The purpose of government is "to bring people together," not "divide and conquer," former President Clinton told a crowd in Milwaukee Friday, rallying support for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) in his attempt to unseat Gov. Scott Walker (R) in the state’s first-ever recall election.
“When people are uncertain and afraid, it’s easy to get them confused and divided,” Clinton said. “If [the Walker administration] had been in control, there wouldn’t be a constitution. Go back and read the debates — they were vigorous and tough, but the goal was to come to an agreement and to bring people together.”
Democrats have pounced on Walker for using the term “divide and conquer” in a video that surfaced of the governor talking to a wealthy donor about legislation against public employee unions. Walker’s controversial legislation to limit public employee bargaining rights is what sparked the recall.
Clinton hammered on the “divide and conquer” theme throughout his speech.
“Constant conflict is a dead-bang loser and you need to get rid of it,” he said. “This is a big deal and it’s not about Republicans and Democrats or traditional conservatives and liberals … to have a divide and conquer strategy is nuts … that is what is wrong with America today and that is not a road back, that is a road to a dead end.”
Walker holds a 7 percent lead heading into next Tuesday’s election and has benefited from a massive fundraising advantage, while Democrats have bemoaned the amount of out-of-state dollars that have poured in on Walker’s behalf.
Walker and Barrett went hard at one another in their second and final debate on Thursday night, and Democrats are hopeful that Clinton, who won the state in both of his presidential elections, will energize the base in the final days.
“If you go anywhere in America today, a lot of places that are already back — they all have one thing in common,” Clinton continued. “They’re involved in creative cooperation, not constant conflict.”
At times, Clinton adopted some of the Obama campaign’s messaging, saying Wisconsinites need “shared responsibility and shared sacrifice, not winner take all.” But some Democrats are worried that the recall election will galvanize the GOP base in Wisconsin and tilt it toward Republicans in the fall, although President Obama has recently extended his lead into the double digits over Mitt Romney in the state.
Clinton touched on other topics that have come to the national forefront, including how voter registration laws affect minorities and what he says is a sudden about-face by Republicans who are now against government investment in infrastructure.
Democrats are hopeful that Clinton’s appearance isn’t too late to have an impact. Many had pushed for Obama to show up for Barrett in a state that has become the nexus of the country’s ideological divide, and were upset that the Party didn’t invest more money on their behalf in the recall election.