Ron Radosh

TNR's Hit Job on Scott Walker: The Real Reason They Ran This Cover Story


With its cover story on Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, The New Republic has hit an all-time low. Written by TNR Senior Editor Alec Macgillis, it reads as a commissioned hit job meant to lessen Walker’s chances of entering the GOP presidential race.

Let’s start with the cover: superimposed over a photo of the governor standing by his desk is the title: “Scott Walker is So Hot Right Now: Too bad he owes his success to a toxic strain of Racial Politics.” Inside the issue, the title becomes: “The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker: A Journey Through the Poisonous, Racially Divided World that Produced a Republican Star.”

What you will not find anywhere is a discussion of what led the electorate to not only vote for Scott Walker, but to elect him despite the combined opposition of the AFL-CIO, the Occupy movement, and the entire left-wing media. After all, why bother with facts when readers are told he is “unelectable”?

For those desiring to find out about Walker’s record and why he would make a strong Republican national candidate, you can find it summed up by Marc Thiessen in the Washington Post, and in a column I wrote last November.

Whatever the future holds for the governor, this story reveals something that was not TNR’s or the author’s intent. They are worried that Scott Walker has broad appeal and that he would make a formidable opponent. This article is meant to nip any Walker candidacy in the bud, and to assure that he will not even try to enter the race. In carrying out this task, journalist Macgillis has written an article devoid of any real charges of merit against Walker, and in which he brings up much that cannot be tied to Walker in any meaningful way.

What really irks TNR is not anything Macgillis brings up in the article, but Walker’s many accomplishments. The most important one, as they well know, was that he successfully took on the teachers’ union and public sector unions, whose tie-ins with Democrats assured them the kind of benefits private sector workers do not have and which worked to break the budget of the state government. By taking away their right to bargain over fringe benefits,  Walker took away the incentive for many teachers and public workers to stay in the union, and the ranks of those who belonged began to drop tremendously. Taxes were lowered, the state’s budget was brought into balance, and other conservative reforms were implemented. As Marc Thiessen wrote, “Walker has long found a way to appeal to the center while governing as a conservative.” And he actually received in his election as governor the votes of a large number of voters who also voted for Barack Obama.

That kind of success puts a scare into TNR’s left-leaning editors.

So what does Macgillis actually write that supposedly damns Walker? A good part of his story is an intelligent portrayal of demographic changes that took place long before Walker was in politics. Simply put, whites left the city of Milwaukee for the suburbs, and African-Americans moved in. The result was a split city. From the ’60s to the ’90s, the black population shot up tremendously, to 30 percent of the population. That figure increased to 40 percent by 2014. This coincided, Macgillis notes, with the collapse of the industrial base and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs they once had, so that today “it has the second-highest black poverty rate in the United States.”

What does any of this have to do with Scott Walker, who became governor after all this had occurred? Nothing at all.

Moreover, the kind of educational reforms Walker supports are precisely the kinds of things that would help the black underclass receive a better education and gain a chance for their children to work their way out of the poverty of their parents’ generation.

Macgillis cannot come up with anything racist, at all, that Walker said which might feed white hostility towards African-Americans. Since he cannot, his answer is guilt by association.

He spends a good part of his piece attacking two talk-radio hosts who broadcast in Milwaukee, Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes. Their impact is profound, he claims, and he links as an example the loss of the chances of two moderate Republicans running in a primary election to these broadcasters’ opposition to them. How is Walker tied to them? Walker ran, he says, after the result of their power, when white Milwaukee was receptive to “anti-Obama ferver,” and Walker won a primary in which another conservative had been originally favored as a result of the radio hosts’ endorsement of Walker.

And why is any of this racist?

Macgillis gives the answer by saying Walker’s base is in the suburbs. Since Milwaukee is where the blacks live —  and they did not vote for him — this proves that Walker is a racist, and the white man’s candidate.


TNR’s Caption: “Scott Walker is So Hot Right Now. Too bad he owes his success to a toxic strain of racial politics.”

In that case, any whites who vote differently than African-Americans, most of whom are solidly and predictably Democrats, are also racists. What this proves is that when push comes to shove, the Left’s answer to conservative solutions advocated by men like Scott Walker is to condemn the conservative as a racist. Oh yes, he also cites e-mails written by an anonymous person that included a racist joke, which Walker’s chief of staff forwarded to someone. He adds that Walker fired two of his staff for making offensive comments. He does not add the obvious: this act alone shows that Walker is not racist, and got rid of staff members who he thought were.

Walker’s other offense is that he regularly was in touch with the two talk-radio hosts who were on his side, shared e-mails with Sykes, and has appeared on his and Belling’s radio programs. And, horror of horrors, Walker’s speaks in a nasal tone, made worse when he spoke at Wisconsin’s Republican convention because he had a cold, and gave a “pedestrian” speech which the author acknowledges the crowd loved. Walker, he says, thinks he is ready for the national scene. MacGillis’ conclusion: he is not, and cannot get the necessary votes “beyond the same shrinking pool of voters that Romney drew on.”

So a man who managed to stand up to scores of disorderly and extremely vocal and angry protestors, went to work pushing to his office through the hundreds who took up every public space in the state’s capitol building, and was calm throughout — this man supposedly cannot stand up to the attacks that would be brought against him were he to be nominated, and he cannot get the votes of people who are independent or not aligned with either political party.

Macgillis also mocks Walker’s religious beliefs. He chides Walker for at times comparing himself to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, “noting that they were both sons of Baptist ministers,” and that Walker told his college yearbook “I really think there’s a reason why God put all these political thoughts in my head.” Secularists may find that off-putting and silly, but for one who is a serious believer, it does not appear that way.

And Martin Luther King Jr. developed his motivation for activism from his own belief in religious precepts, something that does not occur to Macgillis, and if it did, he would never mock it.

Even more egregious than Macgillis’ article are the captions in the accompanying photos. One shows a young school photo of Walker, captioned: “The future Republican darling in high school.” Another says he has “been ensconced in a bubble of adulation,” clearly contradicted by Walker’s full knowledge of the fury of his opponents.

Whether or not Scott Walker runs will not be determined by TNR’s hit job. It will depend on whether or not Walker wins re-election in November’s gubernatorial race, and by whether his win, if it occurs, is by a high margin. Then, should he decide to enter the race, he will indeed be a formidable challenger to the other Republican contenders. Should he win over the competition, he would be a strong Republican nominee who could also pose a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton.