Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Were you there?


Waukesha Freeman Page A5 Opinion 7/16/15

Were you there?

Walker making history with White House bid

Were you there? Were you at the Waukesha Expo to possibly see history in the making? Did you brave the crowd and the heat? Did you stand in line, hoping you arrived early enough to get in?

Monday’s announcement by Gov. Scott Walker that he is running for president was a once-ina- lifetime occurrence. Wisconsin governors don’t make serious runs for president. Wisconsin governors almost never have the national reputation to make a credible run.

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson made a run in 2008. Despite serving as secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, and despite his long record as governor of Wisconsin, Thompson’s campaign never took off.

Of course, Robert La Follette ran in 1924 as the Progressive Party candidate. He won his home state as President Calvin Coolidge won re-election. La Follette didn’t have a chance but we still have statues of him.

Walker’s run represents something different. Thanks to the fights with the public employee unions, Walker has a national reputation as a reformer. He could have been just another conservative governor but the failed recall caught the attention of the nation. Republicans know him nationally as someone who took on the special interests and won.

How appropriate that some of the protesters showed up outside the Expo Center. They reminded the national media and the attendees of the vitriol and the hatred directed against our governor for his reforms. I hope some of the protesters were recall petition signers because they helped make Walker the national figure he is.

Inside the Expo Center it was different, too. There were more media risers, even more than during the recall victory party. The stage was bigger, too, with the podium placed in the center of the crowd. It was national theater in the round, standing room only.

So many people were there, and the camera lights were so bright, the air conditioning couldn’t keep up. When it was a choice between air and standing close to the candidate, I chose air. But I didn’t notice the heat dampening the enthusiasm of the crowd. When Rachel Campos-Duffy told her joke about former President Bill Clinton’s preference for 24-year-olds, the audience may have winced a little, but they were with her. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch gave what can be described as the first campaign speech of the 2018 gubernatorial race. After three statewide campaigns as Scott Walker’s second, she, too, appears ready to move to a bigger stage.

It was the national debut of the Walker family, too. As the Lovely Doreen from Waukesha likes to point out, the one quality that Walker brings to the campaign is that he is so normal. His family reminded us again on Monday that Walker comes from a normal, middleclass Midwestern background.

It’s sometimes hard to believe, given the pressure of the left’s unrelenting war against him, the threats against him and his family, and the constant media attention, that up on that stage is someone who is still just the normal guy I met in college too many years ago. Yet all around the room there were many people who were saying the same thing.

No, despite the Waukesha Freeman assuring us on Saturday that we should be accustomed to presidential campaigns in our city, on Monday we were watching something completely different.

Take away all of the bright lights and the cameras. Take away the satellite trucks and the security detail. Take away Sean Hannity. Take away the stage and the music.

We were watching our governor and our neighbor announcing he is running for president. He is one of us, and Scott Walker has a real chance of being the next president of the United States.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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