Failing upward: As Scott Walker’s job-creation record worsens, his star continues to rise

We live in a world where reward does not always neatly correlate with performance. CEOs who wreck their companies often get away with bags full of booty. In 2008, Wall Street greedheads crashed the economy but continued to haul in bonuses as their bets went bust. Keith Richards has outlived millions of his contemporaries despite having looked like a piece of masticated beef jerky for the better part of 30 years.

Indeed, in the world of celebrity, this reward gap can be downright yawning. Carrot Top, the least amusing redhead to burst on the scene since cowpox, has his own hotel theater in Vegas. The sitcom 2 Broke Girls, which appears to be the work of an 11-year-old methadone addict typing scripts with his fingers on the wrong keys, is a hit show for CBS, which would presumably broadcast 5:30 p.m. monkey knife fights if they improved on the Evening News’ ratings in the 18-to-49 demo.

So in a country that seems as unconcerned as any with a person’s actual accomplishments – so long as that person can put on a good show – it’s perhaps unsurprising that Scott Walker is being mentioned more and more frequently these days as a potential presidential candidate.

As far as I can tell, Walker has accomplished exactly one thing during his two-plus years in office – he’s made liberals angry. But that, apparently, is enough to make him a conservative folk hero in the proud tradition of Ollie North (who participated in the clumsy Iran-Contra affair and then got caught) or Sarah Palin (who failed to be elected vice president and then ditched the governorship of Alaska to focus more time on making Republicans look like idiots).

Indeed, when it comes to failing upward, Scott Walker is starting to look like the new Republican champ. This month, he will headline Iowa’s Polk County Republican Fundraiser, seizing the chance to court a group that’s served as a launching pad for many a prominent GOP hopeful in the past. He’s also working on a book, titled Unintimidated, about his memorable tenure as Wisconsin’s governor. 

Of course, in a given year, very few people publish pointed memoirs about their brief and tumultuous political careers, and fewer still visit Iowa. So you have to wonder what Walker is up to. The only reasonable answer? He’s thinking of running for president. 

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently that Walker was one of only three Republicans – along with Marco Rubio and Rand Paul – who appeared to be leaning toward running in 2016.

“Walker gives every indication of wanting to run,” said Sabato. “He’s said and done all the right things.”

My advice to the governor? Get out as soon as you can, before your job-creation efforts succeed even further and you run out of states to do worse than.

As has been widely reported, Wisconsin is now 44th in the nation in private-sector job creation, behind only West Virginia, Arkansas, Maine, Delaware, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Of course, the first two are barely states, and Wyoming has roughly the population density of a North Sea ice floe, so we’re really tasting the dregs now. For comparison’s sake, our state was 11th before Walker took office and declared Wisconsin open for business. Ouch.



But that hardly matters to the would-be GOP kingmakers who idolize Walker for taking on greedy public workers and bravely defying the Solidarity Singers. That his economy-choking policies might be part of the reason we now trail all our Midwestern neighbors in job creation hardly occurs to these star-crossed Walkerites. The man is a celebrity. Let’s not harsh that buzz.

Sure, Walker’s not close to creating the 250,000 jobs he promised for his first term, but his official campaign Facebook page does have more than 140,000 fans. In two years, he could double that. And if he runs for president, the sky’s the limit.

Now, the idea that the ultra-conservative Walker might transcend the GOP’s looming demographic problem and succeed where Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney failed is a steaming paella of delusion in and of itself, so maybe a presidential run would be the best way to get rid of him once and for all.

Then again, there’s always a chance that he’d squeak through on dopey charm like George W. Bush in 2000 and that our entire country would be left at the mercy of our governor’s deft economic touch. Perish the thought.

If that happens, look out Equatorial Guinea.

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