Marxism failed to take root in the United States because we are not a class-based society. Anyone can live their piece of the American Dream.
I was reminded of this again during a trip this week to the Ronald Reagan’s Boyhood Home in Dixon, Illinois. The house is one of the five places that the Reagan family lived in during their time in the small Illinois town. They were certainly not an “upper class” family, yet their youngest son went on to lead the entire nation and change the world.
None of the homes the Reagans lived in were owned by the family, and they were each progressively smaller than the previous structure. President Ronald Reagan’s father Jack suffered from alcoholism and was constantly in and out of work. To offset the occasional loss of wages, the president’s mother Nelle performed a number of odd jobs. She was an excellent seamstress and used the spare room to store her equipment. Nelle also taught classes on business etiquette and public speaking. Plus, she had an excellent voice and often sang at weddings and funerals.
Each of the Reagan boys learned to work hard at an early age. When he was just 14 years old, Mr. Reagan got his first summer job digging foundations and shingling roofs for a construction company. He then spent the next seven summers working as a lifeguard at Lowell Park. He worked 12 hour days. His pay? Eighteen dollars a day and all of the burgers and root beer he could consume each day from the concession stand in the park. Most significantly, he saved 77 lives during his years patrolling the Rock River at that spot.
After high school, Mr. Reagan attended nearby Eureka College. He then worked a couple of radio jobs in Davenport and Des Moines, Iowa. Eventually, he headed west to work in Hollywood. He was an actor in B movies which would be like a member of a band performing the opening act in a concert. He was on the screen, but not in the main attraction.
Mr. Reagan later became the president of the Screen Actors Guild. It was there that he began his battles against communism. Many of his beliefs go back to his childhood and the influence of his mother. They are also linked to a book named That Printer of Udell’s. Reading it inspired him to be baptized as a young man in Dixon. The book also taught him that charity comes from the individual and church, not from the government. A copy of that book still sits on the shelves in his small house at the Reagan Ranch. Both the ranch and the boyhood home are run by Young America’s Foundation where I serve as president. In many ways, they are the bookends of his life.
Throughout world history, the places where Marxist ideas actually took root were in places with class-based societies. The fact that someone like Ronald Wilson Reagan could become President of the United States of America is a vivid reminder that class is not a barrier to success in our republic.
Today, however, Marxists are going beyond class in their efforts to organize. Now, they are focused on things like sex, race, and gender. If you disagree with them, they call you sexist, racist, or transphobic. They are trying to pit one group against another.
The founders of the organization Black Lives Matter revealed that they are trained Marxist organizers. They are attempting to use race as a wedge to further their radical agenda. We see it in problems to push back against so-called white privilege in schools, on campuses, and through woke corporations. Ironically, they are using segregation in ways that are similar to white supremacists decades ago.
We see it in other areas too. The Campus Bias Tip Line at Young America’s Foundation exposed efforts within the local school in Ames, Iowa to have kindergartners color pages of transgender characters and allow the students to pick whether they wanted to be a boy or a girl or something else. These latest efforts to indoctrinate children as young as 4 and 5 over “gender identity” are further signs of radicals trying to use gender as a divisive tool. They must not prevail.
As conservatives our focus should be on what truly unites us. We love America. We love it so much, we don’t care whether you are rich or poor; black or white; young or old; born here or not. We just want everyone to have access to the same freedoms and opportunities we inherited from past generations.
History shows us that Marxism—and variations of it called communism and socialism—do not work. It is what ultimately led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, collapse of the Soviet Union, and failures in places like Cuba and Venezuela.
• Scott Walker is the president of Young America’s Foundation and served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.
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