Union protest file photo

Hundreds of union members and supporters march into the Wisconsin State Capitol Building during a rally to protest the policies of Gov. Walker's administration in Madison in March 2011.

Give credit where credit is due: Gov. Scott Walker knows successful politics is more important to winning elections than successful policies, and Walker has worked hard to become a successful politician.

But if Walker has even a shred of humility, he also knows he wouldn’t be where he is today without the help of those who forced him into a recall election and the Democrats who failed to pass redistricting reform.

Images from the 2011 Capitol protests appear only 19 seconds into the 89-second video Walker released Monday to announce his bid for the Republican nomination for president.

They take up only about 2 seconds, but that’s still a good chunk of the 28-second montage that precedes the rest of the video, which consists of Walker speaking into the camera about how awesome he supposedly is.

The protests, of course, were in response to Walker’s public-sector union-busting proposal Act 10, and they culminated in the failed June 2012 effort to recall him from office.

Without the protests, Walker vanquishes an opponent that appears far less formidable to a national audience than all those thousands of people shaking the rotunda with chants of “this is what democracy looks like!” Without the recall, Walker doesn’t win three elections in four years — in a swing state, no less — and isn’t the only governor in American history to survive a recall attempt.

If there’s any public acknowledgment by those who pushed the recall that they’ve essentially become a talking point in a stump speech for a candidate they revile, I haven’t noticed it.

Michael A. Brown, who founded the group that led the recall effort, United Wisconsin, told me he had no regrets.

“Our state and country deserve better than Scott Walker,” he said.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairwoman Martha Laning said the “party didn’t push for the recall,” the recall petition-signers did.

Walker has also enjoyed Republican control of the Legislature for all but six months of the four-plus years he’s been in office — something that arguably wouldn’t have been possible without GOP gerrymandering of legislative districts in 2011.

While Democrats tend to be more sympathetic to nonpartisan redistricting models that would prevent gerrymandering, they repeatedly ignored efforts by former Democratic state Rep. Spencer Black to implement such a model in the 2000s, including in 2008-10 when they ran state government and could have done whatever they wanted.

Lo and behold, Republicans increased their elected officials in 2012 and 2014. They even won 60 of 99 seats in the Assembly in 2012 despite losing the popular vote by some 174,000 votes.

And Walker got to continue signing a steady stream of the kinds of bills that excite Republican primary voters: right-to-work, tax cuts and limits on abortion, to name a few.

On this, Democrats might have learned their lesson. Laning said not passing nonpartisan redistricting reform was “a mistake” and “one of my top priorities as chair is retaking majorities in both houses of the Legislature so we can pursue nonpartisan redistricting reform in 2020.”

Or about the time President Walker would be finishing up his first term.

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Contact Chris Rickert at 608-252-6198 or crickert@madison.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisRickertWSJ). His column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.


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