As it becomes evident that Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, might throw his hat into the ring of contenders vying for the Republican nomination for president, his education, or lack thereof, has become the focal point for opponents. Walking away from Marquette University within a semester of getting his diploma makes some question his ability to lead. Walker, on the other hand, is giving it a big old Wheel of Fortune spin and touting this fact as a positive.
His logic makes sense. If you look back at the last three presidents, going back almost a quarter of a century, there is a common denominator. No one running for that office wants to be associated with those leaving the office. "I'm not like him" has become the calling card for everyone seeking the highest office in the land. The more you can ring true to that theme, the more we're going to love you.
When Al Gore sought the White House, he made sure to politely ask Bill Clinton to stay as far away from him as possible. It might be the first time in history a sitting president has not campaigned for his VP. But Gore could ill afford any connection to interns playing Who's the Humidor in the Oval Office.
Eight years later, John McCain tried to avoid even being in the same state as then president, George W. Bush. He and Sarah Palin took the terms "Maverick", "Rogue", and "Washington Outsider" to new heights in an attempt to separate themselves from the Iraq War and doomed economy.
With the 2016 election quickly approaching, Barack Obama's record will no doubt be picked apart and presented as the worst in history. Republican potentials that can distant themselves the most from Obama might have the most appeal, which makes Scott Walker suddenly seem like a genius for not getting his college degree.
I've often wondered if some of our aspiring politicians went to war to pad their resumes. John Kerry, for example, could have probably gotten out of going to Vietnam. He could have stayed stateside with George W. Bush while guarding the Texas state line from Charlie. But his military record aided his campaign, and he displayed it proudly.
So the question is: could Scott Walker have been that enlightened so many years ago to know that not having a college degree could actually help him win the White House?
Barack Obama graduated from Columbia University and Harvard. George W. Bush has degrees from Harvard and Yale. Bill Clinton from Georgetown University and Yale. So, if being "not like him" is the call for a new president, suddenly Scott Walker is the sanest choice.
The problem is, a piece of paper from a university no more makes one an elitist than a medal makes one a hero. If a soldier saves lives in war, he's a hero whether he gets a medal or not. Being an elitist has to do with actions, not degrees.
To be honest, I'm not really sure about Governor Scott Walker. He came from a blue-collar family, so that's a good sign. He lives seven blocks from me, so it's not a millionaire neighborhood.
Looking at his professional record as Governor, however, clouds that perception even more. After Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy and the price tag of two wars threw every state budget into disarray, Walker made national headlines by taking a unique stand to balance the budget. But he didn't go after the rich; he went after working-class employees and took away their bargaining power. That kind of makes it hard to present yourself as an anti-elitist.
In his most recent tax cuts, the top 20% of earners, those making $88,000 or more a year, receive 44% of the benefit, whereas the bottom 20%, those making $21,000 or less, receive only 5% of the benefit. (Source: jsonline) So again, for someone who claims to be a friend to the working class and not an elitist, his actions seem to suggest differently.
According to dictionary.com, one description of an elitist is "a person who believes in the superiority of an elitist class." So the question that opponents will need to answer is: does this coincide with Walker's actions as the governor of Wisconsin?
We'll just have to wait and see how it plays out for him. But one thing is certain, having a college degree, once thought of as a necessity for most upper-level careers, including holding the most powerful office in the world, might suddenly seem like a cross to bear as Scott Walker attempts to demonstrate how that little document has screwed up our country for over two decades.