This article was sponsored by Young America’s Foundation.
Former Wisconsin governor and 2016 presidential candidate Scott Walker rose to national political fame with his conservative leadership in the traditionally blue state of Wisconsin.
His next political endeavor is with Young America’s Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading conservative values to the next generation of citizens. Walker and his team recently crafted “The Long Game” — an action plan intended to expand the foundation’s operations on campuses nationwide.
Walker and I sat down to discuss the future of the conservative movement, and how The Long Game will work.
Cameron Arcand: Share a little bit about your political career and what YAF’s “Long Game” is going to look like?
Scott Walker: The two go hand in hand in the sense that particularly during my time as governor, it well prepared me for this battle. Not only in this next battle we’re taking on in our college campuses, but in culture as well. And that is, as governor, when I came in, I faced an economic and a fiscal crisis. So I sent off to fix that right away. Literally the very first day I took office and because of some of the big bold reforms, we pushed the national union bosses and big government, special interests and liberal activists.
The left has been at this for decades. The way we see it, there are campuses or culture even, or communications with the censorship from Big Tech under siege today, and it didn’t happen overnight. It goes all the way back to the 1960s with Saul Alinsky; it’s systematically continued over time. So we need to be involved now with the battles of the day. We need to be involved in the long-term war for the heart and soul of our republic.
That’s why we’re initiating The Long Game — 12 specific action items that get us on the right track to win the long-term battle for the future of this country. We hope people will join us and support it here. We’ll send people a free copy of our 12-point plan and encourage them to help us in this fight.
CA: The goal that stuck out to me was getting 1 million students to participate. Young America’s Foundation is a very student-centered organization, as you mentioned. If I’m a student, what kind of new opportunities should I be looking forward to in the coming years?
SW: We’re going to have a bigger presence. We know what an impact that YAF conferences and activities and seminars and events can have. So when you ask ‘what should students be looking for,’ right now we support students in more than 2,000 campuses across the country.
We want to be in all 4,000 [college campuses], so expect a presence of more campuses, and every campus should expect a record number of events and record number of speakers. Expect us to be involved, not just at traditional colleges with undergraduate programs, but even in technical and community colleges with two-year associate degree programs. Expect us to have a stronger presence in our high schools, but also be pushing membership and membership activities for folks in junior high.
CA: What was one tactic that you learned as governor that you’re using to put this plan into motion?
SW: One of the best things I did was get out and see people. It’s really easy to get caught up in the moment. In my case, when I had 100,000 protesters occupying the [Wisconsin state Capitol], one of the best things I did was get out of the Capitol and go around and see people across the state.
What I found was not only political support, but one of the best things was when people would come up to me in a factory, or in a TV station, or a farm or somewhere I was touring and stop and tell me they were praying for me. … That just meant the world to us. I just think it’s really important, whether it’s in the state Capitol or a nation’s Capitol, or just on a college campus, to get out and to get away from some of the more radical elements.
Right now most students feel like they’re alone. We can help them counter that.
CA: So what challenges do you think the foundation will encounter? I know typically with universities and high schools, the administrations are pretty tough. How do you plan to overcome these obstacles?
SW: It’s one of our 12 points in our action plan. … We’ve won some big cases in the past, including one at the University of California, Berkeley, where the administration tried to block our efforts to bring Ben Shapiro on campus. We won that legal battle. We reversed that unconstitutional policy. It’s amazing. … I think there’s an argument — a strong case to be made for people who think freely and who are objective — that whether you’re conservative or not, free speech is inherent; it is absolutely necessary to a free society.
CA: What’s your response to critics who maybe are on the more pessimistic side and say that the conservative movement is dead, or even that a well-established organization like YAF might not be fit to take this on?
SW: On the optimism versus pessimism standpoint, I got to tell you there’s some great signs of progress in the future. Are we facing an enormous challenge? Absolutely. I faced that myself. So I know what it’s like. My poll numbers at this time 10 years ago were so low, Time magazine called me ‘Dead Man Walker.’ … But I think part of the optimism too, is we saw in ’94, after ’92, when everything went one party, we saw in 2010, after 2008, when everything went one party, the left typically overreaches and the American people want some counterbalance to that.
The odds are stacked against us right now, and yet we still have an opportunity to make inroads. We still don’t have 100 percent of our young people who bought into the socialist garbage. If we can just level the playing field and get our message out. … [The left] immediately wants to pit one group of Americans versus another. If they don’t agree with you, they call you every name in the book.
We, on the other hand, those of us who are conservatives, our message is simple. It isn’t reflective of what interest group you’re in. It is simple for everyone, no matter what age, no matter what race, no matter what background. The simple message is we believe in freedom and opportunity for all. We believe in the individual. They believe in the government.
Please note that this interview has been lightly revised for grammar, length and clarity.
You can learn more about The Long Game initiative and support it here.
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