A few years back, I wrote a piece explaining my observation that the Republican Party has had a war on education for at least the past 72 years, ever since they took on Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson in 1952 as being "an egghead," in other words...smart. And has continued through the years up to George W. Bush proclaiming "No Child Left Behind" and then not funding it, and almost-proudly pushing today's mistrust of science.
But Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) may have topped them all -- which is no small things, since it includes Richard Nixon putting college students high on his Enemies List -- continuing the GOP tradition of demeaning education by proposing a $300 million cut from the budget of the University of Wisconsin over the next two years, a slashing of 13%.
I don't know if this seems like a lot to most people or not, so let's put it into terms that are easier to grasp --
Rebecca M. Blank, chancellor of the university's Madison campus, the largest in the state system, told the New York Times that the cuts being proposed by Mr. Walker were so massive that if she completely eliminated five schools — nursing, business, law, pharmacy and veterinary medicine — she would "still have to find other ways to trim costs."
I can see his campaign slogan already -- "Let's eliminate debt and America's future."
Most analysis of the governor's proposals has suggested that they were made, not so much for any substantive reason, but rather to separate him from the pack of his rivals hoping to get the GOP nomination for president. In other words, it's largely a political maneuver, gutting the state's college education system for political gain.
As craven as some people might see that, it might almost be less so than the fact that Gov. Walker was out of the country, on his "See, I have foreign credentials" traipse to London when the announcement was made. Some might consider that cowardly, though most likely Mr. Walker just looks at it as a quirk in the time warp continuum.
As you might imagine, there has been a rise of outrage in many parts of the state. So, with the Republican Party still in control of the statehouse, we'll have to see how this all plays out, following the governor's earlier efforts to gut unions.
I suspect that in some ways this will play well to the conservative base of the Republican Party, on board with hating education and college students and the concept of people trying to be smart. Most presidential candidates, however, prefer to do everything possible not to have any controversy back in their home state while campaigning, and that simply isn't going to happen with this in Wisconsin, where protests have already begun, so it might prove a problem for the governor.
How it will play with the general public is another matter entirely. In recent years, Republican candidates have made it a tradition to run as far to the radical right as they possibly can in order to get their party's nomination, and then try desperately to somehow get back to the center for the general election . Once upon a time, some candidates had success with that. But as the GOP has gotten more and more and more fringe conservative, it's meant the farther to the right candidates have had to go, thereby making it a challenge to find the chewy nougat center. It ended up crushing Mitt Romney.
But presidential politics aside...what a galling action to take. Just what America needs today in the growing competition of a world economy -- a less-educated generation.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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