Must a politician’s opinion be set in stone? The Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, is banking on that not being the case. He is against granting residence permits to the millions of foreigners residing illegally in the U.S. And he freely admits that he used to think differently about the matter.
It’s a risky strategy. When an American politician gets the urge to run for president, the media and their rivals immediately dive into the archives. If they find statements that contradict current prevailing opinion in his party, then the candidate has a problem. He can stick to his guns and progress no further than a secondary role in the primary elections, or he can adjust his position, but then he would be a “flip-flopper,” someone who constantly changes his opinion.
Scott says that he has simply “listened” to people across the U.S. That could be true. He has been making trips to the states that will be the first to vote in the presidential primaries for the Republican nomination at the start of next year: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina.
But there are further convictions that have been shifting in the heart of the 47-year-old governor, say critics. During the gubernatorial elections in his state in 2006, he was still against subsidies for ethanol and gasoline. But when he visited Iowa — a state which practically lives off the corn used to produce ethanol — he was suddenly in favor of it. That’s not switching positions, he says, I was only against subsidies from the state, not from the federal government. But the campaign adts from that time, which were brought to the surface again by Politico, speak for themselves.
Something like this isn’t necessarily political suicide for a candidate. In Iowa, they obviously welcomed Walker’s new standpoint on ethanol. After one of his speeches was well-received and widely reported on by the media, he immediately shot up in the polls and became the main competitor to Jeb Bush.
In the run-up to the real campaigns, those polls may well say more about reputation than true support. Walker is currently especially popular among people who closely follow the political news: Republicans have reveled in, and Democrats have loathed, the hardline he took against the trade unions after his election in Wisconsin. From then on, civil servants’ salaries were negotiated with individual civil servants, not collectively. According to legislation recently introduced by Walker, employees are no longer required to pay a statutory contribution to a trade union that negotiates salaries with their company.
With a Different Accent
With that latest measure, Wisconsin is adopting a policy that has been in existence much longer in the southern states, where trade unions barely play a role. During his visit to South Carolina, he gladly took credit for it. Just like the fact that his father is a Baptist minister, it is deemed relatively unimportant in semi-atheist New Hampshire.
But whether it was in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, one thing he left at home was his Midwestern accent, a New York Times reporter noted. Instead of “Wiscaansin,” he suddenly pronounces it “Wiscansin.” The urge to become president runs very deep indeed.
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