Governor Walker has a terrible problem that no one is talking about. He is an awful negotiator.
This goes to the core of his political problems. It is the one skill that is absolutely fundamental for a politician in a democracy. And he doesn’t know how to do it.
People who can’t negotiate often do one of two things, depending on the strength of their bargaining position. Either they walk all over the other party and create lasting ill-will and enmity that will become an obstacle to achieving future goals, or they give away the farm to anyone who makes them feel good enough about themselves.
I am astonished that the pro-business groups that supported Walker’s election didn’t and still don’t see this. Or it may be that they did see but considered themselves to be in the latter category, the soon-to-be recipients of the farm.
Unfortunately for them, Governor Walker had to walk all over some other interests in order to get rewards for his supporters, and the result has been a political firestorm.
Apparently forgetting about another business concept, “sunk costs,” they’ve decided that the only way to rescue their investment is to double-down and invest in his recall campaign too.
But surviving a recall won’t magically bestow negotiating skills upon Walker and his hold on the legislature has weakened, taking his bargaining strength with it. That means Wisconsin is increasingly likely to see the kind of inaction and stalemates that characterized Milwaukee County politics when Walker was the County Executive.
His stint as Executive ended in financial disaster for Milwaukee, a result that Walker blamed on some of the politicians that he had to work with, in other words, blamed on his inability to negotiate with them.
Walker has demonstrated this inability visibly and well. It’s right in front for all of Wisconsin’s citizens to see, if they would stop fighting about the issues long enough to notice.
This fatal flaw isn’t going to go away and it means that no one will get what they want, unless political conflict is its own reward.
Image: “Just Another Saturday in Wisconsin” by Flickr profile Jonbloy