Scott Walker would like religious right leaders to think of him as their best friend. The Wisconsin governor also like the American public to think that he’s a pretty moderate guy. How to solve this contradiction? If you’re Walker, you just tell different people different things. In officially announcing his presidential nomination, Walker did just that by exploiting two sides of the marriage equality issue.
In an interview with ABC News, Walker pointedly portrayed himself as a compassionate conservative. (Where have we heard that one before?) How can we tell? He’s okay with a gay couple in his family (well, his wife’s side of the family).
“I love them, so I support them,” Walker said of his wife Tonette’s cousin and her partner. “Love’s gonna be the focus of everything we do with our family and our close friends.”
In a move that has all the spontaneity of an onstage kiss by Madonna, Walker’s wife and his two sons have been making it clear that they disagree with Scott’s position on marriage equality. In a pre-announcement interview in the Washington Post, Tonette told the paper that the family was divided by the Supreme Court decision making marriage a right.
“Our sons were disappointed… I was torn. I have children who are very passionate [in favor of same-sex marriage], and Scott was on his side very passionate.”
Walker’s wife and sons were right at Walker’s side for his presidential announcement, intentionally sending the message that, hey, don’t worry about all that rhetoric. Deep down, Scott is okay with the marriage thing.
Except, of course, he’s not. Walker blasted the Supreme Court decision as “a grave mistake” and called for a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality.
Just to prove where his heart lies, Walker, the son of a Baptist preacher, kicked off his campaign by sending a letter to religious right activists proclaiming himself one of them and his campaign as “God’s plan.” In the letter, Walker put his opposition to marriage equality front and center.
“Our conservative values were handed a big blow with the recent Supreme Court ruling,” Walker wrote. “Five unelected judges took it upon themselves to take that responsibility away from the states and redefine the institution of marriage. In 2006, I voted to amend my state constitution to protect the institution of marriage because I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. To protect this right, I support an amendment to the United States Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage.”
Walker, who has earned a reputation as the Wisconsin Weasel, has long changed messages to suit what his audience wants to hear. Interestingly, the person calling Walker out on marriage equality is Rick Santorum, who is alleging that Walker is suspect because of his wife’s support for it.
Part of that accusation is based on desperation. Santorum’s polls look more like the age of an elementary school student, while Walker is widely considered among the top tier of Republican presidential wannabes.
At the other end of the spectrum are the deep pocket types on Wall Street, who absolutely take Walker at his word. As a result, they aren’t contributing to his campaign, because they’re convinced he’s a hard-liner on social issues.
Walker wouldn’t be the first candidate to run a campaign that convinced people that what he was saying wasn’t what he would really do. But Walker’s track record is very clear, and Walker likes to boast about it (to the right audience). His wife isn’t running for president, and neither are his sons. He is. And if his family hasn’t changed his opinion up to now, why should we be betting that they will? After all, the stakes are really high, and the odds are obviously against us.