Scott Walker, former governor of Wisconsin and a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, spoke with PJ Media at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He spoke about his current work to advance conservatism, his next steps, and why he lost his re-election campaign in 2018.
“We haven’t walked away from the conservative movement,” Walker said. “We’ve been involved in fighting for a Balanced Budget Amendment at the federal level, We’ve been taking on Eric Holder with the National Republican Redistricting Trust, we’ve been working with the National Taxpayer’s Union,” and more.
In addition to working with these issue-specific campaigns, the former governor said he will become the president of Young America’s Foundation (YAF) next year. “I’m thrilled about it,” he said.
Walker warned about the threats from the left, which will use any tactic to seize power.
“The left just wants total power. We saw it with the president with the impeachment, we saw it years ago with my recall, we saw it with me and my staff and my supporters with the John Doe investigations,” he said. In the John Doe investigations, prosecutors launched secret investigations into alleged illegal “coordination” between conservative groups and Walker’s campaign.
As David French reported in National Review, armed police officers carried out dawn raids at the homes of conservative activists, “barging into sleeping children’s rooms, confiscating cell phones and computers, carting off files, and ordering the targets of the raids to keep quiet. Despite the fact that the raids occurred in full view of the public, the victims were unable to defend themselves: They couldn’t tell friends or family, and they couldn’t talk to the media. A cloud of suspicion hovered over their lives.”
“The left will do just about anything to recapture power. It’s all about power to them,” Walker told PJ Media. “For us, it’s about big ideas, whether it’s tax relief or empowering people. For them, it’s increasingly about power, and so you see it on college campuses, you see it in government, you see it in the media, they try to intimidate people. That’s why the book I have is actually called Unintimidated.”
Walker said he is excited about bringing the conservative message to college campuses with YAF. “YAF did a poll last year that showed that 78 percent of the conservative students on campus said they were afraid to talk about their beliefs, not just because their professors were giving them grief, but because other students were,” he noted. “We’ve got to support people.”
“One of the best things that happened for me was people coming out of the woodwork, not just in campaigns but holding rallies, showing up, writing messages on social media, in the newspaper, wherever else, even just simple things like coming to me in visits and tours and just praying with me,” he explained. These shows of support may seem minor, but they helped reinforce the message that the governor was doing the right thing.
Walker expressed hope that the right messaging can help turn around the demonization on college campuses.
“When I’ve been on campus, what I find … is that young people, college students, even high schoolers, are more likely to be libertarian than they are liberal. Some are purely socialist, no doubt about it, but I think there’s a bit of a misconception … and I think there’s something to build off of,” he said.
“Most young people overwhelmingly want to do good. They don’t just want to make a living, they don’t just want to make a salary, they want to change the world or at least the people around them. Our message to them is, we’re the ones who make that happen,” Walker insisted. “The left wants to dictate what you do, when you do, and how you do it. That’s because they believe in the government. We believe in the individual. We’ve got a better plan. Free enterprise has done far more in the world to uplift people living in poverty. Part of the reason why millennials are living in a generation that’s been blessed with more prosperity, more freedom, more free access of information, less chronic pain, less chronic disease, than any generation in the history of the world. Why? Because of the free enterprise system, because America’s the leading nation in the world.”
Many Americans aren’t hearing that message because of the left’s threat to free speech, especially on college campuses, he argued. “What you’ve seen the left do, and you see in your book [Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center], is the left has weaponized and pushed back against any idea that doesn’t fit their objectives, and they call it things … when they don’t like something it’s always an -ism, it’s racism, it’s whatever they don’t like,” Walker said.
He warned that this kind of crying wolf actually minimizes real discrimination and racism. “I actually think that those who engage with those sorts of attacks, it really diminishes the true acts that need to be called out, the true things that are wrong when it comes to race or sex or other issues out there. … There are legitimate cases that need to be called out but the left uses it all the time for their own political gain.”
Walker’s political success drove the left crazy. “We did what we said we were going to do, not just with unions and collective bargaining, we passed a photo id law, we passed Right to Work for all employees (the freedom to choose), we did pro-life legislation, we defunded Planned Parenthood, we did Concealed Carry and castle doctrine, we did prevailing wage reform, we did welfare reform, we did education reform, we cut taxes by over thirteen billion dollars, and the left went bonkers,” he said.
Indeed, the former governor admitted he “may have reformed myself out of a job.”
He also attributed his loss in 2018 to the machinations of environmental activist Tom Steyer.
“The other tactical part is Tom Steyer before he jumped into the presidential race, spent millions of dollars in Wisconsin particularly on college campuses and they put these non-binding referendum questions on marijuana on the ballot which drove the turnout, which strategically was brilliant on their part,” Walker recalled. “We actually got more votes in 2018 than we did when we won in 2014 but it still wasn’t enough because the turnout, in particularly towns with colleges, went up dramatically.”
The former governor warned against complacency. Many Republicans did not think they had to turn out to support him “because things were so good,” he argued. “Unemployment in the last couple years of Wisconsin was the lowest when I was governor it ever had been, more people working than ever before, we invested more real dollars in education than ever before. People just took it for granted. They thought, ‘Ok you’ve done a good job, there’s no way you can lose.'”
“It’s a good reminder going into 2020, as great as things are in this country, as much as higher wages are on the rise and the economy’s been booming for quite some time, we can’t take it for granted that our fellow Americans know. We’ve got to tell them, remind them and share, not just from the head but from the heart,” he said.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.