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‘It’s about control’: Former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker decries socialism

Walker also predicted Sanders would win Democratic primary

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Former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker visited campus on Tuesday at a talk hosted by the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) to argue that “Freedom is Better Than Socialism,” decrying Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the process. 

Walker compared freedom to rideshare services like Uber and socialism to “highly regulated, highly restricted” taxi services.

“All [Uber] cares about is getting a passenger from Point A to Point B,” Walker said. “Everyone arrives safely. It’s all good.”

Walker served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019. He later lost his bid for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2016 and his bid for a third term as governor in 2018. In 2019, conservative youth group Young America’s Foundation (YAF) named Walker its next president, a role he will assume in 2021.

Walker divided his speech into three arguments: first, socialism had failed in other countries; second, socialism only shifts costs instead of solving issues; and third, freedom is a preferable alternative. Throughout, he included references to current Democratic primary candidates, devoting significant time to Sanders and his healthcare plan. 

Walker also touched on the 2020 presidential election, predicting that Sanders would take the Democratic nomination.

“The best compliment I can give Bernie is that he’s authentic,” Walker said, adding that President Donald Trump was “authentic” as well. 

Walker said that he looked forward to an election between Sanders and Trump.

“I think this gives us a tremendous opportunity to have a discussion in this nation, not about personality, but about the difference between freedom and socialism going forward,” Walker said, although he expressed a modicum of disbelief that Trump could become freedom’s standard-bearer. 

“Who would have thought — God works in mysterious ways — that Donald Trump would be the guy to lead an ideological fight for freedom,” Walker said. “But the Bible is full of people who are called to do amazing things.”

‘Freedom is contracting’ in Illinois

Walker criticized nations like Cuba, Venezuela and the Soviet Union, asserting that they represented the failure of socialist policies. He specifically called out Sanders’ reluctance to denounce Cuba in a Monday “60 Minutes” interview with Anderson Cooper.

“I don’t always give credit to CNN folks, but Anderson Cooper actually asked some serious questions to candidate Bernie Sanders,” Walker said. “[Sanders] is someone who went to Cuba, talked about his affection for [Fidel Castro], and in that interview gave the pushback that, well, [Castro] had a good literacy program.”

Walker said that Cuba’s literacy program was not enough to justify “why hundreds of thousands of Cubans have fled, in many cases literally risking life and limb.”

Walker then pointed to Illinois as an example of a state where “freedom is contracting,” as Illinois has lost more residents than any other state over the past decade, although he caveated that the example was “not as dramatic” as the situation in socialist countries like Venezuela.

“They’re flowing to Wisconsin, and Indiana, and Iowa and other surrounding states where the freedom’s greater,” he said.

Walker also targeted “Medicare for All” plans, contending that “socialist” policies “shift costs” instead of “solving the problem.” Walker said that the numbers for Sanders’ proposed healthcare plan did not add up, predicting that his campaign would be hurt by his recent release of numbers quantifying the costs.

“Elizabeth Warren did that, and her campaign started to tank when she started to spell out all the taxes and spending involved in her plans,” he said.

Walker said that while he agreed with Sanders that the current healthcare system was not efficient, he believed the root cause was “too much bureaucracy” and that increasing the role of the government would not help.

“What they’re really getting at is trying to control all of your lives and putting power in the hands of the government,” he said. “It’s about control. It’s about controlling your life.”

In spite of the event’s title, Walker ended his talk by speaking to the value of inclusiveness.

“Think with your head; talk with your heart,” Walker said. “The goal is not to pit one group against another.”

Students, community turn out

SCR treasurer Walker Stewart ’23 told The Daily that SCR had chosen Walker as a speaker as a result of the ideological similarities between him and the College Republicans. The talk drew a crowd of about 150 attendees split evenly between Stanford and non-Stanford affiliates, according to Stewart.

“It’s great that we had people from the outside community coming in and seeing Governor Walker,” Stewart said. “Turnout absolutely could have been better, but given that it’s Week 8 of winter quarter and we’re all taking too many units, it can be hard to make it out to events.”

Isaac Cortes ’20 said he came to the event after recognizing Walker’s name from the 2016 presidential election, hoping to hear diverse perspectives.

“I like to hear just people talk from many different viewpoints, whether it is right- or left-wing,” Cortes said. “This is obviously right-wing.”

Victor Filler, a Palo Alto resident wearing a Make America Great Again hat who went viral last April after a woman publicly berated him for his hat, said he came to the event because he believed Walker represents normalcy and civility.

“We’re normal citizens of Palo Alto, and we think the normal thing to do is to vote for Trump, and here’s a Republican guy who represents normality,” Filler said. “It’s nice to see a little civilization out here in California.”

“Nice hat,” someone said to Filler.

Contact Kate Selig at kselig ‘at’ stanford.edu.