Left Wing “Netroots” Really Hate Walker
PHOENIX, Ariz. — There’s no love lost for any of the 2016 Republican presidential contenders at the 2015 Netroots Nation confab, but attendees reserve a special kind of loathing for one candidate in particular: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.This kind of raw hatred on the part of the left has, in fact, proven to be a huge political asset for Walker.
It’s an understandable sentiment given the setting. This year’s edition of the annual convention of liberal activists is heavily focused on bread-and-butter economic issues, with a strong union presence. The AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association have booths set up near the center of the convention hall, and many of the other booths are focused on one economic topic or another. Two large American flags with rainbow stripes instead of alternating red and white hang from the LGBT Netroots Connect booth, an indication of how forcefully gay rights are defended here.
All of which makes this a very hostile crowd for Walker, who regularly trumpets his victories over public-sector unions in his home state, and now weaves his opposition to the Supreme Court’s recent same-sex marriage decision into his stump speech as well.
“Scott Walker is probably the most dangerous of the Republicans in my opinion. And that’s just my opinion,” Dan O’Neal, the Arizona state coordinator for the Progressive Democrats of America, said. “He and Bush are probably the two most dangerous in terms of competing with Bernie or Hillary.”
It’s not that there are any warm and fuzzy feelings toward the rest of the GOP field, but it’s Walker who stirs the most negative passions among liberal activists.
“I mean, if you look at the records, Scott Walker has destroyed the economy and it’s been devastating for workers there,” Stephanie Taylor, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said on Thursday as she sat in a conference room alongside Adam Green, the other founder of the liberal political action committee. “I would hate to see that happen to America.”
Green quickly interjected, saying Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are the least appealing of the bunch. “But that’s not to say we could live with the other ones,” he added.
This year, Netroots attendees sporting pro-Bernie Sanders buttons are everywhere (on Thursday, it was hard to find a Hillary Clinton logo), and none of them had positive things to say about Walker.
And just as Sanders, with his unabashedly pro-labor views, fires up his left-leaning supporters, Walker’s union-busting boasts send them into paroxysms of rage.
“To me he looks like a little twerp,” said Fred Koegel, a retired member of the Iron Workers of Chicago Local 11 union. “He looks like the kid that hired the bullies in the schoolyard to protect him. That’s him, OK?”
It is a truism among political scientists that people with intense preferences matter more in politics than people with bland opinions. But it doesn’t work that way when extremists are conspicuously deranged. The leftists’ tantrums in Wisconsin didn’t seem to hurt Walker. Ordinary voters are likely to sympathize with the targets of the extremists. This is especially true when the target of the extremists is rather mild-mannered and earnest. (Between left extremists and Donald Trump, the issue is more complex.)
Most certainly, nobody in the Walker campaign is crying in their beer over news like this.