Op Ed

Lame Duck Mischief Defamed the State

Walker opted to divide and conquer up until last day in office.

By - Jan 2nd, 2019 10:36 am
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Governor Scott Walker at the 10th Street Brewery Expansion Groundbreaking. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Governor Scott Walker at the 10th Street Brewery Expansion Groundbreaking. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

“In politics, one day you’re a peacock and the next day you’re a feather duster.”

That pithy saying bluntly describes the ups and down of seeking and retaining elective office. I first heard this one from the longtime Texas activist and raconteur, Jim Hightower, after he was defeated in his re-election bid as his state’s agriculture secretary.

There’s no disgrace in losing an election. Many politicians have honored the most basic principle of our democracy by gracefully accepting the will of the voters and handing power over to their successors with dignity. Former President George H.W. Bush immediately comes to mind in this regard. When he left the Oval Office, he left a note for Bill Clinton, who had just defeated him, wishing him well and cheering him on because he believed that was his patriotic duty.

However, there is great disgrace in losing and then behaving the way Scott Walker has since the voters denied him a third term. In a dastardly misuse of power, he conspired to strip the new governor of many of the powers of that office — powers that he had not only enjoyed but repeatedly claimed were necessary for the well-being of the state. The stench of these lame-duck maneuvers has defamed our beloved state not only in countless national headlines, but in the international press as well.

The malodor of the Republican action was so strong that it was denounced by statesmen and women of both parties, including former Republican Gov. Scott McCallum and former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Very disappointingly, former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who certainly knows better, lacked the integrity to speak up.

The “hot mess,” as Gov.-elect Tony Evers describes it, gets even skunkier. Walker approved a $28 million economic development grant to his campaign contributors at Kimberly-Clark Corp. the day before he signed the bill taking away from Tony Evers the very same authority to make such grant decisions.

In a few days, Walker hands over the state government to Evers in much worse shape than he found it. Wisconsin faces a budget more than a billion dollars in debt and a looming commitment to fork over $3 billion in taxpayer money to a foreign corporation. Our transportation system has severely deteriorated — Scott Walker may be gone, but we’ll be bouncing into Scottholes for many years to come.

Our economy has lagged not only the nation but nearby states as well. While jobs in the U.S. grew by 14.4 percent during Walker’s tenure and employment grew by almost as much in the neighboring states of Michigan and Minnesota, Wisconsin was tied for the worst job performance in the Midwest. The University of Wisconsin has been underfunded and its reputation harmed. Our environment has suffered as public lands have been sold off, wetlands filled, park funding eliminated and our lakes, rivers and drinking water polluted. Perhaps most damaging, the civic fabric of our famously “Gemütlichkeit” state has been torn asunder by Walker’s divide-and-conquer politics.

It’s hard to overstate the hypocrisy in Walker’s actions to undermine his successor. When Walker was elected in 2010, he demanded that Gov. Doyle take no action during the remainder of his term. Doyle generally complied, even canceling the high-speed rail system that was to be funded by the federal government.

Many state facilities are named after former governors. There is the Lee Dreyfus State Office Building, the Gaylord Nelson State Park, the Tommy Thompson State Fish Hatchery and the Warren Knowles State Forest. I think we should name a graveyard after Scott Walker, where the carcass of democracy can be deposited along with the pitiful shreds of Walker’s legacy and reputation.

This column was originally published by the Cap Times in Madison. 

Spencer Black represented the 77th Assembly District for 26 years and was chair of the Natural Resources Committee.

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Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

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