This story was originally published in the Cornell Daily Sun.
Republican former presidential hopeful and governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker emphasized the “difference between socialism and freedom” in a speech to an ideologically mixed audience on Monday that highlighted his conservative record and high-profile battles against unions.
The son of a Baptist pastor who gained political fame as a fiscal conservative, Walker began his talk by painting a picture of the unfortunate circumstances under which he first took office as governor in 2010, describing the “economic and fiscal crisis” that struck Wisconsin in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse.
In the face of these odds, he detailed a highlight reel of his administration, including his administration’s decision to redirect funding for town governments to boost the state economy, and give public sector employees “the opportunity to choose whether to be in a union or not.”
He endeared himself to the audience through emphasizing his identity as an “authentic” politician, a “conservationist,” and someone who relies on facts.
Walker was recently named the President-Elect of Young Americans Foundation, an organization based in Reaganist values dedicated to spreading conservative thought among students. The Cornell University College Republicans partnered with the youth conservative group to invite Walker to share his views on modern conservatism, economic policy and union management.
Acknowledging statistics demonstrating rising support of socialist policies among young people, Walker focused his talk on exposing its flaws, asserting that “socialism promises prosperity, but leads to poverty.”
Over the course of his talk, he offered his commentary on ideas that have increasingly gained traction among young voters, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Green New Deal, Democratic presidential frontrunner Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) wealth tax proposal, and Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) government-run healthcare program policies.
In giving vocal opposition to these reforms, Walker ultimately asserted that “true freedom and prosperity does not come from the clumsy hand of federal government,” but rather from the actions of free individuals.
For instance, Walker poked holes in the Green New Deal, chuckling at what he said were its unrealistic suggestions to “get rid of airplanes and farting cows.”
Walker has a history of dismissing anthropogenic climate change and has pointed to day-to-day temperature changes as evidence against the existence of global warming, a record that prompted a number of pointed questions during the talk’s question and answer round.
At one point, a graduate student chemist denounced the governor’s stance and invited Walker to visit his lab after the talk to help him understand. In response, Walker conceded that while humans do contribute to environmental harm, there are other factors and that one of the best solutions to addressing this is education.
Walker received a variety of questions on everything from Jeffery Epstein’s death to higher education to his views on the midwestern democratic candidates. Irene Chapman-Hartmann, grad, chided Walker for accepting donations from the conservative Koch brothers, asking him “How do you sleep?”
He replied in earnest, and argued that criticisms should be based in fact.
In this age of political polarization, “no matter [the news outlet], Fox, MSNBC or CNN, everything today has an attitude,” said Walker. “I learned a long time ago, I don’t speculate on things that I know nothing about.” The audience applauded.
Several audience members praised Walker for his bravery in coming to talk at Cornell, a student population that largely identifies as liberal, as Walker leaned on what he called facts-based thinking.
Since losing his run for a third-term governorship in 2018, Trump appointed Walker to a six-year board position at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in the Smithsonian Institute. Walker currently serves as the chair of Trump’s reelection campaign in Wisconsin, a swing state that that may be crucial for clinching a second term for Trump.
During his brief stint as a candidate in the 2016 presidential election race, Walker sparred with President Trump over a number of issues. Since dropping out of the race, Walker smoothed out his differences with Trump and threw his support behind the campaign. In April, he attended a Trump rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where the president called out Walker’s successor, Democrat Tony Evers, for his support of pro-choice legislation.
In his talk, Walker said that while he is focused on his presidential term at YAF, he is still “22 years younger than the current president” and hasn’t ruled it out as a future possibility.
When asked about the issue of abortion, Walker affirmed his pro-life beliefs that “we should protect an unborn child in the same way we protect a child the day after its born.
An hour before Walker was due to take the stage, some students expressed their opposition to his political stances via an informational event about his legacy on unions.
Students also retaliated to the event by vandalizing posters hung in Industrial Labor Relations school buildings last week, one stating in sharpie “the first man with a rectum for a mouth.” In response, YAF called the vandals “liberal tyrants-in-training” who were attempting to silence conservative student voices. In response, Dean Alexander J.S. Colvin called for “acceptance and inclusion” and “respectful disagreement and discussion” in an email to ILR students.