In Scott Walker's book, he says he hearts Ronald Reagan so much that he convinced his then-fiancée Tonnette, who also happened to be a Democrat at the time, to get married on the Gipper's birthday, which falls on one of the coldest, dreariest days of the year in Wisconsin: February 6 (every bride's dream).
And it gets better: Every year the cute couple celebrates Reagan's birthday––I mean, their anniversary––by having friends over, singing patriotic songs, and eating Ronald Reagan's favorite dish––macaroni and cheese casserole––with a side of jelly beans.
That's what Walker does on his wedding anniversary.
The remaining 364 days a year are even more bizarre. Walker performs a one-man show in which he’s cast himself in the part of Reagan. The shtick is best described as one-part performance art, one-part obsessive devotion, and one-part fan fiction.
The problem, though, is that Walker's simplistic childhood memories of Reagan don't come close to getting it right. Scott Walker isn't really Reagan, but rather, someone who is obsessed about wanting others to perceive him as Reagan.
And that's where things get weird.
At a recent visit to Reagan library, Walker met with Nancy Reagan and told her about all the amazing similarities between him and the husband she lost in 2004, including that Walker's recall election occurred on June 5, which also just happens to be the anniversary Reagan's death. When Walker re-tells this eerie coincidence, he says it gives him a "shiver just thinking about it."
Walker also has Reagan's trait of always being very optimistic. How do we know? Because Walker constantly tells every other person he meets that he's "very optimistic!"
And, of course, Reagan was tough on unions and showed them who was boss when he fired the striking air traffic controllers. True, Reagan would never be mistaken for a great friend of labor, but Walker has extrapolated meaning from Reagan's actions so far into la-la land that even Reagan would be shocked at how untethered Walker has become.
Keep in mind, this was the same Reagan who campaigned against Right to Work when he was running for governor of California and––here's a shocker––didn't then turn around and orchestrate its passage when he became governor. And the same Governor Reagan that presided over the extension of collective bargaining rights to state and local workers.
Yes, Reagan did fire air traffic controllers when they went on strike, and that arguably was a huge factor in labor's overall decline since, but even the PATCO strike has lost all nuance over the years. Few remember that the air traffic controllers endorsed Reagan in the 1980 election after he pledged to improve the "deplorable state of our nation's air traffic control system." In one of the biggest miscalculations in American history, PATCO thought kicking the contract negotiations up to Reagan with a strike would be a good thing.
Remember also that the PATCO strike came to Reagan after the FAA had made concessions and offered a contract with pay increases, while Walker in his own words "dropped the bomb" on public workers in 2011, explicitly telling someone he thought was David Koch that he wanted to re-create Reagan's conflict with the PATCO union: "This is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history," he said in that conversation.
Reagan grossly overreacted to PATCO's decision to strike, but at least afterwards he made a point of saying that he felt bad about doing it, and attempted to rationalize it as something that had to be done to end a growing tide of federal worker strikes. That's a far cry from Scott Walker and his incessant "Unintimidated" braggadocio that vilifies teachers, snowplow drivers, and other public servants, in the face of no labor unrest whatsoever.
Plus, as Georgetown history professor Joseph McCartin points out, "In the PATCO case (and in other negotiations), Reagan never challenged government workers' rights to bargain, only their right to strike illegally." Walker? He essentially killed collective bargaining for public sector unions and has said repeatedly that public unions should not have the ability to bargain.
Walker is now even saying that his union-busting Reagan moves are so scary that ISIS and other terrorists will be frightened into submission––you know, just like how Reagan fired the PATCO workers and it frightened the Soviet Union into tearing down the Berlin Wall.
Historical accuracy be damned! Like a sweaty nine-year-old in Underoos practicing the signature kicks and punches of his favorite superhero, Walker continues to pound away at unions like they are comic book villains, with the misguided belief that his Reagan performance art is good government.
Jud Lounsbury is a political reporter based in Madison, Wisconsin. Previously, Lounsbury served as a press secretary for several politicians and organizations, including Russ Feingold, Tom Harkin, and Al Gore's Iowa campaign.