Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is struggling to fight off a determined effort to replace him in an extraordinary recall election scheduled for June 5. The original reason more than 900,000 Wisconsinites signed petitions to get him out of office was his signature on a bill that stripped most public employees of their collective bargaining rights. But, every few weeks, Mr. Walker provides new grounds for becoming the third American governor to be removed by his own electorate.
The most recent came last week, when he signed the repeal of a 2009 law allowing the victims of wage discrimination to pursue damages in state court, which is generally easier than filing a federal complaint. The principal reason for the original law was to narrow a significant gap in compensation between men and women. At the time the law was passed, women earned an average of 75 cents for every $1 men earned; by 2010, after the law was passed, the average for women had edged up to about 78 cents.
By closing off this important avenue to state courts to women, Mr. Walker was acceding to the lobbying demands of business groups, including hotel and restaurant trade groups that employ large numbers of women in low-paying jobs and do not wish their wage scale to be challenged in court. (He called it a “gravy train” for trial lawyers.) That’s the kind of thing he’s been doing since he took office in 2011, and it’s an important reason why he was warmly embraced during the Wisconsin presidential primary last month by Mitt Romney, who won that state.
“I applaud your governor,” said Mr. Romney, who also called him a “hero” and a “man of courage.” Mr. Romney’s campaign has its own problems with issues of pay equity. On Wednesday morning, his staff could not answer a simple question about whether Mr. Romney supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first federal law signed by President Obama, in 2009, which makes it easier for women to sue for pay discrimination.
A few hours later, the Romney campaign put out a bland statement saying he supports pay equity and “is not looking to change current law.” But many elements of the Republican Party are eagerly looking to change the law. If Mr. Romney is elected and a Republican-led Congress presents him with a bill overturning the Ledbetter act, would he sign it, following the path of his hero, Mr. Walker? That question went unanswered, just as the campaign never said whether it supported Mr. Walker’s repeal.
The Romney campaign sent out several statements on Wednesday from Republican women making the misleading claim that women had been disproportionately hurt by Mr. Obama’s economic policies. That concern lacks credibility, considering that several of those women voted against the Ledbetter act, including Representatives Mary Bono Mack and Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
Mr. Romney has also said he wants to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, just as Mr. Walker ended state financing for nine Planned Parenthood clinics in Wisconsin last year. Mr. Romney’s disregard for the welfare and leading concerns of women is costing the presumptive Republican nominee support among women.
He may try to roll back these positions toward the center for the general election this fall, but voters should be skeptical. As Mr. Walker’s actions show, they are at the core of Republican ideology.