Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)
Those seeking words to soothe bruised Wisconsin Democrats may want to steer clear of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who did nothing to diminish her reputation for dishing out red meat as she reacted in typically colorful fashion to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in the rancorous Wisconsin recall election.
“I think Wisconsin voters are sick and tired of the division that’s been caused by the radical left, saying it’s big-government growth that’s going to be the answer to economic challenges,” Palin said Tuesday evening.
The former Alaska governor relished Walker’s victory as a win for fiscal restraint and smaller government, and predicted that it would be a none-too-welcome harbinger for Democrats in November, particularly in light of the fact that President Obama — save for a last-minute tweet — did not personally get involved in the race. That absence, claimed Palin, was not a choice but a necessity.
“I think the Democrats understand that the president’s ‘no show’ represents the fact that Obama’s goose is cooked,” Palin said during a 15-minute interview on Fox News, where she is employed as a commentator. “This vote embracing austerity and fiscal responsibility is the complete opposite of what President Obama and the White House represents today…. Well, Wisconsin wasn’t gonna put up with that, the rest of the nation won’t put up with that. He had to stay away.”
Palin also described pro-recall union leaders as “thugs,” said she had “not an ounce of empathy or sympathy” for the losing side in the hard-fought campaign.
She knocked the president’s “lapdogs in the leftist media” for making the recall a front-page story “for months and months.” (Walker, however, benefited tremendously from the avalanche of attention. Wisconsin recall law enabled him to raise unlimited funds starting months ahead of his opponent. He brought in at least $30 million — most of it from outside the state – far outstripping the fundraising of his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who raised $4 million.)
When Fox host Greta Van Susteren asked Palin how Walker, who is still governor of all Wisconsin’s citizens, including union members and Democrats, might work to heal wounds, Palin was not inclined to be conciliatory.
“Maybe it’s the union leadership,” said Palin, “those thugs who wanted to deceive their members into believing that growing government was the answer. Well, perhaps it’s those union leaders who need to be recalled and replaced with those who understand what perhaps a union role could be in state government – not a selfish role, not a role that allows government to continue to grow and create an insolvent situation for a state.”
Palin, who has sought to maintain her influence with tea party and conservative voters by making endorsements in a number of political races after announcing last fall that she would not run for president, is no stranger to divisive Wisconsin politics.
In April 2011, as Walker’s ultimately successful plan to balance his state’s deficit by dismantling the collective bargaining process for Wisconsin’s public employees began generating national attention (and eventually led to the recall effort), Palin appeared at a boisterous tea party rally outside the Wisconsin Capitol.
Introduced by Andrew Breitbart (who passed away in March), who told hecklers to “go to hell,” Palin famously declared that Republicans should learn to “fight like a girl.” She co-opted a well-known gay rights slogan to slam Obama’s record: “And hey, media, it’s not inciting violence and it’s not hateful rhetoric to call someone out on their record, so that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do it to be clear. That’s right: We’re here, we’re clear, get used to it!”
On Tuesday, Palin maintained that Walker’s victory was a repudiation of the president.
“Things aren’t looking real good for President Obama,” Palin said. “The people are going to say, ‘Enough of this hope-y, change-y stuff. It was nebulous, it was fake, it was hypocritical and we’re ready to go in a different direction with a new leader of America.’ ”