Commentary: Reagan Reed
Is Montgomery County Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley a Marxist at the center of a nefarious plot to impose Marxism on the youth of Magnolia? That was a claim made recently at the July 27 Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting, although one could be forgiven for confusing it with the Lincoln Day Dinner of the Republican Women’s Club of Wheeling, West Virginia.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Republican Party Precinct Chair Ginger Russell strongly insinuated that Riley has Marxist sympathies in a tirade against the him and Magnolia Independent School District.
“As Socialist Revolutionary Vladimir Lenin quoted, ‘Give me four years to teach the children and the seeds I have sown will never be uprooted,'” said Russell. “This past year the court decided to award nearly $30 Million in federal Cares Act funding to our local school districts. This decision to send more federal funding to what was once known as local independent school districts furthers the federal overreach and Marxist agenda in social engineering the next generation.”
Russell recounted that she had presented a resolution to the local GOP executive committee opposing the International Baccalaureate curriculum. The resolution passed overwhelmingly, but according to Russell, the only precinct chairs who voted against it are closely affiliated with Riley and his campaign manager, Kristin Christ.
International Baccalaureate is an advanced international, dual credit high school curriculum based in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Why would those closely tied to Riley oppose exposing the Marxist ideologies within our schools?” asked Russell. “Could it be the out of control and unacceptable political collaboration and collusion between Magnolia ISD and Commissioner Riley?”
Russell said Riley’s band would be providing the entertainment for an upcoming Magnolia Education Foundation fundraiser. Members of the Charlie Riley Band include Magnolia ISD Superintendent Todd Stephens, as well as other district employees.
“Sadly you see office holders that will trade their principles for political gain showing no integrity at the expense of our children’s education,” Russell lamented.
The Commissioners were dismissive of Russell’s statements. “I play guitar, Commissioner Riley. Can I join?” quipped Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts before County Judge Mark Keough ended the discussion. Members of the court are not supposed to respond during public comment.
So is Commissioner Riley a Marxist sympathizer? Since the word is thrown around so carelessly in political discourse on the right these days, perhaps we should first define what exactly the word Marxism means.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines Marxism as, “a theory and practice of socialism including the labor theory of value, dialectical materialism, the class struggle, and dictatorship of the proletariat until the establishment of a classless society.”
Riley is a big-government, big-spending local government apparatchik with traditional, socially conservative values. He’s a reliable vote to increase county spending, and rarely meets a government project he doesn’t like. In many respects he is reminiscent of the late 20th century Southern Democrats who once dominated Montgomery County. But a Marxist?
In the eloquent words of President Joe Biden, “Come on man. What are we talking about?”
There is nothing in Riley’s long public career that would indicate that he adheres to dialectical materialism or wants to overthrow the bourgeoisie class and install a dictatorship of the proletariat. And while he supports seizing toll road revenue, he has never said anything about seizing the means of production.
In fact, one would probably be safe betting a Montgomery County Commissioner’s salary that Charlie Riley has never even read Marx, or Engels, or Hegel.
There are many legitimate policy critiques and disagreements to be had with Riley in good faith from a fiscally conservative perspective. But calling him a Marxist is inaccurate and stretches credulity. This kind of wildly hyperbolic rhetoric undermines legitimate criticisms of Riley’s policy positions by making his detractors look unhinged.
Conservatives must not go down the path of imitating former U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) who alleged the U.S. government was full of communist party members but failed to produce any proof. There were plenty of grounds to criticize massive growth of government in the 50s and 60s without resorting to conspiracy theories. McCarthy lost his credibility and became a byword and a punchline.
I personally like Mrs. Russell, and think she has some valid criticisms of Magnolia ISD. While the school board has publicly denied sanctioning things like Critical Race Theory in the school district, there are progressive teachers who are pushing left-wing ideology on their students. The Magnolia ISD board, who say they are conservatives, need to be more vigilant cracking down on this. But accusing Riley and the Christs of having Marxist sympathies only undermines Russell’s own cause.
I believe our local political discourse in Montgomery County would be improved greatly by sticking to the facts and laying out clear and concise policy arguments based on evidence, without resorting to exaggeration or hyperbole.