Earlier this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker released a new ad in response to an EMILY’s List campaign regurgitating the usual “War on Women” blather. But rather than fighting back with a clear, unapologetic defense of pro-life principles and policies, it tries to defuse the situation with mealy-mouthed equivocation:
Hi, I’m Scott Walker. I’m pro-life. But there’s no doubt in my mind the decision of whether or not to end a pregnancy is an agonizing one. That’s why I support legislation to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options. The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor. Now, reasonable people can disagree on this issue. Our priority is to protect the health and safety of all Wisconsin citizens.
Accept “end a pregnancy” as a euphemism for killing a child? Check. Emphasize that he’s leaving abortion between “a woman and her doctor”? Check. Gratuitously affirm that favoring legal abortion can be “reasonable”? Check. Bend over backward to insist it’s all about the women rather than their babies? Check.
This is exactly what many feared would happen when Scott Walker hired pro-abortion spokeswoman Alleigh Marre for his re-election campaign. This may have been a deluded attempt to appear more reasonable than the caricature, but all Walker has done is preemptively conceded the legitimacy of various pro-abortion premises and rhetorical fictions.
Contrary to Right Wisconsin’s Collin Roth, who calls the ad a “worthy attempt,” it would have been less damaging if he had just kept his mouth shut. Silence may be weaksauce, but at least it doesn’t go out of its way to draw attention to just how weak.
If you’re still not getting the impression that Team Walker really doesn’t want to talk about abortion, the statement they released with the ad spells it out even more:
Special interests from Washington, D.C., are spending millions of dollars to distract voters from Governor Walker’s positive record and Wisconsin’s improving economy which have helped to create more than 100,000 new jobs and 25,000 businesses over the last four years.
Gee, it sure is a drag that killing over six thousand little Wisconsinites a year is a hot button issue, because we’d much rather talk about what we think really matters: the economy.
And incredibly, that’s not all. The Cap Times reports that Walker did not receive Pro-Life Wisconsin’s endorsement in 2014 because he declined to fill out a candidate survey, yet his website still touts their support, presenting their 2012 endorsement as if it was current. (Pro-Life Wisconsin declined an invitation to comment on this new ad; neither Wisconsin Right to Life, who has endorsed Walker this year, nor Wisconsin Family Action have responded to requests for comment.)
Even more troubling from the self-proclaimed 100% pro-life candidate:
Asked by Channel 3000 on Wednesday whether he wanted all abortions made illegal, Walker responded, “That’s not even an option in the state. The Supreme Court more than 40 years ago ruled that is not an option.”
It may seem baffling, but the writing was on the wall. This is simply the natural progression of a governor who’s decided the culture wars are just too politically messy. After all, he has previously said of pro-life laws state GOP leaders ditched, “it’s not on my radar if it’s not about jobs, balancing the budget or lowering taxes,” and claimed “the women I talk to in my state never talk about” abortion. By my math, all this falls well short of 100%.
Is the GOP establishment all drinking the same spiked Kool-Aid? You’d think they’d learn a thing or two from the way Ken Cuccinelli’s efforts to downplay abortion in favor of the economy blew up in his face and gave Terry McAuliffe the governorship of Virginia. Or that, while Cory Gardner’s overall poll numbers against Mark Udall are looking pretty good now, Gardner still trails among women, despite throwing personhood under the bus and offering up over-the-counter birth control.
And Walker himself? RealClearPolitics’ polling average only has him up half a percentage point over Mary Burke—a would-be governor of a state whose only political experience is two years as a school-board member, who apparently has so few policy thoughts of her own that she has to pad out her platform with plagiarism. If an experienced executive is still neck-and-neck against that, there’s officially a problem.
No matter how many times they run the experiment, Republican leaders and their hack consultants and strategists simply refuse to learn that there is no hiding from the issues voters care about more than they do, that changing the subject never makes hostile narratives go away, or that it’s all but impossible to weasel out of principle without looking like you’re doing exactly that.