Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Offers Advice for GOP House Members on Dealing with Protesters

When Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker saw the zombies approaching, he wanted to scream.

Of course, they weren’t real zombies. The year was 2011. The scene was a Special Olympics charity torch run, an event held each year in partnership with local law enforcement to raise money for children with developmental disabilities, an event at which Walker had been slated to speak. Despite the many thousands of protesters who had been dogging Walker since the passage of his administration’s innovative, budget-balancing Act 10, the governor did not expect protestors to show up screaming and raving at a Special Olympics event.

Was he ever wrong.

But he really didn’t expect them to show up dressed as zombies.

“The instinct I had standing up there was to lash out, to say, ‘What the hell is wrong with you people? Zombies? Really?’ But I kept my calm,” Walker told an audience at a Daily 202 live event held by the Washington Post last Friday.

“When I looked at the Special Olympic athletes, they were still engaged with what I was saying, and it turned out great because that night on the news the story wasn’t about me screaming at protestors. Instead, it was about how some tasteless protestors showed up dressed as zombies and tried to scare Special Olympic athletes,” the governor said.

“When I looked at the Special Olympic athletes, they were still engaged with what I was saying, and it turned out great because that night on the news the story wasn’t about me screaming at protestors.”

That moment was a turning point, one that taught Walker a lesson he now wishes to spread to Republican members of Congress currently facing down their own hordes of protesters.

Keep calm; stay steady. As Walker himself learned first hand, the noise of demonstrators does not invalidate the voices of the majority of the citizenry that elected these House members — and their corresponding agendas — into office.

“And the people in my state eventually came to see,” Walker said, “that even though they may not have agreed with our policy points all the time, they nevertheless looked at all the crazy, over-the-top stuff the protestors were doing and said, ‘Hey, that doesn’t represent me,’ and they begin to be more open to our philosophy and our conservative principles.”

“even though they may not have agreed with our policy points all the time, they nevertheless looked at all the crazy, over-the-top stuff the protestors were doing and said, ‘Hey, that doesn’t represent me,’ and they begin to be more open to our philosophy and our conservative principles.”

Ultimately, the best course of action is for House members to listen, listen and listen some more, Walker said.

“If you have a town hall event slated to last an hour, better make it three hours,” he advised.

(Credit: Washington Post)

(Credit: Washington Post)

And once all the screaming subsides, what will remain is the work that still needs to be done. That’s the important part, at least in Walker’s experience.
“Steady, determined and consistent: that’s how you get things done,” Walker concluded. “These things take time, but if we follow those principles, we’ll see real progress ahead.”

Evan Smith is a Staff Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @Evansmithreport.