Saturday, February 14, 2015

On the Education of Scott Walker

The Republican Presidential "flavor of the month" since Mitt's dropout appears to be Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin.  Walker has had a particularly effective run in Wisconsin governing as a Conservative and taking on a number of entrenched interests.  His candidacy is interesting to me, as it is a lot of Republicans who want to win in 2016.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Because of this surge in popularity, there has been a concomitant surge in investigating Governor Walker's life, one notable aspect of which is that he did not finish his undergraduate degree, quitting Marquette sometime during his senior year. The circumstances of his leaving are in dispute, but the University maintains that he was not expelled and that he was a student in good standing when he left.  This overview of the situation provided me some worthwhile background.

The vigor with which the Press is going after Governor Walker's past is in stark contrast to the incredible "hands off" approach they have taken with the academic background of the sitting President.  That said, politics is a sport for big kids, and Walker should have known this was coming.  His response thus far has been unsatisfying.

Here's the deal.  The Democrats aren't doing themselves any favors with this elitist attack on Walker's lack of a Bachelor's Degree, especially with a demographic they will HAVE to do better with in 2016 given the unlikelihood of black turnout/proportion matching what it has been in the previous two elections, and that is blue collar whites--a large number of whom ALSO don't have degrees.

And Republicans are doing a solid job of pointing this out in their public responses, but I have to sound the alarm about overplaying the hand.  The real likelihood here is that Republicans come off sounding anti-education/learning by devaluing the importance of higher education.  That isn't the point here.  The point here is that Scott Walker has managed to build a solid life for himself while effectively governing a large diverse state WITHOUT a degree.  This is a good news story.  The story should NOT become "degrees are worthless".  I know that's not what many are saying, but the debate has the earmarks of heading in that direction.  The thing that bothers me about the whole thing isn't that he didn't finish his degree, but that he didn't finish something he started.

Walker needs to come clean.  He needs to release his transcript and he needs to say something like, "I made a decision about leaving school twenty years ago that seemed right for me then, and which has thank God, worked out for me.  But I do wish that I had that degree--not because having it would make me a better person but because FINISHING it would--and earning it remains an important goal for me within my lifetime."  There you go.

One more thing about Scott Walker, a candidate with much to recommend him, but who I am slow to embrace.  Here's the deal.  Like most of the rest of the field, he's done almost NOTHING else in his life but politics and public service.  For whatever reason, this bothers me.  Mitt's private sector experience was one of the MOST attractive things about his candidacy for me, while Mr. Obama's utter lack of anything resembling challenging private sector work was a mark against him (as it was for most Republicans, if we're honest with ourselves as we look back to 2008).  As I gaze across the contenders left in the race, I am thoroughly unimpressed with the depth of this field as measured by this important metric.  There is of course, very important executive experience within the field, as we are blessed by a number of very effective Governors and former Governors (Walker obviously among them).  I just wish there were someone in the field who had done something else, and done it well.  Ben Carson and Rand Paul are obvious exceptions to this.


"The Hammer" said...

Walker is the only guy who has taken on the left with success. It's not enough to win elections, in fact elections don't matter that much. What does matter is the bureaucracy. Change that, get that rolling in a conservative direction and you've done something.
What we have now, especially with guys like Jeb, is the British Tories. "We can run the welfare state better than those who set up the welfare state". "We are more competent" is the argument.
Well I'm not interested in a competent statist, I'm interested in rolling back government. Walker had some success in Wisconsin and he's electable, so at this stage he's my man.

"The Hammer" said...
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