Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker give an interview to Amy Goodman of <i>Democracy Now!</i> at the RNC in Tampa.
Sitting with his wife, Tonette, on the floor of the convention hall Wednesday night, Scott Walker was all smiles when I told him I was from The Progressive magazine in Madison, Wisconsin.
Being from Wisconsin -- no matter what your politics -- makes you part of the in-group at this cheesehead-dominated convention.
It's head-spinning, coming off the historic protests against Walker's aggressive right-wing takeover of the state. In June, Wisconsin was known around the world for its citizen revolt against Walker's attack on workers and the massive, citizen-led recall effort against him.
By August, Walker has survived the recall. And Wisconsin's big national stars -- Ryan, Walker, and Priebus -- are creatures of the far right, even by Republican standards.
The whole Wisconsin delegation was in an excellent mood on Wednesday, anticipating their biggest star, vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who was about to deliver his much-anticipated convention speech.
"It's amazing to be here. We're living in a cheesehead revolution," Sol Grosskopf of Shawno, Wisconsin, said happily, using the exact same language used by the pro-labor, anti-Walker activists during their progressive, populist revolt.
What does the right-wing Wisconsin ascendancy at the convention say about the state's 100-year-old progressive tradition, I asked Scott Walker.
"It depends how you define progressive," Walker said. "Moving people forward, challenging the status quo in Washington, I'd argue, is progressive as well."
For example, Tommy Thompson's welfare reforms were progressive, Walker told me.
"I may disagree with you, and think your views of progressivism move us in the wrong direction," Walker said. "But at least you're not stuck in the middle."
"There is a bipartisan sense of ignoring the fiscal challenges this nation faces," Walker added. "I think progressive, dynamic change is a good thing."
Extremism in defense of fiscal responsibility is no vice, Barry Goldwater might say.
Or, as Walker put it: "If you think something is fundamentally broken, why would you want to creep away from it?"
You have to hand it to him -- Walker has not backed down, and the sheer chutzpah of Wisconsin's right-wing Republicans put them in the driver's seat at the convention.
Shortly after I spoke with Walker, the delegates rose to their feet to welcome Paul Ryan, one of the most radical figures in the history of their party.
Ryan makes no bones about progressivism -- it is the enemy in a great political war that dates back to the turn of the last century, he often says.
"The battle between conservatives and progressives is coming to a crescendo this year," Ryan told the crowd at an Americans for Prosperity event last spring.
Fighting Bob La Follette, the founder of The Progressive magazine, defined progressivism as the defense of the public interest against private greed. The break-up of corporate monopolies, workers' compensation, women's rights, and a minimum wage were among his most important progressive reforms.
La Follette railed against "the money interests" and their meddling in our democracy.
La Follette would have recognized Ryan and Walker as familiar political enemies, with their philosophy of deregulation, attacks on workers, and entitlement cuts, and their cozy relationship with Sheldon Adelson and David Koch.
The ideology Ryan espouses means a return to the 19th century -- before protections for workers, corporate regulation, and the institution of a social safety net.
Cheesehead revolutionaries of both political stripes are grappling with what La Follette in 1924 called "an impending crisis as menacing as any in the nation's history" -- the "old fight" between the public interest and private greed.
"Patriotic citizens," said La Follette in a 1924 speech, must "demand of wealth that is shall conduct its business lawfully ... that it shall keep its powerful hands off from legislative manipulation."
That's a view of patriotism, and progressivism, that is in exact opposition to the philosophy the Wisconsin delegation brings to this year's RNC.