For Scott Walker, the pattern is clear:
The man who stood up to his state's most powerful special interest groups is also the man who, when summoned to a cronyfest in Iowa, rolled over on ethanol and then tried to weasel his way out of a flip-flop.
The man who proudly ran as a conservative and won three statewide elections in four years against floods of out-of-state money and a storm of media antagonism is the man who fired a campaign aide last night because she once criticized Iowa for its dependence on federal subsidies.
The pattern is this: Scott Walker will stand up and fight the special interests, if they're already his sworn political enemies. But when he gets pushed around by a political power broker, or a well-heeled lobby group that's "on our side," Walker rolls over.
Many conservatives first sensed this pattern in January when Walker, a former staunch opponent of ethanol mandates, travelled to the Iowa Ag Forum and said he wanted to keep the ethanol mandate until the alcohol-based fuel was on a more equal footing with gasoline. (Read: forever.)
Walker confirmed this suspicion Tuesday night when he fired Liz Mair, the campaign advisor he had just hired.
When Walker announced Mair's hire, local media reported Mair's tweets about Iowa caucuses causing Republicans to embarrass themselves with odes to wind and ethanol subsidies.
Iowa's Republican Chairman responded by calling on Walker to "send her her walking papers."
Walker, within hours, complied. He fired Mair. (Technically, he "accepted Mair's resignation," but nobody believes that.)
This pattern is so damning of Walker, because there's no way we can expect it to end with Iowa. He rolls over for the special interests on "our side," which is exactly the problem with today's GOP writ large.
One of the worst maladies plaguing the Republican Party today is its corporatism and obeisance to K Street.
Republican cronyism and corporatism is why the party doesn't consistently support limited government (see Medicare Part D, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export-Import Bank, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, sugar, ethanol, farm subsidies, et cetera), and why the party lacks credibility when they wave the free-enterprise flag to justify tax cuts or deregulation favored by the business lobby.
Republican corporatism and cronyism is why the GOP can't reach out to swing voters, whose main impression of Washington is that it's a rigged game. That impression is true. An anti-corporatist, anti-cronyist Republican presidential candidate could appeal to this mindset, arguing correctly that the game is rigged, and big government is doing the rigging.
Why do Republicans engage in corporatism and cronyism? Why do they enclose themselves in a K Street bubble and discard their free-enterprise principles?
They do it because they see big business as "our guys." Because the former Republican senators and congressmen, and the former Reagan and Bush insiders who are now on K Street, give them a call, host a fundraiser and whisper in their ear.
Walker's tendency to buckle under to "our guys" shows us how he'll behave when the subsidy-sucklers come calling. He will say "buzz off" to Planned Parenthood and the government unions, and good for him. But when the Wall Street lobbyists ask for special favors, or the manufacturers demand their subsidies — what do you think Walker will do?