Whose Point Was Scott Walker Making At UW-Madison’s Grainger Hall?

SOPHIA SCOLMAN/The Badger Herald

It is a sad state of affairs when we have come to expect that certain politicians will say just about anything to somehow remain, at least in their minds, relevant. While we know that it is hard for aging rock stars and movie icons to gracefully walk off the stage when the voice goes and the fire in the belly dims, we also know how hard it is for the least impressive former elected officials to gracefully exit stage right.

Such as with Scott Walker, former governor of Wisconsin.

For all the needless column inches about whether conservative voices are heard on university campuses in the state comes news that Walker spoke this month at UW-Madison’s Grainger Hall. And to underscore that the messages from the right are not squelched we even have news stories about what was said while they were on campus.

For instance, we know that Walker labeled UW-Madison, the flagship school in the state, as a place of Marxist indoctrination. He added that when COVID-19 caused the cancelation of in-person learning it slowed the spread of communism.

“Some might say going to college here at Madison tells you a lot about Marxism,” Walker said. “I’ve often said during COVID when we shut down colleges and universities, we did more to stop the spread of communism than prevent the spread of COVID along the way because of a bunch of the influences. Not just because of the faculty and staff, but oftentimes from fellow students and bad actors.”

But what struck me the most was what Walker stated in an interview about how people on campus are “more left-leaning than the ones you see sort out in the general population here in Wisconsin and across the nation”.

It should not come as a surprise to Walker, or any other conservative who likes to beat up on higher education, that most higher-educated Americans have grown increasingly liberal over the last couple of decades. To connect all the dots it has long been demonstrated in polling data that education does make a person more liberal. More focused reading and making contact with people around the world can not but aid in making for far more cosmopolitan citizens, where social diversity is the norm. (So of course they will be, as Walker notes in his own way, different than the ones who never had such an educational background.) With many years of research to back up the findings, it is clear that from climate change to issues of tolerance those with higher education see the world in more enlightened ways.

Then, given where educated people live and work, along with their combined political muscle, it appears that they are ‘ganging up’ on conservatives. This is why there is so much rhetoric from Republicans about ‘elite professors’ and a lack of conservative speakers on campuses. Conversely, it needs to be noted rural conservatives have embraced the exact opposite of the higher-education-related pattern of liberals.

So one does have to wonder what elevated discourse Walker thought he brought to Grainger, and more importantly if he thought he worked to refute why many students smirk over those who buy into such conservative ideologies? If Walker was hoping to achieve anything other than a headline for himself, he failed.

And I find that truly a bad outcome.

I say that because conservative voices are absolutely needed to be heard on college campuses. If I could have brought Congressman Jack Kemp, as an example to UW-Madison, I would have done so. His enterprise zones idea was solid thinking and needed more light given to it. I was thrilled–truly– when Robert Novak was on campus and I had the chance to slowly walk alongside him due to his recovery from a hip operation–and talk about his way of writing a column.

People of substance and ideas from the right require a conversation and intelligent discussion whereas the rhetorically driven create the very type of harsh atmosphere which makes it harder for the serious-minded to get an invite.

So what were the intentions of Scott Walker when he stepped in front of his recent audience?

And so it goes.

Conservatives Content To Be Anti-Science


I have always wondered how the business portion of the Republican Party, who grasps the economic impact that climate change will have on their profits, or the reason why a highly educated workforce is vital to their success can then cozy up to the most shallow and vacuous of candidates and leaders within their party?

That came to mind again today when Kayleigh McEnany, the dim-witted White House Press Secretary, made a supremely stupid comment before the media.

Stating how Donald Trump wanted schools to open during a pandemic she then added “and when he says open, he means open and full, kids being able to attend each and every day at their school. The science should not stand in the way of this.”

Trump continues to prove that he is willing to place anything ahead of reason and logic so to better his chances of the election come November.  His narrow self-centered focus is what we have come to expect, but what is most disconcerting are the many conservatives who now also readily follow suit. Putting children in the front lines for partisan gain is most unseemly.

To undermine science, as Trump and his supporters have done, is not new.  But to actually state it as McEnany did, was nothing short of stunning.

What can not be dismissed is that the damage to children–and the entire nation–was first done when Trump declared that the virus would just go away.  Again and again, he has trampled on data and medical facts to smear scientists and professionals who dare to speak the truth about COVID-19.  Trump can now prattle on about the damage to kids who are not in school but let us not forget that it was this White House’s abdication of duty to the nation to deal with a pandemic that has brought us to this most concerning  place in America.

Thursday Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan laid out his deep concerns with Trump concerning a lack of regard for science and also leadership.

I’d watched as the president downplayed the outbreak’s severity and as the White House failed to issue public warnings, draw up a 50-state strategy, or dispatch medical gear or lifesaving ventilators from the national stockpile to American hospitals. Eventually, it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation’s response was hopeless; if we delayed any longer, we’d be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death. So every governor went their own way, which is how the United States ended up with such a patchwork response.

So many nationwide actions could have been taken in those early days but weren’t. While other countries were racing ahead with well-coordinated testing regimes, the Trump administration bungled the effort. 

Meanwhile, instead of listening to his own public health experts, the president was talking and tweeting like a man more concerned about boosting the stock market or his reelection plans.

I have posted my desire to have our young people educated this fall, with schools open.  But if the data and professional advice from the medical community says otherwise, then it will be long-distance learning for the year.

My husband was a college professor for many years in this city.  He noted the challenges which instructors will face this fall due to children not being proficient with last year’s classwork.  In addition, comes the reality that the economic disparity is playing havoc with remote teaching across our nation.

The digital divide is real. In many districts, the rush to build a remote learning plan began the old-fashioned way, with paper packets — enough to tide kids over while school leaders take stock. Namely, can they provide hardware and Wi-Fi access to every student who needs it?

The answer for many school leaders has been a dispiriting no.

“I would easily say that less than 50% of our students and families have access to either a consistent learning device and/or Internet access,” says Nikolai Vitti, the head of Detroit Public Schools Community District. “I think that’s our greatest challenge right now.”

I remind my readers it was Governor Scott Walker who turned aside federal monies for broadband expansion in our state.  In 2012 our state lost $23 million in federal money to expand broadband.  Our school children would have much benefited from that federal assistance.  It was a colossal and idiotic move from a conservative who thought he could wreck our state, and then use that harshness as a stepping-stone to the Republican nomination and the White House.  That idea was undone like a bug on a windshield, thanks to Governor Tony Evers in 2018.

The only thing that did not happen after the anti-science statement by McEnany was out-right laughter from the press.  Her statement was absolutely stupid.  But the press knows, as we all do, that the gravity of the time we find ourselves requires a determination to make it through to Election Day.

Then we can again vote for leaders who believe in and value science.  Even read books!

And so it goes.

Governor Evers Needs To Pull Plug On Wisconsin National Guard At Southern Border

Our nation is witnessing a most painful and gut-wrenching attack on people who are seeking asylum at the southern border.   Those who seek application are often women with children.  Yet they are referred to as some of the worst criminals who have nothing but treachery in their hearts.   If does not take a Rhodes Scholar to quickly draw the only conclusion that can be reached as to why  these rhetorical attacks are taking place.  Since the facts from our own government do not align with the hate-filled words, there is only pure partisanship left to be offered as to why this narrative continues.

President Trump manufactured an emergency at the southern border and requested states contribute 4,000 National Guard members to be used as props for his grand power-play.  Former Governor Scott Walker, in an election year, strongly supported Trump’s efforts by referring to them as “aggressive actions” to secure the border.  Walker stated that sending our troops to the border would help reduce drug trafficking.  Unless those troops are stationed at the ports of entry, where most of the drugs come to our country, they are not meeting the expectation of Walker.

We know why Walker made the choice to send our state residents on such a highly publicized mission.  It was to play to the same base of voters in Wisconsin who championed Trump’s original disingenuous claims about caravans and chaos galore.  Walker cared more about playing to the fear factor in the election than about the facts at the border.   It was painful on a moral and ethical level to see such disregard for those who sought asylum; simply assuming they did not meet the established criteria for entry to our nation.  The lack of humanity was stunning to witness.

But now we have a new governor.  And there needs to be a change in policy regarding our state troops at the border.   The men and women who signed up from Abrams to Yorkville should not be used to further a false and dehumanizing operation from the White House.   We need to value the reasons these state residents signed up for duty in the first place.   It was not to demonize people fleeing violence and economic privation.

Governor Tony Evers is a quiet man with a thoughtful approach to the issues of the day.  His attitude regarding our state troops, therefore, will not be one designed to rebuke Trump, or score a favorable headline in the press.  Evers can act from the high ground.  He can simply state that it should not be the mission of our guard to curtail or intimidate the vulnerable who seek a harbor from danger.  Every small town church, and large city pulpit in this state has preached the message of reaching out to the stranger.   Midwestern folks know the meaning of being ‘my brother’s keeper’.

Evers should not fear backlash for taking such a position in these political frothy times. either.  In President Reagan’s final address to the nation, prior to his leaving the White House, the conservative Republican had these words to say about immigrants and the larger message of America.

The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit of the ‘shining city upon a hill.” The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we’d call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was 8 years ago. But more than that: After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

This is a time for leadership from Evers about the role our National Guard troops should play, and should not play when it comes to political theater.  This is an easy call which will resonate well with the factually grounded in our state.  It is time to bring our National Guard troops home to their family and friends.

NRA Bloody Deals With A Russian Accent

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Russian agent Maria Butina.

Readers to this blog understand the reasons the National Rifle Association is held in such low regard.  Today more proof of why that is so.

Accused Russian agent Maria Butina, suspected of trying to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and influence U.S. policy toward Russia is expected to plead guilty this week following a deal between her lawyers and U.S. prosecutors.  Former American University graduate student Butina had previously pleaded not guilty to U.S. charges in July that she was acting as an agent of the Russian government and conspiring to take actions on Russia’s behalf.

Prosecutors have accused her of working with a Russian official and two U.S. citizens to try to infiltrate the powerful NRA lobby group that has close ties to Republican politicians including  Donald Trump, and influence Washington’s policy toward Moscow.

The NRA in the formative days–going all the way back to the late 1800s–when it was created by a couple Union veterans who were concerned about the lack of marksmanship of the troops, is a far cry from the disloyal nature of it today.  Now the organization is flailing around like a giant angry, sick organism, retaining its scared members by ensuring them someone wants to take their hunting rifles.   Sick people in every sense of the word.

Every election we need to suffer through the attempts to play to uneducated Americans about some non-existent gun grab.  This year the old white men were treated with something new.  An attractive Russian woman who was willing to give geezers a tingle which they had not felt since Sarah Palin walked in her boots.  For the rest of us we are asking the only question that matters.  How are these scared NRA people so willing to scream about the Constitution and the right to bear arms in one breath, but so so willing to fall into the arms of Russia, the enemy of democracy in the next breath?

But wait, dear readers, there is more unseemly activity with NRA ties.  You know there always is when it comes to his cold-blooded organization.

As Butina’s attorneys were negotiating the plea deal, her partner, GOP operative Paul Erickson, lawyered up in light of reports swirling that he too may be targeted by federal prosecutors as a covert Russian agent.

Meanwhile, David Keene — a paid member of the NRA’s board of directors and former president of the gun rights organization who has faced scrutiny over ties to Butina’s alleged Russian influence operation — has registered as a different type of foreign agent lobbying for Argentina’s government.

There is NO way to make this intrigue up as it is so sinister.

Let us not forget where this all started.

In December 2015, Butina’s Russian gun-rights organization called the Right to Bear Arms sponsored an NRA delegation to Moscow where attendees met with influential Russian officials including former deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin who had been under U.S. sanctions since 2014.

The convoy to Moscow included Keene, truly irksome Trump campaign surrogate Sheriff David Clarke, president and CEO of the Outdoor Channel Jim Liberatore, soon-to-be NRA president Peter Brownel, and heavy- hitting NRA donors.

What possibly could go wrong?

Now we know.

And it was un-American.

Governor Walker Can Still Prove Me Right

On October 24, 2010 I wrote the following words on this blog site

We can, and will, argue the politics of the (governor) race. But in terms of electing a nice person I suspect we win either way.

I was speaking about the Democratic challenger, Tom Barrett, and Scott Walker.   I have never been shy of giving people more than a fair shake. There have been many times over the past 8 years where I have been reminded by Democrats of those words.  But I try to find the good in people, and do not intend to move in the other direction.

But never have I been more shocked and saddened for what passes with our political climate than what happened in the state legislature this week.  Now Walker has one final opportunity to act for something larger and far more important than his own shrinking role in public life.  Walker can veto the unconstitutional and illegal measures passed, and in so doing, save countless legal bills which the taxpayers will be required to pay.

And Walker can also prove me right.

I would hate to think there was nothing nice about Scott Walker.

Plainfield Tri-County High School Choir Got Lesson In Democracy At Wisconsin State Capitol

I should state at the outset I am a graduate of Tri-County High School in Plainfield, Wisconsin.  For many rural schools in the state it is a thrill indeed to have a reason to travel to Madison, and even more so when the trip involves the Wisconsin State Capitol.  So I can totally grasp the joy of the school choir being selected to sing at the Capitol tree-lightning ceremony on Tuesday.   After all, this year’s statehouse tree was from Plainfield. 

While holiday festiveness in the rotunda had every right to be front and center there was something more pressing taking place under the statehouse dome.  Republican lawmakers were in preparation to vote on lame-duck session measures to weaken powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.  One of the most preposterous and dangerous examples yet of a power grab in Wisconsin was taking place just a short distance from the Christmas tree.

The grand design of government presented in civics books–which these students in the choir have spent time learning–was being turned on its head just a short distance from where they stood to sing.  A deliberate process designed to respect voters wishes was being turned upside down, and inside out.  Republicans, in the mid-terms, had lost all five statewide elected offices, a U.S. Senate seat, and in legislative offices were swamped when Democratic votes totaled 190,000 more that the Republicans.  The GOP, with the partisan maps they designed, still controlled the assembly with 63/99 seats. But what they had not been able to win in elections was what they had every intention of stealing in the session.

Needless to say there were many very concerned citizens at the capitol who were mindful that the future of our state is in play.  So when Scott Walker took to the podium to address the tree-lighting crowd he was met with what should have been no surprise to anyone.  He was faced with boos and very loud howls of protest.  As a result the high school choir singing Christmas carols was largely drowned out.  A large group of protesters were stationed outside the Senate chamber loudly singing their own music–anti-Walker tunes.

It might seem unfair to some that the students were sidelined by the actions of other citizens who were trying to stop anti-democratic actions in the legislature.  But that is the frothy side of our political process in action.  One does not often get to see such a thing among the corn rows of Waushara County.  Needless to say the dynamics at play must have made for some interesting insights for these young people.

I sincerely believe that the lesson for taking a stand, and raising a voice for the future of the state will well serve these students.  To think that the rural place they call home will not be undermined by the slick moves and partisan machinations of the GOP in this lame-duck session is folly.  The school they now attend, and the future education many will seek are all tied to the bizarre and corrupt behavior of the ones being yelled at Tuesday.

The bus trip may not have developed as the students had thought, but they are wiser and more schooled today in democracy as a result of being at the Wisconsin Capitol.

Young Voters Had Tremendous Impact On Wisconsin’s Win For Tony Evers

This is the type of data that shows the power of informed and energetic voting.

According to turnout estimates analyzed by Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, under-30 voters supported Evers by a 23-point margin on Nov. 6. That’s a significant expansion from 2014, when under-30 voters supported Democratic candidate Mary Burke by just four points more than Republican Gov. Scott Walker. 

Evers defeated Walker by 1.1 percentage points in an election with record voter turnout: about 59 percent of the state’s voting-age population, or more than 2.6 million people, cast ballots. In its early analysis, CIRCLE estimated that 31 percent of eligible young voters (ages 18-29) voted nationwide. In five states with competitive gubernatorial races combined — Wisconsin included — youth turnout was 35 percent this year, according to the CIRCLE estimates.

Urban Milwaukee Prints My Op-Ed Column On Scott Walker

Pleased that Urban Milwaukee ran my column this week.  


Walker Failed to Lead on Election Night

Not giving a concession speech showed his lack of character. And not the first such failure.

By  – Nov 16th, 2018