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Wall Street Journal edi­torial columnist Kim­berley Strassel. | Flikr

During her Nov. 5 lecture at Hillsdale College, Kim­berley Strassel urged the audience to remember Ben­jamin Franklin’s famous words: “We have a republic, if you can keep it.” Now entering her 25th year at the Wall Street Journal, Strassel is  con­cerned about the growing rejection of the founding prin­ciples that Franklin helped craft. 

Strassel, who was the Eugene C. Pulliam Dis­tin­guished Vis­iting Fellow in Jour­nalism in 2013, returned to Hillsdale for the Center for Con­structive Alter­na­tives on Socialism this week. While on campus, she spent time with Pro­fessor John Miller, Director of the Dow Jour­nalism Program, and his jour­nalism classes.

In her lecture, Strassel decried the rising pop­u­larity of socialism in America.

“Why are we seeing a resur­gence of socialism today?” she said. “The polls show that it is mostly younger Amer­icans who are embracing it, but it’s not enough to sit back and assume that the country’s youth will grow up. This problem is just too urgent.”

According to Strassel, America’s youth are not entirely to blame for the rise of socialism. The cul­prits tend to be older politi­cians who should know their history, but con­tinue to push failed policies instead. 

“They are the products of par­enting, of edu­cation, and of political policy and culture,” Strassel said of young people. “The pop­u­larity of socialism is the result of failure by core groups of offi­cials and civic insti­tu­tions.” 

Strassel argued that there are four main causes for the rise of socialism today: the Demo­c­ratic Party, the Repub­lican Party, the media, and higher edu­cation. 

“I would argue that the Democrats’ motive, at least in part, is power and control,” Strassel said. “Most parties, when their message fails to res­onate with the public, decide to figure out what they did wrong and to do better during the next cycle. Now, they meet political set­backs by thinking about how they can shackle the other side, or how to change the system to make it easier to win.”

However, Strassel said that the Repub­lican Party has failed cit­izens as well. Although they do not prop­agate socialist mes­sages like the Democrats, Repub­licans haven’t offered a com­pelling message to counter socialist argu­ments. 

Strassel illus­trated how young people see the sit­u­ation. 

“You can vote for Repub­licans and get the status quo, which no one is very happy with, or you can vote for Democrats and get free health care,” she said. “Which would you choose, given what you’ve been told by the media?”

According to Strassel, the media is dam­aging the country and failing young Amer­icans. 

“Increas­ingly, the reporters that shape the daily nar­rative all come from the same left-of-center com­mu­nities and the same left-of-center col­leges,” she said. “I grew up in a logging com­munity in Oregon, and I don’t know a single person in jour­nalism today who has even a remotely similar expe­rience to mine.”

Thomas Conner, Pro­fessor of History at Hillsdale, said that the media bears most of the respon­si­bility for the growing pop­u­larity of socialism. 

“Our media is vol­un­teering to be the mouth­piece of the Demo­c­ratic Party,” he said. “The media isn’t con­stantly pushing socialism, but they’re def­i­nitely reporting uncrit­i­cally. And we’re bom­barded by the media every day.”

Like Strassel, Conner thinks that those who support socialism don’t have any idea of what it really entails. 

“I think many of the youth that say they want to live under socialism don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said. “We don’t feel threatened by com­munism or socialism anymore. Seventy-some­things like Eliz­abeth Warren should know that socialism doesn’t work, but they choose to ignore the evi­dence.”

Strassel’s fourth culprit, higher edu­cation, also plays a sig­nif­icant role in pushing young people towards socialism. 

“Pro­fessors tell stu­dents daily that American society is racist, sexist, ageist, cor­po­ratist, and elitist,” she said. “These kids are told that the entire world is rigged against them, and that the only remedy for such a sit­u­ation is more gov­ernment that will equalize society.”

Ivan Pon­gracic, Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics at Hillsdale, shared his unique expe­rience with socialism during the Faculty Round Table, which took place on Nov. 6. Born and raised in Yugoslavia, he knows the real­ities of socialism that American politi­cians and uni­ver­sities choose to ignore. 

“It was pretty nice to be in Yugoslavia during the 1970s, because we were getting massive amounts of money from the United States,” he said. “Once Marshal Tito died in 1980, the Western money dried up, and the irra­tionality of socialism revealed itself.”

By the time Pongracic’s family moved to America in 1984, massive shortages were already hitting Yugoslavia. 

“I stood in lines for dozens of hours just to get things like coffee and milk,” he said. “The com­plete eco­nomic col­lapse led to one of the most hor­rific civil wars ever fought on European soil.”

Despite the creeping influence of socialism, Pon­gracic is hopeful that our innate American spirit will even­tually reject it. 

“There are so many young people that want to be entre­pre­neurs,” he said. “They under­stand that there’s some­thing good about the free market. So go forward and fight the good fight.”