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Scott Walker And Senator Henry Clay

March 18, 2015

This blog has often mentioned Senator Henry Clay as his art of compromising continues to inspire readers of history and lovers of politics.  Too few conservative Republicans understand the need for compromise and the recent years of failures from congress bear that out.  I have often mentioned on Caffeinated Politics  “At the Edge of the Precipice: Henry Clay and the Compromise that Saved the Union.” by Robert Remini.  I sincerely think the book should be required reading for every member of congress–regardless of party–upon taking the oath of office.

But Clay is brought again to my readers attention today for another reason.  The lesson comes from 1844 when Clay tried to split every difference and keep various political constituencies happy.    That is not possible, and should not be tried.

And it is a lesson that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker might heed as he prepares to jump headfirst into his Potomac Fever.

John Bicknell writes a remarkable column that deserves a full read.

Walker’s achievements are not on par with Clay’s, but they’ll do for a 21st century governor: winning three elections in a blue state, reducing the power of public-sector unions and signing a right-to-work measure into law. He also has a well-earned reputation as a small-government conservative willing to confront what he sees as wasteful spending.

In 2006, he called the renewable fuel standard “a big government mandate.”

Last week, speaking to Iowa farmers, he said, “It’s something I’m willing to go forward on.”

Clay, at least, was playing to type on Texas. His fame rested on difference-splitting. Walker’s reputation rests on the opposite — the willingness to stand firm in the face of the opposition’s bullying tactics, defending policies on which others in his party have time and again given way. That’s why conservatives who had begun to move toward Walker’s candidacy were stopped short by his reversal on the Renewable Fuel Standard’s mandate that ethanol be used in gasoline.

Voters will forgive a policy flip here and there, such as Walker’s shift on immigration. But they’re much less likely to forgive serial indecisiveness. A man as renowned as Clay could not overcome the perception that vacillation was a defining trait

 

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