (strange, I know), killing families of known terrorists, Mexican killers rapists, Obama is a Muslim, losing America, bad country music about putting our boots up their ******s, etc. But they flew too close to the flame and now the genie is out of the bottle. I love the line talk radio has of Trump really being a liberal. Nope…… he is your average church going, Vicky McKenna listening, Milwaukee hating, exurban resident.

    I for one am kind of enjoying this. Largely because I don’t have kids.

  5. David says:

    And I say the above as a reasonable moderate….. a click or two to the left. The far left is just as nutty, but not as destructive.

  6. Tony Muhammad says:

    Gov Scott Walker is smart, but not that smart to create a political force found in Donald Trump presidential campaign.

    Naw, blame it on something bigger than Mayberry Scott Walker ( According to the JS published articles which attempted to introduce Scotty to the nation has a man with good old small town American roots).

    Place the blame on the GOP “Neo-Obstructionism,” created to target and DISCREDIT Americas first elected Black American president.

    Naw, Scotty boy only rides the wave of “racism,” in America that prevents America from reaching the epitome of greatness, which it claims to be.

  7. Tony Muhammad says:

    Correction to last sentence in my previous comment…

    “Naw, Scotty boy and Donald Trump, which Donald does it better than Scotty in the remaining other Republican hopefuls running in the national political arena – rides the wave of “American Racism,” which prevents America from reaching the epitome of greatness, which it claims to be.” TM.

  8. Barbara says:

    This article is consistent with what I’ve been saying about Walker’s efforts to tear this state apart since he ended his presidential campaign. Seems he decided he lost out because he wasn’t a big enough jerk. Given Trump’s popularity, maybe he was right.

  9. Bill Marsh says:

    Wow! Is this what results from those Madison drum circles? We know lefties hate Walker and can’t get over it, but the world does not revolve around public employee unions and Act 10. To say that Walker instilled fear in Wisconsin voters is delusional. If I recall correctly, a majority of voters in Wisconsin got tired of the incestuous relationship between government unions and democrats, with the unions’ fat benefit packages being paid by the taxpayers. There wasn’t fear, there was outrage. The outrage was that taxpayers were expected to continue to pay ever-increasing taxes for lavish public employee benefit packages while the taxpayers were continuing to take cuts in their much more meager benefit packages.

    Trump is the result of frustration and outrage due to the middle class being squeezed (somewhat similar to reasons Bernie has such a large following). We should look to Bill Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama as the reason there is a Trump. The country has a declining middle class with household incomes that have decreased. We have the largest number of people receiving food stamps in our history, we have the lowest labor participation rate in 30 years, we have downward pressure on wages for unskilled, semi-skilled and even some labor, and we have governments and politicians that want to continue to allow more unskilled and semi-skilled immigrants into the country. This while out of pocket health care costs due to Obamacare, housing costs, and student loan costs have increased significantly for the middle class.

    This editorial shows and some of the comments that follow show how disconnected the Wisconsin left is. I say keep believing the drum circle crowd. As if we were to return the public employee unions to the previous corrupt bargaining scheme (donations to dems, dems give lavish benefits to unions at the taxpayers’ expense), the problems of the middle class would go away.

    PS-I don’t like Trump, but the people supporting him are not all idiots and racists.

  10. Vincent Hanna says:

    “I don’t like Trump, but the people supporting him are not all idiots and racists.”

    Talk about damning with faint praise.

  11. David says:

    Nice try Bill. Trump fever is not a response to anything. It’s not a response to falling wages or out of pocket healthcare costs or anything else you mentioned. Trump just knows out to speak their language. Most of the people voting for Trump can’t really articulate why they’re voting for him. It is what it is….. your crazy uncle finally found his guy.

  12. Vincent Hanna says:

    Henry Barbour, Haley’s nephew and Mississippi’s elected RNC National Committeeman and a leader of the Republican National Committee, told NPR this afternoon that Trump is using language Southerners like himself recognize as appealing to racists. Trump gave press credentials to a white supremacist who says it doesn’t matter if they agree on everything because on immigration he speaks their language and will make the “aliens self deport.” That’s the Trump reality Bill. Some of those people might also be pissed off about the economy, but that’s not what is driving their support for a billionaire.

  13. Joe says:

    If Scott Walker were capable of creating a an environment in which a particular type of candidate could thrive, he wouldn’t have been one of the first people to drop out of the race. The entire premise of this article ignores reality.

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