After spending nearly his entire career in elected office before losing reelection last November, Scott Walker has refused to ride his Harley quietly into a Wisconsin sunset. His recent career moves make it clear the former governor is staying deeply involved in efforts funded by some of his wealthiest supporters to change the shape of American politics for a long time to come.
At first he kept his name out there by publicly mulling potential 2022 races for governor or for U.S. Senate if Sen. Ron Johnson steps aside. He amplified that message with frequent guest spots on right-wing Milwaukee talk radio, a spot with a conservative speakers’ bureau and more recently his “You Can’t Recall Courage with Scott Walker” podcast.
On Monday, Walker grabbed another Wisconsin news cycle announcing he will not run for any office in 2022, because he’s buying a house in the Washington, D.C. area and taking over the leadership of the Young America’s Foundation in 2021.
Tracing Walker’s footsteps since losing re-election eight months ago paints a picture of the right’s long-term agenda and Walker’s quest to remain central in such efforts.
To wit: Walker’s first post-defeat action to make national news was to push through bills stripping powers away from the Democrats who beat him. In a lame-duck session, he also rammed through his own 82 appointments to state committees and commissions.
A few months later, in March, he became the finance chair of the National Republican Redistricting Trust (NRRT), to “help lead the effort to raise the resources needed as the NRRT prepares for the next round of redistricting in 2021,” according to its release. He pointed to enthusiasm on the Democratic side on redistricting that he felt was not matched by Republicans, even twisting the issue to say he would fight for fair maps.
Also in March, Walker announced he would be the honorary chairperson of the campaign to get on board the six remaining states needed force an Article V constitutional convention via the Center for State-led National Debt Solutions (CSNDS). The Constitution specifies that two-thirds of the states — or 34 — must request a convention for one to be held. Twenty-eight states have asked for the convention, most recently Wisconsin in 2017. It would be the first Constitutional Convention since the one where George Washington presided in Philadelphia in 1787.
As of Tuesday morning, the CSNDS homepage still had a large picture of Walker’s face with the words: “He’s In” splashed across the photo. CSNDS did not return a Wisconsin Examiner query asking if Walker would continue in that role.
That is significant because while the group focuses on a balanced budget amendment, an Article V Constitutional Convention would also open the door to rewriting some of the United States’ most sacred and fundamental rights. Once such a convention is underway, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities warns, conventioneers can write their own rules, including rules for amending the Constitution.
Even if such a convention were restricted to the balanced budget amendment, some see that as a very bad idea in and of itself. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s executive director Matt Rothschild’s response to it was this: “…the specific amendment that Walker’s group is trying to pass is an idiotic one. It would tie the hands of the federal government in times of an economic downturn. The only reliable medicine for bringing large economies like ours out of a recession is deficit spending. It’s like the economy has cancer and you won’t give it radiation or chemotherapy. It’s like the economy has diabetes, and you won’t give it insulin. You’ll just let the economy die.”
In an opinion column published in The Hill, David A. Super, a professor at Georgetown Law School, labeled a constitutional convention the last thing America needs right now, asserting: “Calling an Article V convention is reckless, especially at this divisive moment in our nation’s political history. Nothing these groups propose does anything even to mitigate the risks that a convention would bring.”
Yet the effort has received considerable funding from right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch, who backed Walker when he was facing down tens of thousands of protesters during the Act 10 labor battles in Wisconsin.
Taking the helm of the Young America’s Foundation, Walker will move on to a project of another wealthy supporter, the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. According to SourceWatch, it gave $561,500 to the Young America’s Foundation between 2002 and 2015. The Dick and Betsy DeVos foundation, another Walker backer, is also a major contributor to YAF.
His focus on campuses and young people is also not new. Walker wrote language into the 2017-2019 budget to protect offensive speech on campus after controversy erupted over a YAF-sponsored appearance by Ben Shapiro. Other controversial speakers supported by the group include figures active in anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-black movements, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
On Monday, Walker told The Hill that, “conservatives like himself, are concerned about polls showing that large numbers of younger Americans are sympathetic to socialism.”
Setting aside that assertion, it can’t be ignored that over time, efforts to reshape policy and political discourse supported by the Kochs, the Bradley Foundation and Dick and Betsy DeVos have had a more significant impact on the country than any one election cycle.
And, as Walker pointed out when he announced he won’t run next election cycle — at age 51 he’s a good two-decades younger than Donald Trump, meaning he has plenty of time left for more elections. With Walker, there’s always the possibility of a future run.