Iowa Working Families Summit Advances Push for Progressive Agenda

 

By Emily Foster
Campaign for America’s Future

May 25, 2015 – While well-heeled conservatives watched Republican presidential candidates make their pitches for support in an Iowa convention hall at the GOP’s Lincoln Dinner on May 16, grassroots progressives gathered in a much less lavish college auditorium to discuss pressing issues for America’s struggling middle class.

The Iowa State Campus University in Ames, Iowa, was where people from more than 50 organizations (including co-sponsors of groups endorsing CAF’s Populism 2015 Platform) gathered for the Iowa Working Families Summit. The summit had a huge turnout of more than 600 people from all over the state. Their focus was on showing that progressive policies, such as investing in infrastructure, raising the minimum wage and strengthening labor unions, are the key path to American prosperity.

Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America and vice president of the AFL-CIO, elaborated on the cohesive ideas shared at the conference by the participating groups, and said he has never seen a “better statewide effort” to advance ideas important to American workers. He also explained how important it was for the groups to “get out of the silos and into the streets.”

“It’s not just about the choices of our candidates” Cohen said when asked about the impact of the conference on the 2016 elections. “It’s also about how we’re building our agenda for the middle class.”

The keynote speaker – Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor (1993-1997) – noted that the U.S. economy has grown twice as large in the past 30 years, but wages for the middle class have gone “nowhere,” due to a political system that rewards the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

Essentially, we have an economy “that’s rigged against the average working people.”

Reich emphasized that Americans in the middle class need to “stand up together,” and rebuild the strength of the middle class through raising support for labor unions, education, and infrastructure.

Sue Dinsdale, executive director of the Iowa Citizen Action Network, said her organization plans to build on the ideas considered at this past weekend’s summit. Throughout the upcoming election cycle, the organization plans to “take the summit on the road – take ideas out into communities and towns throughout Iowa, and to organize similar events.”

David Bacon–Streets of New York: work or no work

A David Bacon photoessay on life and work on the streets of New York


© David Bacon, 2015

Click on the photo to go to the entire essay

From Chinatown to midtown, Manhattan is part of a city that works, and also that doesn’t work. That is, it’s full of working people, but not everyone has a job. Some people work on the street, while others live and sleep on it. New York is not like the suburbs, or cities built around malls and cars. Everything and anything can happen in the streets here.

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The Great Democratic Crack-Up of 2016

Rep. Edwards speaking to defend and expand Social Security

They may have a strong presidential candidate, but at every other level, the party’s politicians and activists are fighting to survive — and fighting with one another.

By ROBERT DRAPER
New York Times Magazine

MAY 12, 2015 – Maryland might seem a peculiar venue for a blood feud over the future of the Democratic Party. It is the second-bluest state in the United States, after Massachusetts, according to Gallup; its registered Democrats, more than 30 percent of whom are black, outnumber registered Republicans two to one. Maryland is home to an immense federal work force and is one of the states most economically dependent on the federal government. Its gun-control laws are among the strictest in the nation. In 2012, Maryland and Maine became the first states to ratify same-sex marriage by popular vote. Barack Obama’s statewide margin of victory was roughly 26 points in 2008 and 2012, the fifth highest in the United States. The last time the G.O.P. won control of the Maryland State Legislature was in 1897. So reliable is its party affiliation that, as a Democratic senator’s chief of staff puts it, “If Maryland ever becomes a jeopardy state, then the whole thing is gone.”
Continue reading the main story

This past March, when Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in United States Senate history, unexpectedly announced that she would not be seeking a sixth term in 2016, national progressive groups quickly threw their weight behind their dream candidate: Donna Edwards. A pugnacious former community organizer, Edwards is a four-term African-American congresswoman from Prince George’s County, one of the most affluent majority-black counties in the United States. But she wasn’t the favorite of establishment Democrats.

For them, the obvious choice to replace Mikulski was the seven-term congressman Chris Van Hollen, who is considered a progressive like Edwards, but has a reputation for coolheaded practicality and for working well with Republicans. Of the bills sponsored by Van Hollen in the previous session of Congress, 37 percent included at least one Republican co-sponsor. For Edwards, the corresponding figure was 0 percent. Where she is viewed as a warrior for liberal causes, he is seen as a conciliator, one whose let’s-sit-down-and-talk-this-over geniality led to his tenure as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2007 to 2011 and, thereafter, to his designation as the House Democrats’ point man on bipartisan budget discussions. As their lead negotiator, Van Hollen has immersed himself in the sort of legislative sausage-making that typically entails compromise, like his expressed willingness, in 2012, to consider restructuring Social Security as part of an overall deficit-reduction agreement. To progressives, this was nothing less than apostasy.

Though the Senate Democratic primary was a year away, the national groups supporting Edwards knew that Van Hollen would be viewed as the prohibitive front-runner if they didn’t define the stakes of the contest immediately. Three of these groups — the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and Blue America — sent out a blizzard of fund-raising solicitations, petitions and emails to members and to the media, one of which hailed Edwards as “a true Elizabeth Warren Democrat,” referring to the U.S. senator from Massachusetts whose confrontational stances on economic issues have galvanized the left. Van Hollen received an altogether different reception. Within hours after he made his candidacy official on March 4, three other voices from the liberal wing of the party — MoveOn, Credo Action and Daily Kos, the website run by the activist Markos Moulitsas — openly questioned his progressive bona fides and implied that he was one of a breed of “corporate ‘New Democrats.’?” Moulitsas’s website declared that Van Hollen’s flexibility on Social Security amounted to “a major red flag,” making him “a candidate that may bargain away retirement security.” Edwards, meanwhile, entered the race pointedly pledging never to tamper with Social Security, “no ifs, ands, buts or willing-to-considers.”

Whichever Democratic candidate wins the primary next spring, he or she will be heavily favored to become the state’s next U.S. senator. Because of this, the Maryland contest is unlikely to hinge on which candidate can appeal to the broadest spectrum of voters on Election Day. Rather, it will be a fight over what a true Democrat should, and should not, be.  (Continued)

Congressional Progressive Caucus Plays Hard-to-Get with Hillary Clinton

Keith Ellison (D-MN) of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

Many progressives are withholding endorsements in the hopes of pushing her left.

By Lauren French
Politico

May 19, 2015 – More than 30 members of the House Progressive Caucus still aren’t ready to back Hillary Clinton’s campaign, saying she has a ways to go to show she would champion their agenda as president.

The resistance comes even as they acknowledge she’ll likely be the party’s nominee, and her campaign has mounted an early, aggressive courtship of lawmakers.

“Ultimately, she simply needs to … not [be] a Republican for me to endorse her,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chairman of the 70-member House Progressive Caucus. “I will support the Democratic nominee, there is no question about that. The real question is: What is going to make me get excited? I want to hear her talking about the most pressing issue in America today, which is the concentration of wealth at the top.”

Ellison and other House liberals hope that by holding out on a formal endorsement, they can nudge Clinton to the left, not only on income inequality but poverty, trade, criminal justice and college affordability — essentially, the Elizabeth Warren agenda. Progressive Caucus members have asked to meet with Clinton aides soon to discuss their policies.

So far, there are close to three dozen House progressives who already have endorsed Clinton. But most House liberals want to see a stronger commitment to their platform.

“I want her to declare a war on poverty,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. For Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the Progressive Caucus, it’s climate change and the role of government and trade. “Progressives are looking for definitive positions on the issues,” he said.

Both have withheld their endorsements, at least for now.

The resistance to her among liberals isn’t a direct threat to her campaign so much as another reminder of the wariness among the party base toward its presumed nominee. The lawmakers aren’t so disillusioned that they would get behind Martin O’Malley or Bernie Sanders. In the end, they’re all but sure to come around to Clinton, but like other activists on the left, they want her to earn it.

Still, their lack of enthusiasm for Clinton has practical implications. If she fails to energize progressives, it could depress turnout and hurt Democrats’ chances of eating into the GOP’s 245-seat House majority — a major priority for the party in an election year that should favor Democrats. (Continued)

Climate Change, Militarism, Neoliberalism and the State

An Interview with Christian Parenti by Vincent Emanuele

Truthout, May 17, 2015

On April 19, 2014, I sat down with author, journalist and professor Christian Parenti in Chicago. His work, which is wide-ranging and essential, explores some of the most powerful and brutal forces in our society: war, capitalism, prisons, policing and climate change. In this interview, we discussed ideology, climate change, Marxism, activism, the state, militarism, violence and the future. This is the first of a two-part interview.

Vincent Emanuele for Truthout: I’d like to begin by revisiting your 2011 book, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. Right around the time Tropic of Chaos was published, Syria was experiencing record drought and massive livestock and crop losses. The connections between neoliberalism, climate change and Cold War-era militarism, for you, were on full display. However, you’re clear in noting that climate change exacerbates pre-existing crises. In other words, climate change is not necessarily the driver of crises in Syria, or Afghanistan, for example. You call this process the "catastrophic convergence." Can you talk about these various themes in the context of the last four years since Tropic of Chaos was published?

Christian Parenti: Syria is a prime example. There has been a terrible drought there, which coincided with austerity measures imposed by the Assad government cutting aid to Sunni farmers. Many of them were forced to leave the land, partly due to drought, partly due to the lack of support to properly deal with the drought. Then, they arrive in cities, and there’s more austerity taking place. This is experienced as oppression by the Alawite elite against an increasingly impoverished Sunni proletariat who’ve been thrown off their land.

This situation then explodes as religious conflict, which is really the fusion of environmental crises with neoliberal economic policies. Of course, the violent spark to all of this is the fact that the entire region is flooded with weapons. Some of these weapons are from the Cold War, and some of those guns are from recent US militarism in the region. There were a lot of vets of the anti-US struggle in Iraq who are Syrian – Mujahideen veterans who went to Iraq and came back to Syria and started to fight. There were Syrians who were selling guns to Iraqi underground groups. These groups were buying their guns back, and re-importing them to Syria. My friend David Enders has reported on this really well.

So, it’s a perfect example of this catastrophic convergence: The landscape is littered with guns, hammered socially by increasingly market-fundamentalist politics, and at the same time, natural systems are beginning to buckle and break as climate change starts to accelerate. Part of what’s fueling the sectarian conflict in Iraq has to do with this convergence. There’s a very serious lack of water in southern Iraq, partly because Turkey has been taking more water than they should, but there’s also a decline in precipitation, misuse of water resources, etc. In the Shia heartland, life is tough. These young farmers get pulled into the struggle against the Sunni, with militias or within the Iraqi Army. That’s a better deal than trying to struggle on an increasingly decimated farm. But it’s hard to research a lot of this. The violence is so intense that it makes reporting on these issues virtually impossible. Those are some examples that immediately come to mind.

As you’re responding, I’m thinking of Yemen. Really, your book has forced me to constantly examine the underlying environmental context when thinking about conflicts, wars and violence. Yet, this dynamic is left out of the narrative in the mainstream media, and even in many alternative outlets.

People have been reporting on Sanaa’s water crisis for several years. Yemen’s environmental crises is partly fueling the current conflict. Similarly, Boko Haram is capitalizing on and partly produced by environmental crises in northern Nigeria. Large parts of the West African Sahel – meaning the wide arid belt at the bottom edge of the Sahara desert – have been experiencing all sorts of natural precipitation fluctuations; too much rain, too little, at the wrong times. This, plus rising temperatures, has led to increased climate migration, urbanization, poverty, and – surprise, surprise! – political desperation. These chaotic weather patterns are linked to climate change.

Along with environmental crisis, Boko Haram is the byproduct of the brutality of the Nigerian security forces, which have targeted Northern Nigerian Muslims with wide, undisciplined, sometimes almost indiscriminate terror campaigns. Add to that the total corruption of the Nigerian oil state and its inability and unwillingness to redistribute wealth and resources to marginalized populations, and it’s a perfect storm. And out of this drama comes that nightmare we call Boko Haram.

To answer your initial question, what’s new since publishing the book? Seems like more of the same is spreading. But, to be perfectly honest, I find it profoundly depressing to think about this stuff all the time. My research has moved on to other questions.

You focus a lot on the Global South in Tropic of Chaos, but you briefly mention the Global North as well. However, you mention that this catastrophic convergence is experienced in a much different way depending on where one is located. Can you explain these differences?

Climate violence in the Global North looks like counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations abroad, and xenophobic border policing and anti-immigrant repression at home. As we’re speaking, the US has battleships off the coast of Yemen, supporting the Saudi air offensive. Climate violence looks like the special operations base that was in Yemen before US forces were run out a few weeks ago. That base was there partly because of the instability caused by the growing climate crisis that is fueled by US militarism and neoliberalism. The media might not call counter-terror operations climate wars, but that’s certainly part of what drives them.

Similarly, anti-immigrant detention and policing increasingly have a climate angle. Migration is rarely described in terms of its root causes. What is it that drives people off the land and forces them to migrate north? War, environmental crisis, and neoliberal economic restructuring that, by opening markets and removing state supports to popular classes, have destroyed rural economies, peasant livelihoods, all over the world. Much of Latin America, particular Mexico and Central America, have been experiencing the chaotic weather associated with climate change, extreme droughts punctuated by flooding. People are forced by all these factors to seek a better life abroad.

The media might not call counter-terror operations climate wars, but that’s certainly part of what drives them.

Greeting them upon arrival in the Global North – be that Texas or Sicily – are the ideology and infrastructure of xenophobia and militarized policing. The right, both in Europe and the US, uses racist, fear-mongering, anti-immigrant rhetoric to great effect in mobilizing their constituencies. Remember, the right needs emotionally charged electoral spectacle, because their real agenda is the upward redistribution of wealth from the working classes to the rich. But right-wing politicians cannot run on that platform: there aren’t enough rich people. So, the right must appeal to the real fears of regular people, but they pander to these fears using fake issues. Thus in the right-wing imaginary, it’s not the erosion of social democracy and the rise of deregulated, deindustrialized, hyper-privatized, financialized, boom and bust, neoliberal capitalism that has fucked the common person. No, it is foreigners and immigrants. Unfortunately, this rhetoric works with many. (Continued)

Three ‘Yeses’, Three ‘Noes’: China’s Post-Cold War International Policy

China opposes alliance with any other

China opposes alliance with any other

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) and China’s President Xi Jinping attend a documents signing ceremony during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, May 8, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

By Wu Jianmin

China Daily, May 11, 2015

To say China and Russia are forging a new ideological bloc is simply absurd. The term "ideology" is misleading. What does it mean? No country in the world likes outside interference in its internal affairs, ideology or no ideology.

International law prescribes the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of another country. And one of the cardinal principles of China’s foreign policy is: No alliance with any other country.

China believes military alliances are a product of the Cold War. With the end of the Cold War, alliances have become obsolete. China used to have a military alliance with the Soviet Union, and it was an unpleasant experience.

In 1978, China adopted a new policy orientation called "reform and opening-up". Since then, China has entered a new period of growth. And its foreign policy is now the extension of its domestic policy. In line with its domestic policy that focuses on economic growth, China has designed a peaceful development strategy for its foreign policy.

What does peaceful development strategy mean? It means three "noes" and three "yeses". The first "no" is no expansion. China will never follow in the footsteps of the former colonial powers. The second is no hegemony. China will never follow the policies of the United States or the Soviet Union. The third is no alliance. China will never enter into a military alliance with any country.

The first "yes" is yes to peace. China has taken a huge undertaking to modernize itself. Peace is the sine qua non for development. The second is yes to development. China faces many problems and believes only development can help solve them. The third is yes to cooperation. China is aware that in a globalized world, no country can modernize itself in isolation. International cooperation is indispensable, and it is because of global cooperation over the past 36 years that China has achieved miraculous economic growth.

President Xi Jinping has been reiterating that China will stick to its peaceful development strategy, and it has no reason to deviate. True, over the past few years, cooperation between China and Russia has deepened on the basis of mutual benefit. But that is because the Chinese and Russian economies are highly complementary. China is a resource-poor country, while Russia is a resource-rich country, and they need each other.

The trade volume between China and Russia reached $95 billion last year, making up about 2 percent of China’s foreign trade. So, there is ample room for further development. Bu China is ready to build cooperation with other countries, too, on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. In this context, the growth of the China-US relationship is a case in point, as their trade volume reached $540 billion last year.

On the Ukraine crisis, China’s consistent position has been that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every country in the world should be respected. China believes the Ukraine crisis cannot be solved through military means and urges all relevant parties to seek a solution through diplomatic channels.

The author, former president of China Foreign Affairs University, is a member of Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Foreign Policy Advisory Committee of Chinese Foreign Ministry.

How A Ragtag Group Of Lefties Mainlined Debt-Free College Into The Democratic Primary

Could Progressive Change Campaign Committee help ignite the youth vote for Democrats?

By Sahil Kapur

Bloomberg Politics

May 8, 2015 – A group of two dozen young activists working out of homes and coffee shops around the country has achieved something rather unusual: mainlining an idea into the upper echelons of the Democratic Party—including its top presidential contenders—in just four months.

The phrase "debt-free college" was hardly present in the national political lexicon until the Progressive Change Campaign Committee launched a campaign in January to push Democrats to support the idea of federal assistance to help Americans graduate from college without debt.

Why this idea? The group concluded that the abysmal Democratic turnout in 2014 was due to a lack of bold ideas in the national debate that excited progressives. So it did some polling and found not only strong support but that helping lower the cost of college was the number one issue that would have moved Democratic turnout, said PCCC spokesman TJ Helmstetter. It’s easy to understand younger voters’ interest: Outstanding student loan debt is currently $1.16 trillion and rising, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, averaging $28,400 per college graduate.

"I’m hopeful that debt-free college is the next big idea." –Senator Chuck Schumer

The PCCC partnered with the left-leaning think tank Demos to write a white paper on the idea, which featured three components: federal aid to states to lower tuition costs, federal need-based aid to students, and other patchwork reforms to cut costs such as putting textbooks online.

Then the gears started turning.

In March, the 70-member Congressional Progressive Caucus endorsed debt-free college education in its budget blueprint. On April 21, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader-in-waiting, cosponsored a resolution embracing the idea with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz and the House progressive leaders.

"When it comes to making college affordable, I’m hopeful that debt-free college is the next big idea," Schumer said.

The presidential hopefuls also jumped aboard. On April 13, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders came out for making four-year public colleges free of tuition. Ten days later former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley e-mailed supporters to say that Democrats’ "ultimate goal should be simple: every student should be able to go to college debt-free." And this week Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager touted the idea—down to the exact phrase. "What voters are looking for is someone to be a champion for everyday people. For young people, that’s debt-free college," Robby Mook said Wednesday on CNBC.

Outdoing Obama

The plan is more sweeping than recent Democratic proposals. President Barack Obama in March signed a "Student Aid Bill of Rights" to order federal agencies to explore ways to offer students more repayment options and help them better understand their loan plans. On the legislative end, he has proposed two years of free community college, at a cost of $60 billion to the government. Warren has pushed a bill to slash interest rates for undergraduates and post-graduates. Both have gone nowhere in Congress. (Continued)

Bernie Sanders’s Presidential Bid Represents a Long Tradition of American Socialism

Long deployed by the right as an epithet, this form of left-wing populism is as American as apple pie.

By Peter Dreier
Progressive America Rising via American Prospect

Now that Bernie Sanders has entered the contest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Americans are going to hearing a lot about socialism, because the 73-year old U.S. senator from Vermont describes himself as a “democratic socialist.”

“Ever since I was a kid I never liked to see people without money or connections get put down or pushed around,” Sanders explained in making his announcement. “When I came to Congress I tried to be a voice for people who did not have a voice—the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor. And that is what I will be doing as a candidate for president.”

We can expect the right-wing echo chamber—including Fox News hosts, Tea Party politicians, and Rush Limbaugh—to attack Sanders for espousing an ideology that they’ll likely describe as foreign, European, and un-American.

But Sanders’s views are in sync with a longstanding American socialist tradition. Throughout our history, some of the nation’s most influential activists and thinkers, such as Jane Addams, John Dewey, Helen Keller, W.E.B. DuBois, Albert Einstein, Walter Reuther, Martin Luther King, and Gloria Steinem, embraced socialism.  

Of course, America’s right-wingers say there’s already a socialist in the White House. For the past seven years, Barack Obama’s opponents—the Republican Party, the Tea Party, the right-wing blogosphere, , and conservative media gurus like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh—labeled anything Obama proposed, including his modest health-care reforms and his efforts to restore regulations on Wall Street, as “socialism.”

In March 2009, two months after Obama took office, the ultra-conservative National Review put a picture of the new president on its cover over the headline, “Our Socialist Future.” In 2010, Newt Gingrich authored To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine. Stanley Kurtz, a regular contributor to conservative publications and frequent guest on Fox News, published Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism.  These are only a few of the many right-wingers fulminating against Obama’s alleged socialist views.

Obama joked about this in his recent speech at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.  “I like Bernie. Bernie’s an interesting guy,” said Obama, referring to Sanders. “Apparently, some folks want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all.”

President Franklin Roosevelt faced similar allegations. His conservative enemies, including some members of Congress, consistently called him a socialist. In a speech defending his New Deal goals, FDR said: “A few timid people, who fear progress, will try to give you new and strange names for what we are doing. Sometimes they will call it ‘Fascism’, sometimes ‘Communism’, sometimes ‘Regimentation’, sometimes ‘Socialism’. But, in so doing, they are trying to make very complex and theoretical something that is really very simple and very practical.”  (Continued)

Baltimore: Race, Class and Uprisings

A protester on a bicycle thrusts his fist in the air next to a line of police, in front of a burning CVS drug store, during clashes in Baltimore, Maryland April 27, 2015. This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: http:/, Reuters

By Bill Fletcher Jr
TeleSUR via Portside

April 30, 2015 – A broad united front for justice and power, in addition to protesting atrocities, is guided by a sense of hope and a vision of a new day.

It is not enough for us on the Left to comment favorably on the right of oppressed to rebel, to validate the rage that took a very destructive form. Rather, we must support those that engaged in efforts to redirect the rage to preserve their communities as part of a larger movement for justice for Freddie Gray.

A protester on a bicycle thrusts his fist in the air next to a line of police, in front of a burning CVS drug store, during clashes in Baltimore, Maryland April 27, 2015. This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: http:/, Reuters,

There was little about the Baltimore uprising following the funeral of the murdered Freddie Gray that surprised me. Tensions had been building ever since word broke that he had died after his spine was severed while in police custody. It was not just that this atrocity had taken place under the most suspicious of circumstances, but that the city government appeared nothing short of anemic in its response.

It did not surprise me that Black youth took to the streets in rage or that there were opportunists within the mobs that took advantage of the strife in order to carry out thefts. It was a riot or uprising. It was not an insurrection and it had neither an ideology nor coherent leadership.

What I found most noteworthy in recent events is something that received limited coverage: the fact that there were organized groupings of men and women who were actively working to redirect the anger of the youth away from the destruction of their neighborhoods. The Nation of Islam, for instance, deployed its members to walk the streets, speak with the youth, and attempt to dissuade them from violence. It was not alone. There were other groups, including gangs as well as ad hoc community groups that set out to both protest the police killing of Freddie Gray but also to try to convince the young rebels that there needed to be a different path. (Continued)

Playing the Rightwing Populism Card

Enter Scott Walker, Stage Right

Thomas B. Edsall
Progressive America Rising via New York Times

April 29, 2015 – As Scott Walker has transformed himself from a three-time statewide winner in blue-leaning Wisconsin to a hard-right Republican primary candidate, he has jumped to the head of the pack in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Walker’s re-creation of his political identity is a test of whether a Republican presidential candidate can win on the basis of decisive margins among whites (while getting crushed among minority voters).

Walker hopes to stand apart from Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor, and Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, who are both taking a more centrist approach. Walker intends to stake out the right side of the Republican spectrum and trump competitors for this niche like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Even as he shifts to the right, however, Walker, a preternaturally careful candidate, is avoiding any explicit suggestion that he is the champion of disaffected white voters. Still, key policy positions — particularly his changing stance on immigration and his attacks on public sector unions — reveal a thoughtfully directed appeal. In 2011, Walker successfully sponsored legislation repealing most collective bargaining rights for government employees. Walker’s anti-union initiative has made him a folk hero to conservatives concerned about what they see as the expanding power of government.

In a recent paper, “The Whiteness of Wisconsin’s Wages,” Dylan Bennett, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, and Hannah Walker, a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Washington, argue that “Governor Walker and his allies activated the racial animus of white workers.”

Bennett and Walker contend that gutting the power of public sector unions serves as a vehicle to disempower African-American workers, “for whom the public sector is the single most important source of employment.” (Continued)