A week or two ago, I wrote a brief column about some signs of hope among America’s political class — a perverse undertaking, you might think, given the tawdry, preening, grasping character of most American politicians of both parties today. But there are, thank God, some exceptions.
In that earlier column I mentioned in particular Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey and the Indiana senatorial candidate Richard Mourdock. Today I’d like to mention one other: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Thanks to his spectacular victory in Wisconsin’s preposterous recall election, Walker is riding a wave of adulation among the politically mature. He is close to being a household name, at least in households that can spell “socialist depredation.”
I had met the governor briefly several months ago when he was gearing up to meet the challenge of the recall. But yesterday, I had an opportunity to chat with him and a small group of friends before listening to his afternoon speech to a group of citizens concerned about the drift — or is it a gallop? — toward fiscal armageddon in this country.
Governor Walker was extremely impressive, both in the substance of what he said and the style with which he said it.
As for the substance, I’ll simply mention that Wisconsin, thanks to Governor Walker, is the only state whose pension plan is 100% funded. Its neighbor Illinois, by contrast, faces the terrifying prospect of a state pension plan that is some 43% funded. Where’s the money going to come from?
When Governor Walker assumed office, he faced horrendous deficits, but he declined to raise taxes. Illinois, by contrast, raised personal income taxes by 67% and business taxes by 46%.
Fat lot of good it did them. Business and high net-worth individuals are fleeing the state to more welcoming venues, like Wisconsin.
Governor Walker’s chief accomplishment, though — the great thing he did for the state and the thing that drove the Left nationwide into a frenzy of rage — was facing down the public-sector unions. By now, it is obvious to all who have eyes to see that by so doing, Governor Walker did a big favor not only to the ordinary residents and taxpayers of Wisconsin but also to the unions themselves. Had he not instituted his reforms, many, many union jobs would have been lost.
A lot of grateful ink has been expended outlining the substance of Governor Walker’s achievement. I’d like to add just a word or two about the style of that achievement. I am not talking about his diction or other cosmetic attributes, but his character. In my earlier column on bright spots among America’s political elite, I quoted Abraham Lincoln. Most men, said Lincoln, are able to rise to the challenge of adversity. If you want to know a man’s real character, however, give him power and see how he acts.
Most politicians do not present an edifying spectacle. But Scott Walker impresses one with his simple frankness and friendly candor. He exhibits no “side.” There is nothing of the preening, self-infatuated bureaucrat about him. His cynosure is his concern for the future, instantiated in his concern for his two young sons, Matt and Alex. I think everyone at that lunch yesterday was as deeply impressed by Walker’s character as they were by his political accomplishments in Wisconsin. I know I was. The hour, it is said, calls forth the man. The United States is in desperate need of mature, far-sighted, honest, and rhetorically adept political leaders. With Scott Walker, Wisconsin hit a home run, and not a moment too soon.
Lord D’Abernon once observed that “An Englishman’s mind works best when it is almost too late.” Perhaps it is that way for us Americans too. Folks like Scott Walker give me hope.