Scott Walker is a wingnut dream. He opposes abortion, including in cases of rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother. He backs sexual abstinence education in public schools. He also supports the right of pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives on the religious or moral grounds, and opposes stem cell research using human embryos.
Wisconsin may seem to the rest of the country like an unlikely catalyst, but to people who have watched the governor’s political rise through the years, the events of the week feel like a Scott Walker rerun, though on a much larger screen and with a much bigger audience.
Critics and supporters alike say Mr. Walker has never strayed from his approach to his political career: always pressing for austerity, and never blinking or apologizing for his lightning-rod proposals.
He regularly clashed with the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors over the past decade when he was that county’s elected executive. He pushed to privatize cleaning and food service workers and sought changes to pension and health contributions and workers’ hours. At one point, he proposed that the county government might want to consider, in essence, abolishing itself. It was redundant, he suggested.
“All I can think is, here we go again,” said Chris Larson, one of 14 Democratic state senators who fled Wisconsin last week to block a vote on Mr. Walker’s call to cut benefits. Mr. Larson knows the governor well, having served on Milwaukee County’s board when Mr. Walker was the executive. He says that Mr. Walker is a nice guy on a personal level, “a good listener,” but that his politics are another matter.
“Unions have always been his piñata, over and over,” Mr. Larson said. “And this time I think he’s trying to out-right-wing the right wing on his way to the next lily pad.”
Mr. Walker’s supporters cheer the governor for what they see as delivering on the campaign pledge of frugality that got him elected in November and forced a surprising makeover, at all levels of government in the state, from Democrats to Republicans.
“This doesn’t faze me one bit,” Mr. Walker said Friday as thousands of protesters from around the country marched and screamed and filled every unguarded cranny of the Capitol, just as they had all week.
He said he had seen plenty of labor protesters before. Crowds of them in green T-shirts once even showed up when he presented a Milwaukee County budget proposal — one of nine proposals in a row, he boasts now, that included no tax increase over the rate the board had settled on the year before.
“I’m not going to be intimidated,” Mr. Walker said, “particularly by people from other places.”