Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) continues his curious cowardice.
BASH: Earlier this week you said that the Boy Scouts of America should keep its ban on gay leaders because the policy protected children and (INAUDIBLE) scout values. And then your campaign clarified to say that it was really protecting the scouts from the political and media discussion about that.
I’m having trouble understanding that. What―at the end of the day what is your position?
WALKER: I’m not talking about personal protection. I’m talking about―for me the reason why I didn’t have a problem with it is I just think it pulled scouting into a whole larger political and cultural debate as opposed to saying scouting is about camping and citizenship and merit badge and service awards instead of pulling all these other issues out there. And I just hope that they (ph) can (ph) stay focused. That’s all.
BASH: So, but should there be a ban on allowing gay men to be scout leaders?
WALKER: That’s up to the people who run the boy scouts.
One thing that people find unique, I guess, whether you like it or not, is I actually answer questions. People ask me a question, I’ll answer a question―
BASH: You’re not really answering this one.
WALKER: Sure. I said in this case that’s what I thought. I thought the policy was just fine.
WALKER: I (ph) was (ph) saying (ph) when I was in scouts it was fine. You’re asking what should the policy be going forward? It should be left up to the leaders of the scouts.
BASH: Do you think that being gay is a choice?
WALKER: Oh, I mean I think―that’s not even an issue for me to be involved in. The bottom line is, I’m going to stand up and work hard for every American regardless of who they are, no matter where they come from, no matter what their background. I’m going to fight for people and no matter whether they vote for me or not.
BASH: On behalf of people is to do that properly you have to understand or at least have an opinion on who they are and where they’re coming from.
WALKER: But again, I think―no I don’t have an opinion on every single issue out there. I mean to me that’s―I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question.
So I’m just saying (INAUDIBLE) I don’t know what the answer to that is. And again I’m going to spend my time focused on things that I do know and what I can work on.
There is actually a lot going on in this exchange from CNN’s State of the Union, but the first thing to remember is that the questions come in a week when Boy Scout Leaders voted unanimously to approve a middling policy that lifts the formal ban on gay and bisexual employees and volunteers, reinvesting the question of discrimination at the troop level. Mr. Walker, apparently displeased with this turn of events, explained: “I have had a lifelong commitment to the Scouts and support the previous membership policy because it protected children and advanced Scout values.”
When those comments received criticism for perpetuating a myth that homosexuals are somehow a threat to children, Mr. Walker and his campaign struggled to clarify:
When asked about this comment following a campaign event at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon, Walker said: “I’m an Eagle Scout. My kids were in Scouts. My mom was a den mother. I think their previous policy was personally fine.”
AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Walker’s campaign, said in a statement on Tuesday evening: “The previous policy protected Scouts from the rancorous political debate over policy issues and culture wars. Scouts should not be used as a political football on issues that can often be heated and divisive.”
And this only a week after his sons, Alex and Matt, took their own middling stance that they disagree with their father about marriage equality but won’t try to persuade him because they “respect his opinion on things”.
Against this backdrop, Dana Bash asked the Wisconsin governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate for some clarification on his own remarks. So here we are.
And the Cowardly Badger certainly did not disappoint:
• “I just think it pulled scouting into a whole larger political and cultural debate as opposed to saying scouting is about camping and citizenship and merit badge and service awards instead of pulling all these other issues out there.” ― Citizenship is an aspect oft overlooked in our society; thirty years ago some parents could be heard complaining about the idea of school and summer camp citizenship awards, apparently because giving awards should be reserved to being the fastest or strongest. It is also true, however, that citizenship is at the heart of scouting; hence the reason why discriminatory policies within the Boy Scouts of America have political significance. And the organization, long accustomed to easy cooperation with public interests, finds itself increasingly alienated as its discriminatory policies run afoul of local civic anti-discrimination laws. What Mr. Walker is arguing for, in the end, is that one of the most prominent organizations teaching citizenship in American society should include discrimination among its affirmed principles. And here it is plainly apparent; Mr. Walker is advocating discrimination as a virtue of citizenship.
• “It should be left up to the leaders of the scouts.” ― A brief reminder: This is the decision the Scouts have made, and it still invests that decision in Scout leaders. Mr. Walker is pandering against a phantom of a straw man. In defense and promotion of discrimination as a virtue of citizenship.
• “Oh, I mean I think―that’s not even an issue for me to be involved in. The bottom line is, I’m going to stand up and work hard for every American regardless of who they are, no matter where they come from, no matter what their background. I’m going to fight for people and no matter whether they vote for me or not.” ― This is a classic dodge, to the one, and extraordinarily stupid to the other. In the first place, the answer to the question of whether he thinks being gay is a choice is fundamental, a linchpin of the argument for discrimination against homosexuals and homosexuality. To the other, though, it is absolutely absurd for Mr. Walker to purport to “stand up and work hard for every American regardless of who they are”, and so on, when he is openly advocating discrimination as a virtue of citizenship. This is not even a matter of telling someone to think about it for a moment. This is self-evident.
• “But again, I think―no I don’t have an opinion on every single issue out there. I mean to me that’s―I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question.” ― At some level, it seems Scott Walker is aware of the significance of the questions he is trying to duck. Given his general positions in support of traditional supremacism, one might wonder if he has ever formalized in his own mind the fact that he is advocating discrimination as a virtue of citizenship, or perhaps it is just his acculturated instinct. That the results of his evasion and surrender of the question are contradictory unto themselves and inherently toxic to the very ideas of equality and justice while remaining blind to the actual facts of the circumstance he is trying to avoid discussing is in itself significant.
One of the discussions taking place in anticipation of the FOX News Republican presidential debate is how the rules for getting stage time shift candidates’ traditional focus from playing in early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, to pandering for national poll numbers. Several candidates have tacked spectacularly rightward in hopes of earning some name recognition, but as Donald Trump’s sideshow candidacy has generally sucked all the air out of the room, obscuring even Jeb Bush and, yes, Scott Walker himself, the Cowardly Clown at least has the fact of being dedicated to his culture war. He is playing for a right-wing ride, and largely receiving it.
And in these culture wars, the common element is that Mr. Walker wishes to preserve a judgmental privilege as reserved right of overlapping interests. The rights and equality he intends to preserve are assertions of authority over other people’s rights. It is not so much that the Wisconsin Republican fails to recognize that he is advocating discrimination as a virtue of citizenship; rather, Mr. Walker would likely wonder why he wouldn’t.
Privileged empowerment, in the face of looming equality, often tries to bargain, and say, okay, fine, equality going forward but what we have right now is equality, because to give up our privilege would denigrate and violate our rights. And it is, actually, rather quite remarkable how often this appeal succeeds. Then again, we seem to be in a time when disempowered classes are achieving progress, and perhaps an increased number of people feeling alienated, even from their own political sentiments, has something to do with it. In Mr. Walker’s culture wars he starts first and foremost with a majority of the American population; his intention to subject women to other people’s authority is already well known; the Cowardly Badger earned his derisive moniker trying to duck questions about legal immigration, which isn’t going to help him much with the Hispanic vote; his push against homosexuals might seem curious as younger Republicans would prefer the Party get over this ugly, lost cause.
To what degree is this a calculated gamble? More specifically, does Mr. Walker intend to ride a wave of bigotry to the GOP nomination, or all the way to the White House? At what point is he past any reasonable pivot threshold? Or does he think he can soften that range with clumsy, self-indicting evasions? Because at some point it seems impossible that neither he nor someone close to him in the campaign is capable of seeing that leading this cultural counterrevolution is an exercise in political self-martyrdom?
We might wonder if he knows his side lost, and simply intends to take fame and satisfaction in browbeating people on the way down. It would seem an unlikely motive for a presidential campaign; Mr. Walker is calculating to win the nomination.
Still, though, this is a performance so spectacularly awful that there seems a legitimate question as to why he would follow this course. Plotting for the social conservative vote? That is, in itself, a pretty sound strategy in positioning oneself to be a serious contender for the nomination. Tactically, though, Scott Walker’s candidacy is a thorough mess. The more he advocates supremacy as equality, and discrimination as a virtue of citizenship, the harder it will be, having secured that nomination, to pitch himself to the general electorate as anything other than vicious, bumbling coward.
It is not simply that the Wisconsin governor hates, but also that he is so nakedly bungling about it.
And this is, or, at least, ought to be, something of a comfort. As horrifying and hurtful as the constant vitriolic volleys from social conservative quarters have been, they are also the rhetorical version of Mack Sennet doing splattercore. The show Walker and his fellow bigots are putting on does not even achieve B-class.
It is hard to look hurt feelings in the eye and say, “Relax, and enjoy the spectacle”. But there is a valence at which we can consider this. We might recall some of the less dignified episodes of the Gay Fray. Remember a decade ago or so when, having lost the argument about homosexuality being unhealthy for kids because it was the bullying and discrimination driving elevated risk rates, and not the simple fact of being gay, turned to state governments in order to strip available counseling resources from public schools? Watch for versions of that; the next battle line is going to challenge our transgendered neighbors, and they’re coming after the youth. With religious leaders advocating re-ducation camps to sexually harass youth into being heterosexual, we ought not forget Texas, where the legislature is considering a bill to protect the religious freedom of state agents who force children in their care into Christian re-education programsα.
There is a lot going on.
And while Mr. Walker’s social conservative family values sideshow is hurtful and grotesque, it is also something of a dark comedy unto itself. Leaders of the Boy Scouts of America propose to re-invest discriminatory authority in local Boy Scout leaders, and Scott Walker complains that the decision and authority to discriminate should remain with Boy Scout leaders. This is pretty typical Republican rhetorical slapstick, somewhat magnified by at least two factors, the clumsy execution and the fact that equal rights is an issue of focus in the public discourse. The self-contradiction is everyday. More concerning, of course, is the advocacy of discrimination as a virtue of citizenship, but similarly we might note that when isolated without the trappings of any given issue, the underlying device is commonplace in Republican rhetoric.
And there is also the fact that this is what soccons are down to; yes, it is particularly ugly in its expression, but yes, it is also significant that they know they are losing, have all but lost.
If we let Mr. Walker keep talking, he will continue to tell us truths about the nature and dimensions of American hatred and supremacism; this would seem a reasonable harvest for such embittered produce. And this is Scott Walker, so the sideshow will continue; it is okay to laugh.
But there really is a lot going on. We can allow neither this blatant spectacle nor obscure comfort possess us.
Consider the basic proposition: Discrimination and supremacism as virtues of citizenship. And consider what we see in its manifestations. We see no real mystery about where social conservatives are going in general, and no question that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin wants to be the president to lead them there.
α Nor can we allow that note to pass without also reminding that the same legislation would protect the religious freedom of those same state agents who withhold medical care from sexually abused minors.
Cable News Network. State of the Union. Transcript. 19 July 2015.
Wahls, Zach. “Boy Scouts of America’s Executive Committee Unanimously Approves End to Ban on Gay Adults”. Scouts for Equality. 13 July 2015.
Rupp, Kelsey. “Scott Walker Weighs in on New Proposal That Would Allow Gay Boy Scout Leaders…”. Independent Journal Review. 14 July 2015.
Johnson, Jenna. “Scott Walker: Boy Scouts ban on gay leaders ‘protected children'”. The Washington Post. 14 July 2015.
Bobic, Igor. “Scott Walker’s Sons Disagree With Their Dad On Gay Marriage, But Won’t Try To Change His Mind”. The Huffington Post. 12 July 2015.
Cirilli, Kevin. “Millennial Republicans see risk for party in gay marriage response”. The Hill. 2 July 2015.