Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"Cheddar Revolutionaries" did Trumpism before Trump. Now they're gone

One huge difference in 2019 is how many Wisconsin Republicans have been diminished and taken out of power, after rising throughout much of the 2010s. Then-Governor Scott Walker was a national figure in the mid-2010s, and though he could ride his union-busting and connections to big money to the presidency. Reince Priebus was the head of the Republican National Committee, and later became Donald Trump's first Chief of Staff. And Congressman Paul Ryan was Mitt Romney's 2012 VP candidate, and then became Speaker of the House in 2015.

And now, all 3 are out of any kind of governmental office, either because they couldn't handle being in the Trump White House (Priebus), being scared of facing the voters in the 2018 elections (Ryan), or getting booted out by those voters (Walker). Former UW Professor Don Moynihan took a look at the fall of the “Cheesehead Revolution,” and says Donald Trump plays into its end. But that's because Trump exposed the dark side of what Wisconsin Republicans had run on for years, and as Trump fell out of favor, so did the Wisconsinites.
It is all too tempting to diagnose the end of the cheesehead revolution as a victim of Trumpism. It is also wrong. The reality is more interesting. Priebus, Walker and Ryan saw Trump for who he was, but embraced him regardless. They continue to do so. At the end of the day, there was perhaps more overlap between their views and Trump than any would care to admit….

In all cases, the leaders of the cheesehead revolution served Trump’s wishes, and were careful to avoid criticism even when Trump no longer had power over them. Ryan’s farewell address bemoaned a “broken politics” and U.S. isolationism, but studiously avoided naming the president.

Even if the cheesehead revolution was more spin than reality, its demise is telling. The truth is there was a lot of Trumpism in the cheesehead revolution. The fierce partisan division evoked by attacking public employees. A series of Ryan budget blueprints that preached fiscal discipline but prioritized tax cuts. The willingness to impose work requirements as a condition of welfare. Government support for corporations like Foxconn. Such policies preceded Trump and became the basis for his co-optation of his former critics.

In retrospect, the initial resistance of Priebus, Walker and Ryan to Trump seems to have been about style rather than substance. Trump’s unabashed vulgarity clashed with their studied Midwestern earnestness. Once they saw that Trump’s style was key to his success — and by extension defeating the Democrats they demonized — their reservations melted away. The cheesehead revolution was not a missed opportunity for conservatism. Instead, its epitaph should read that they knew better, but embraced a deeply flawed leader anyway.

Losers all

Let's face it. Is there really much difference between Trump’s demonization of immigrants and lifetime politicians like Walker and Ryan making race-tinged “hammock” references to welfare recipients? Heck, Trump approved of Walker's "reforms" that are forcing work requirements on Medicaid recipients, a policy whose main outcome seems to be a way to create barriers to benefits over trying to help people find work. The Medicaid changes also has a side benefit of giving off an image of making it hard on "THOSE PEOPLE", which appeals to a certain type of mediocre white person.

This GOP two-step is manifesting itself again as the Republicans deal with US Rep. Steve King's history of racism and general regressive idiocy. King was stripped of all committee assignments this week after being quoted in an interview asking "What's wrong with white supremacy"?, and then doubling down on that question on the House floor. But it's far from the first time that King has made statements along these lines, and Esquire’s Charlie Pierce found it interesting that Republicans are just now figuring out that racist statements and policies are a bad idea.

Pierce adds that this week’s reactions by GOP House leadership makes a certain Wisconsinite look worse, if that’s possible.
So Kevin McCarthy, the Minority Leader of the House, moved on King, which gives us another chance to toss an elbow at former Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from the state of Wisconsin. Ryan was perfectly fine with having an outright white-supremacist in his caucus for more than a decade because Ryan never found the political gumption to bring the wild kingdom there under control.

Many Republicans—including Willard Romney—have now piled on as well. (Ted Cruz, whose Iowa campaign in 2016 King helped run, puffed out some nondescript squid ink over the weekend.) None of them, of course, have addressed the real facts about Steve King—namely, that he was nurtured and produced in the same conservative Republican terrarium as all the rest of them, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy included. King bloomed more lushly and more exotically, but he's of the same genus. Now, they're all required to pretend that they never understood how this lethally poisonous plant sprouted in their midst. I wonder how long the delusion can last. I've been wondering that for three decades now.

Soooo punchable. And weak.

Just like how Mitch McConnell should be fielding much of the blame for the current government shutdown for refusing to put a bill on Donald Trump's desk, so it is the fault of Wisconsin Republicans (and their spokespeople on AM radio) for creating the divisive environment that led to many of the problems in the state and country today.

And just like how the GOP's "Cheddar Revolution" foretold the party's turn to Trumpism, may the 2017 and 2018 falls from power of GOPs in Wisconsin foreshadow the end of the racist and idiotic tenure of Trump and his enablers.

1 comment:

  1. I have long maintained that the rise of Walker made way for the rise of Trump. The difference, of course, is one of style: Trump is a clumsy, dangerous toddler waving a big knife; Walker, all "Midwest nice," would approach you smiling, wait until your back was turned, and stick you with a shiv.