Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sanders, Warren Swipe at Walker

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the same paper which endorsed Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett for Governor in 2010, then endorsed Conservative Republican Scott Walker in 2012, then got out of the endorsement business altogether at the end of the same year. They reported on Walker’s purported comments on immigration in 2013, then found themselves having to report on Walker’s rising national profile, rolled out an interview with rising Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders, the Independent Socialist US Senator from Vermont who is not only running to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s left, but is also running away with disaffected progressives looking for “Anyone But Hillary”.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

In a phone interview before a Wednesday campaign event, likely to be one of his largest yet, Sanders took swipes at Governor Scott Walker on one key issue:

Jason Stein reports:

Sanders criticized the labor record of Walker, who is expected to announce on July 13 his own bid for the GOP nomination for president.

The writer then reminded readers of Walker’s Act 10 reforms:

In 2011 Walker championed the repeal of most union bargaining for most public employees and this spring he signed legislation known as right to work which prohibits unions and employers from requiring workers to pay labor fees. Sanders said that was standing with wealthy interests over workers.

This argument about promoting “wealthy interests” over America’s working class has received repeated attention throughout Sander’s tenure as Congressman then Senator, and now as Presidential candidate.

"Needless to say I’m strongly opposed to his agenda. I think we need leadership in this country that is ready to stand up for working families. We need to strengthen the trade union movement in this country, not break it," Sanders said.

The underlying argument beneath Sanders’ comments, that labor reforms are anti-worker, did not get addressed, although this argument that anti-union legislation is anti-middle class has gotten more traction, in large part because of former Clinton Administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s whiteboard political ads. While Reich does outline that the decline of unions and the middle class show a distinct correlation, there is no definite causation of one pattern with another.

The Journal-Sentinel report ends with the following comments:

Besides trade policies, Sanders did not bring up any other foreign affairs issues such as national defense in the short conference call.

This last tidbit is particularly intriguing, as the Vermont Socialist-turned-Democrat has battled with constituents on contentious foreign policy issues. In 2014, Senator Sanders berated hecklers who condemned his support for Israel, and his refusal to condemn the Jewish State over its reported abuse of Palestinians. Vermonters in the Burlington, VT town hall treated Sanders with brazen contempt, including shouts, cursing and swear, along with other frequent interruptions.

The Journal-Sentinel mentioned at the outset of the phone interview that Sanders was not sure of what to expect in the Dairy State:

. . .Sanders said that about 9,500 people have rsvp'd saying they would attend his rally at the Alliant Energy Center. If that crowd materializes -- and there is an "if" there -- Sanders said it would the biggest who have turned out so far to hear him talk about addressing the income gap between America's rich and poor, raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, and bringing more skepticism to international trade deals.

“If” has been a telling word attached not just to his growing popularity with the Democratic Party’s left-wing base, but also to Sanders’ rise in the polls (he is pulling even with presumed front-runner Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire).

Elizabeth Warren, an intended left-wing challenger to Hillary Clinton who declined to run, has hedged her endorsement for Clinton, yet hinted at supporting Sanders.

"These are people who care about these issues, and that’s who Bernie’s reaching. . I love what Bernie is talking about. I think all the presidential candidates should be out talking about the big issues.”

She recently took a swipe of her own at Governor Walker during her keynote speech at a Connecticut Democratic Party fundraiser over his call over a constitutional amendment to protect states’ rights to define marriage:

Well, Scott Walker, if you believe the next president's job is to encourage bigotry and to treat some families better than others, then I believe it is our job to make sure you aren't president," Warren said while speaking at a fundraiser for Connecticut's Democratic party.

Warren has also criticized Walker’s collective bargaining reforms, particularly slamming the governor’s claim that his winning stance against government unions burnishes his foreign policy credentials.

Governor Walker has shown some considerable influence in early polling states, too, polling seven points ahead of the wide array of challengers, and before his formal announcement..

Because of these and other recent media developments, political news coverage has focused on Sanders in the Democratic side, while more Republicans throw their hat into the 2016 ring, and Walker’s announcement likely to round out the GOP field.

Could a Walker v. Sanders election emerge in 2016? For an election year which will host a wide open field of candidates, anything is possible, especially since no heir apparent is running for either major party’s nomination.

A Walker v. Sanders general election would certainly give voters, and the world, an American Presidential election based not only on a war of talking points and fundraising machines, but ideological differences and clashing world views over the United States’ domestic, foreign, and fiscal policy.

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