It is a sad state of affairs when we have come to expect that certain politicians will say just about anything to somehow remain, at least in their minds, relevant. While we know that it is hard for aging rock stars and movie icons to gracefully walk off the stage when the voice goes and the fire in the belly dims, we also know how hard it is for the least impressive former elected officials to gracefully exit stage right.
Such as with Scott Walker, former governor of Wisconsin.
For all the needless column inches about whether conservative voices are heard on university campuses in the state comes news that Walker spoke this month at UW-Madison’s Grainger Hall. And to underscore that the messages from the right are not squelched we even have news stories about what was said while they were on campus.
For instance, we know that Walker labeled UW-Madison, the flagship school in the state, as a place of Marxist indoctrination. He added that when COVID-19 caused the cancelation of in-person learning it slowed the spread of communism.
“Some might say going to college here at Madison tells you a lot about Marxism,” Walker said. “I’ve often said during COVID when we shut down colleges and universities, we did more to stop the spread of communism than prevent the spread of COVID along the way because of a bunch of the influences. Not just because of the faculty and staff, but oftentimes from fellow students and bad actors.”
But what struck me the most was what Walker stated in an interview about how people on campus are “more left-leaning than the ones you see sort out in the general population here in Wisconsin and across the nation”.
It should not come as a surprise to Walker, or any other conservative who likes to beat up on higher education, that most higher-educated Americans have grown increasingly liberal over the last couple of decades. To connect all the dots it has long been demonstrated in polling data that education does make a person more liberal. More focused reading and making contact with people around the world can not but aid in making for far more cosmopolitan citizens, where social diversity is the norm. (So of course they will be, as Walker notes in his own way, different than the ones who never had such an educational background.) With many years of research to back up the findings, it is clear that from climate change to issues of tolerance those with higher education see the world in more enlightened ways.
Then, given where educated people live and work, along with their combined political muscle, it appears that they are ‘ganging up’ on conservatives. This is why there is so much rhetoric from Republicans about ‘elite professors’ and a lack of conservative speakers on campuses. Conversely, it needs to be noted rural conservatives have embraced the exact opposite of the higher-education-related pattern of liberals.
So one does have to wonder what elevated discourse Walker thought he brought to Grainger, and more importantly if he thought he worked to refute why many students smirk over those who buy into such conservative ideologies? If Walker was hoping to achieve anything other than a headline for himself, he failed.
And I find that truly a bad outcome.
I say that because conservative voices are absolutely needed to be heard on college campuses. If I could have brought Congressman Jack Kemp, as an example to UW-Madison, I would have done so. His enterprise zones idea was solid thinking and needed more light given to it. I was thrilled–truly– when Robert Novak was on campus and I had the chance to slowly walk alongside him due to his recovery from a hip operation–and talk about his way of writing a column.
People of substance and ideas from the right require a conversation and intelligent discussion whereas the rhetorically driven create the very type of harsh atmosphere which makes it harder for the serious-minded to get an invite.
So what were the intentions of Scott Walker when he stepped in front of his recent audience?
And so it goes.