Are Americans alone in their fight against big government, extreme sex ed, and more? Or are other people across the world similarly fighting? In this episode of “The Bill Walton Show,” Matt and Mercedes Schlapp join Bill Walton to discuss. Former White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp grew up as the daughter of a man who defied Fidel Castro, and American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp has experience working with conservatives across the world. Read an edited portion of their interview with Walton, pasted below, or watch the full interview:
Bill Walton: Your father was a Cuban dissident and went up against Fidel Castro.
Mercedes Schlapp: That’s right. I think one of the reasons why I felt at an early age that I wanted to go into public service, that I wanted to work in politics, was because of my father’s experience.
He was a very successful businessman in Cuba, and when Fidel Castro came into power, the dictatorship, they took away his businesses. So my father had two options, either be quiet and just follow the communist swell that was happening in Cuba or fight back.
My father joined a group of counter-revolutionaries and fought against the Castro regime, ended up in jail for six years.
So he taught me at a young age that, first of all, love America. America’s a very special place, and always remember that you have a responsibility to protect our freedoms and our democracy because this democracy is fragile, and you can lose it in an instant.
So I knew at that point, and I’m talking … I mean at 15 years old, I said, “I want to go to Washington and try to make a difference here and work in politics.” It’s where my life has led me. It’s led me to my husband where we met at the White House. I feel very strongly as we talk to our youth, I talk to our daughters, and talk to our daughters’ friends, that there is … this real sense that we can lose America.
Walton: Well, I think the word “fragile” is the right word. Civilization’s kind of a thin veneer, and the Constitution’s a piece of paper to a lot of people that doesn’t mean much. If you take away all the civilizing influences and the role of the Constitution, you don’t end up with something that’s very pretty.
Mercedes Schlapp: Well, and we dealing with right now academic institutions that are basically brainwashing our youth … for example, teaching sex education to middle schoolers on how to use a condom in different school districts, or this issue where you have 36 different genders.
There is this sense of pushing these liberal ideas in our public school systems and not giving choices to parents for them to say, “Wait a second, I don’t really feel comfortable with my kid going to school here. Let me put them in a different school, in a Catholic school, in a Christian school.”
Walton: Where are your kids in school now?
Matt Schlapp: They’re in private school. They’re in Catholic school, all of them. We have two in high school and three in what I guess you would call middle school.
Mercedes Schlapp: So as a parent it’s troubling to see that you have our academic institutions really taking on this liberal agenda across the board, and it starts when they’re young, when you’re able to influence and talk to them about the realities of just even a conversation agenda or even talking about the dangers of socialism, which are very real now in the United States, something we haven’t seen in generations.
Matt Schlapp: My theory on this is, I don’t know if you agree, but I think you do, is liberals don’t really create anything. Socialists don’t create anything. It’s entrepreneurs that create things. It’s conservatives that create culture and create institutions.
Then over time the parasites on the left are great at coming in there in an insidious way taking them over, and conservatives kind of back … out. They’re like, “Well, we started it. We got it going. Oh, they have their point of view. Maybe we should have multiple points of view.” And they’ll kind of recede, and the left comes in aggressively and completely takes it over.
Bill, they’ve done it almost [at] every major institution in our society. This is not just public schools. This is private schools. This is churches. This is foundations. This is other institutions.
Part of the Trump disruption is, “Dammit, no more. No more. We are drawing a line in the sand.” By the way, our point of view matters as well. We are being pushed away from tables. We are being pushed out of rooms. We’re being called haters, and we’re being told to shut up and to back off. We paid for these institutions. We pay massive amounts of taxes for all of these public institutions, and this has to stop.
Walton: You’re watching “The Bill Walton Show.” I’m here with Matt and Mercy Schlapp, and we’re talking about the deconstruction of a lot of terrific American institutions and what the two of them are doing to fight back.
Matt Schlapp: Yeah, I think it’s time to fight. Fighting has a lot of connotations to it.
Walton: Now, let’s put this in the framework of what you do when you’re chairman of the American Conservative Union and run CPAC. How is ACU trying to bring about the good things that we want to bring about?
Matt Schlapp: Well, I know you do a lot of the work with me. I’d love your point of view on it.
Walton: Yeah, let’s do that, both of you.
Mercedes Schlapp: Oh, great. Well, I have enjoyed watching American Conservative Union and CPAC grow. I mean, it’s become an international phenomenal, and Matt can speak more on this, but you have countries coming to us, leaders of these countries coming to us saying, “We love what you’re doing with CPAC in the United States. Can we have some of that? Can you teach us how to organize from a grassroots perspective?” Because they all feel there’s several components …
I’ll say one story. When we were [at] CPAC Brazil … all of a sudden they start talking in Portuguese and then all of a sudden they’ll go, “Blah, blah, blah,” and then they’ll go, “Fake news!” Then everyone jumps up. They’re like, “Yes!”
Walton: Do you speak Portuguese?
Mercedes Schlapp: No, I don’t.
Walton: How do you say “fake news” in Portuguese?
Matt Schlapp: No, no. No interpreter needed for “fake news.”
Mercedes Schlapp: “Fake news” was in English.
Matt Schlapp: No interpreter needed for “Make America Great Again.” The crowd would erupt.
Mercedes Schlapp: … They’re facing similar issues where the media predicted that [Brazilian President Jair] Bolsonaro was never going to win, now the current president of Brazil. They are ones that have been incredibly critical of that president. They are left, left-leaning. They’re saying, “We need a voice. We need an outlet.” Like, we don’t have several of these more conservative media outlets in their country.
So it’s interesting how what we’re experiencing here in the United States and these other nations, there are some similarities that we’re seeing.
Matt Schlapp: We’re talking about thousands of people, thousands coming together in a foreign city to try to figure out what this whole conservative movement is in America.
Walton: So let me be clear about this. You’re running CPAC meetings in Brazil? You have CPAC meetings?
Matt Schlapp: Yeah, we have five international.
Walton: I think you also ran one in Hong Kong.
Matt Schlapp: Yep, we did. We ran one in Tokyo. We ran one in Seoul, South Korea. We ran one in Sydney, Australia. These events were so successful that they want to annualize them.
Walton: Tell me how you put one of these together—
Matt Schlapp: Well, we started off in Japan literally.
Walton: … because ACU was doing none of this before you showed up.
Matt Schlapp: ACU, when I—
Walton: What, has it been about five years?
Matt Schlapp: Yeah, five, six years. I have to give my predecessor credit because he had started to do battle ground CPACs in the country …
But I was walking down the halls of CPAC, Bill, where you and Sarah have been, and this Japanese fellow walks up to me, this is five, six years ago, and says, “Hey, I started a Japanese Conservative Union.” I was like, “Oh, that’s kind of interesting.”
This man, Jay Aeba, who now has had three CPACs in Tokyo in a row, literally thousands of conservative Japanese coming together. Believe it or not, people will wear their MAGA hats. Some people will wear their MAGA hats to these international events. We engaged them in a conversation about what is conservatism, the dignity of the individual, and these practical solutions that can bring people—
Walton: Now, are these economic conservatives, social conservatives?
Matt Schlapp: It’s a little—
Walton: Here we have the Constitution. That’s unique.
Matt Schlapp: It is unique.
Walton: So if you’re a Japanese conservative, what are you conserving?
Matt Schlapp: The first step for most of these conservatives in Japan is their fear of communist China. The reason why we’ve had so many CPACs in Asia, Bill, is because obviously they have an immediate connection to the fact that conservatives in America fight communism. We’ve always fought communism, as your father experience[d] … in Cuba. And the fact that China is such a danger in that neighborhood. So we have immediate credibility with Japanese conservatives.
The second question is they’ve experienced—and you would know this from your business career—decades, really a generation of economic stagnation, what we don’t fully understand over here is basically rampant socialism.
Walton: Japan’s been flatlined for a couple decades now.
Matt Schlapp: That’s right. The government is too big. They tax too much. People can’t afford some of the things to make their life better because taxation is what it is. They’re realizing that they need to find a different way.
Mercedes Schlapp: In CPAC Brazil, their big focus was free markets. It was all about, how do we improve trade relations with the United States? So all on the economic sense is it is about bringing prosperity to these countries and to their people.
Walton: Now, do they have the issues with the elites versus the rest of us that we have in America?
Matt Schlapp: Oh, yeah.
Walton: It seems like this is maybe … if you look at Brexit, you look at what’s going on—
Matt Schlapp: I’m going to jump out of my chair—
Walton: Jump out of your chair.
Matt Schlapp: … because I didn’t realize this. We went to Australia, and we had Judge Pirro with us and some congressman with us. Nigel Farage came down. In the middle of CPAC Australia …
First of all, to start CPAC Australia, they tried to ban me, Dan Schneider, and Raheem Kassam from even being able to fly to Australia because Dan and I had the audacity to be life members of the NRA, and because we were then associated with gun violence, they tried to literally, this is a democracy, to prevent us from flying into Australia.
Then we get there and Parliament tries to pass a law to say that CPAC is actually a criminal enterprise in Australia. There’s a lawsuit going on about this. Then I walk outside the event and there’s 100 crazy-looking Antifa protesters in Australia. So what I want the American listeners—
Walton: Antifa in Australia?
Matt Schlapp: That’s right.
Mercedes Schlapp: Right.
Matt Schlapp: What I want the American listeners to understand is that this crazy idea of 56 and 32 genders and pushing this kind of crazy gender ideology on 7- and 8-year-olds here in America, this is alive and well in every major city on the globe.
The Green New Deal and the idea that fossil fuels are immoral and that capitalism is a cancer, this is alive and well and very well funded by European and American left-wing billionaires all over the world.
The same problems that we see us facing in the Commonwealth of Virginia or in America, it’s a bonding experience with these activists all over the world because they are facing the very same things.
I’ll give you an example. In Brazil, we were there as a guest of the Bolsonaro family, the president of Brazil and his son, Eduardo. He was explaining to me that fourth graders have aggressive sexual education. We can all have a conversation about what a more mature person needs to learn in terms of sexual information, but we have a daughter in fourth grade.
Walton: How old are your girls?
Matt Schlapp: Well, we have five—
Mercedes Schlapp: [Try] range, so 16 to 7.
Matt Schlapp: But I mean a fourth-grader, Bill, getting—
Mercedes Schlapp: She’s a 10-year-old, or not even a 10-year-old.
Matt Schlapp: … detailed descriptions how on to orally satisfy either a male or a female lover is child abuse. This is something for parents to determine what they do. It’s not for school systems.
So I said to them … “How do you stop that?” He said, “We have three-year contracts with these big corporate textbook companies. We can do nothing to stop this until we get to the third year.” He said, “We’re one year into it, and in two years all those textbooks are coming out. They’re going to learn math, and they’re going to learn history, and they’re going to learn English. We’re going to let parents and churches—
Walton: How are they going to do that, though? Because people who try to change education, you get textbook publishers. You get the curriculum developers. You’ve got the teachers’ colleges. You’ve got this whole group of people who are thriving with the existing system. How do you pull the textbooks?
Matt Schlapp: Well, I’m not going to tell you that I have the absolute game plan, but I will tell you in Brazil, one of the reasons why Bolsonaro is the president, one of the reasons why Trump is the president here, even if Trump doesn’t fully understand it, is the idea that not even conservatives, just ordinary, commonsense people are repelled by this aggressive, radical stuff that’s going on in schools and in these institutions.
All I can tell you is that there’s an SOS. There’s a white flag. There’s a cry for help. And there’s the resulting political success of those who are saying, “No more.”
Mercedes Schlapp: I think to President Trump’s credit, it is because he is the fighter. It is because he speaks up. He’s not silenced. He speaks up for those individuals who have felt for too long that identity politics is what is in play. They have to be careful of what they say or how they say things.
For President Trump, look, he’s going to speak his mind. I think it resonates with so many Americans who for too long feel like they have to be silenced. I mean, we’re seeing this on college campuses where the conservative kids feel that they have to be quiet, and they cannot speak up and say, “I’m a Trump supporter,” for example, because they’ll be bullied.
What is worrisome with where the left is going is that, when Hillary Clinton said the word “deplorable,” they want us to feel like we are less than them. How can we not agree with what they are saying? How can we not agree with their beliefs? Quite frankly, I think for everyday Americans, they’re like, “I just want to live my life and raise my family and do what I can to help my community and leave me alone. Government, leave me alone.”
Matt Schlapp: By the way, they have the values that made us great.
Mercedes Schlapp: Yes, exactly.
Matt Schlapp: The left has tried to undermine all of that. ….
Mercedes Schlapp: Matt had a experience. We bring up Hong Kong as being one of those examples of—
Matt Schlapp: Very moving, yeah.
Mercedes Schlapp: … eye-opening experiences. Obviously, as a wife, I was very concerned that Matt or anyone from the CPAC crew would get arrested.
Walton: When were you in Hong Kong?
Matt Schlapp: Right at the beginning of all this, but what was the timing? I’m sorry.
Mercedes Schlapp: You can’t even remember when happened yesterday.
Matt Schlapp: I’m so bad at remembering days. It was August.
Mercedes Schlapp: It was August.
Matt Schlapp: It was August. The protests had been going for a while. Really Westerners had not been invited, and there was a bit of a controversy about whether they really wanted Westerners. Because they’ve approached these protests with diffuse leadership. There’s not one leader.
When they had the Umbrella Revolution of 2014, Bill, they were able to decapitate the protests by taking out its leaders. They also wanted it to be Hong Kong. You will remember there was a time when they would have said, “Chinese,” but they don’t say, “Chinese.” They say, “Hong Kong.” They’re Hong Kongers. Most of them want their own independent entity. Some of them want complete independence from China.
But the fact that Americans actually took to the streets, and we went to two protests with the students and with these mostly young people. The first day, some of the Hong Kongers were a little … some were disgruntled that we were there, and of course the communists have completely infiltrated as well. There are spies everywhere.
By the second day, it was really so gratifying because I look very American obviously. I have big white hair. I’m taller than most of the people there and all these … young Hong Kongers would walk up to me, and it was so moving to hear, they said, “Would you please go back to America and tell your president that we appreciate him because the first time in 30 years we have an American president who’s fighting the communists in Beijing.” They felt such a kinship with Americans.
Now, the secondary thing they did to me is the second night we were right across from the police station. They had their weapons out pointed at the crowd, and they kept putting up these warning signs saying they were going to start shooting. Now, that could be rubber bullets. That can be tear gas. It can be different things. But they’ve shot people too.
So we were very close. We were right across the street. We were there with some other Americans, some supporters of CPAC. It’s unnerving. I can’t tell you how many people I had … once again, mostly young people, although it’s all ages, but it’s mostly young people coming up. They’d communicate by these interesting apps. They’d say, “We’re going to start moving a block here, or we’re going to move back 20 feet or whatever.” So they’re constantly communicating.
The one thing they kept saying to me is, “We’re very worried about you.” I’d say, “Why?” They’re like, “Well, you stand out, When they start shooting you have to run really fast.” I was like, “Oh, OK, I got it.” Then another guy would come to me and say, “No, when I say you have to run fast, you’re going to have to run fast, and we’re worried you can’t run fast.” I was like, “You just wait till that moment happens.” I was like, “I will be running. I can’t run for a long period of time, but I can do a quick burst here.”
Walton: You’re going to use tennis player skills.
Matt Schlapp: Exactly. I can run from the net to the baseline, and then I’ll be tired.
Mercedes Schlapp: But the bigger story here, and this is the message I think for our youth as well, is that they’ve got 28 years. Just think about it, in 28 years these 18-year-olds, 20-something-year-olds are looking at their lives and saying, “We’re going to be under Chinese communism, if not earlier.”
Matt Schlapp: They’re going to face what your dad … faced …
Mercedes Schlapp: If not earlier, yes. They are going to lose the freedom of speech, their freedom to practice their religion. …
Walton: Well, the Chinese Communist Party absolutely wants to take both Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Matt Schlapp: Totally.
Mercedes Schlapp: Yes, completely. … But thinking about where these young people … they’re looking at their future and it’s bleak because they know that they’re going to lose their rights. I say that because I think it’s important to understand where we are as a country. I mean, are we at a point that we’re going to turn toward this if you’re conservative, you’re not allowed to speak up? I mean, are we going to move toward that direction?