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McCarthy writes: "The Republican presidential candidate's call for an amendment to the US constitution divides his family and could make Wall Street donors shy away."

Scott Walker and Barack Obama. (photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Scott Walker and Barack Obama. (photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Scott Walker's Response on Gay Marriage May Alienate Donors - And His Own Sons

By Tom McCarthy, Guardian UK

07 July 15


The Republican presidential candidate’s call for an amendment to the US constitution divides his family and could make Wall Street donors shy away

one of the 16 declared or likely Republican presidential candidates came out in favour of the supreme court’s ruling backing gay marriage last month, but one candidate stood out for the stridency of his opposition: Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin.

Calling the ruling a “grave mistake”, Walker issued a bristling statement that picked a fight not only with the decision but with the supreme court as an institution, dismissing the majority as “five unelected judges” with “political agendas”.

It is comments like these that have made Walker such an exciting potential candidate for conservative donors who have watched his struggle in Wisconsin against public-sector unions with admiration. Walker, who is expected to launch his presidential campaign next week, does not just use fighting words. He has shown that he means what he says – and is willing to draw blood.

As such Walker can be divisive, and on this issue he has proven himself so even among his own family.

Both of Walker’s sons challenged their father after the supreme court ruling, according to Walker’s wife, Tonette Walker, who spoke with the Washington Post in a revealing interview published at the weekend. She said she herself was “torn” over the issue.

“That was a hard one,” Tonette Walker said of the same-sex marriage ruling. “Our sons were disappointed … I was torn. I have children who are very passionate, and Scott was on his side very passionate.

“It’s hard for me because I have a cousin who I love dearly – she is like a sister to me – who is married to a woman, her partner of 18 years.”

The Republican party has a long history, from former vice-president Dick Cheney to senators Rob Portman and Jeff Flake to former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, of politicians’ kids leading their parents on marriage equality. The phenomenon reflects a generational gap on the issue.

For Walker the issue is especially loaded, however, because it represents more than a family conflict. It points to a key challenge as he seeks to expand his regional base in the northern midwest: will he prove versatile enough on the campaign trail to appeal to people who were not born agreeing with him?

The country has left Walker – and the rest of the Republican leadership – behind on marriage equality, with a record 60% of Americans now in favor, according to a Gallup survey from before the recent supreme court ruling.

The two Republican candidates who are demonstrating, at this very early stage, the broadest national appeal subtly bowed to those numbers in their responses last month to the Obergefell v Hodges ruling, going out of their way not to pick a fight.

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and brother of former president George W Bush, said that “we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments”.

Marco Rubio, the current Florida senator, included a line about how “every American has the right to pursue happiness as they see fit”.

Walker, by contrast, called for the extraordinary step of amending the US constitution – something that has happened only twice since the civil rights era of the mid-1960s – to block gay marriage, saying that an amendment was “the only alternative left for the American people”.

That intransigence could add up to difficulty with donors for Walker, too, according to reporting by Politico. The Wisconsin governor enjoys a regional base of support in the wealthy Koch and Ricketts families, big donors who share an enthusiasm for Walker’s fiscal purity. But Walker has failed to gain comparable traction among influential Republican donors on Wall Street, who are skeptical about his moral purity.

There are signs that Walker may yet modulate his message. He told the Post that his family’s input on marriage equality had encouraged him to find “a different way of explaining it, so they can appreciate where I am coming from”.

He added: “It doesn’t mean I change my position.” your social media marketing partner
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