Why Millennials Won't Turn 'Conservative'
Every so often the wonks of wishful thinking give us an article about how blacks are becoming Republicans, how Hispanics are supposedly a natural GOP constituency, or, as is the subject here today, how the millennial generation is turning "conservative." Perhaps pundits asserting the last thing recall Winston Churchill's observation, "If you're not a liberal at 20, you have no heart; if you're not a conservative at 40, you have no brain." And perhaps they overlook that it's possible to raise a brainless generation.
Don't think, as one might, that this will be a typical analysis sneering at the proverbial "next generation" using the perceived gold standard of one's own. After all, I realize that my generation is the tree the millennial nut fell from. Placing matters in further perspective, it's true that older and younger generations ever slam each other; it's also true that they both are always partially right. Lastly, I'll say that I don't at all consider the WWII FDR voters the "greatest generation," though it makes for a nice narrative. The greatest generation was the one that founded our nation and wondered if we could "keep" its republic, and there has been a consistent, but accelerating, degeneration ever since.
In discussing our latest movement toward idiocracy, my starting point will be a Sept. 4 American Thinker article written by one Chriss Street. In making his case for millennial hope, Mr. Street points out that while 61 percent of millennials voted for Barack Obama in 2012, his approval among them has now sunk to 46 percent. But this is a deceptive statistic. For an approval rating amounts to the judging of a candidate relative to people's ideal personal standard for the presidency, whereas in an election he is judged relative to another specific candidate for the presidency. And if Obama were again running against Mitt Romney -- with all the usual media propaganda -- does anyone really think he'd lose millennials to the governor? No doubt more would stay home, but I suspect the president would enjoy something close to his 2012 support among those who cast votes.
Moreover, millennials may have soured on Obama somewhat, but this reflects cynicism more than conservatism. Of course, that they'd be cynical is no surprise; they've been raised in an unraveling West in which feckless, morally-confused adults in their homes, schools, government, houses of worship and elsewhere have let them down. Nonetheless, cynicism is not traditionalism; in fact, it is a form of naiveté. Believing all people act out of selfish motives, the cynic instinctively paints everyone with the same brush. And such a person can hardly distinguish well among candidates.
Mr. Street also tells us that, "in 2008, 37.4% of incoming freshman women and 30.5% men identified themselves as liberals or leftists, the most in 35 years." The reality, though, is even worse than this indicates. First consider that self-reporting is more about perception than reality. For starters, it always underestimates leftist numbers, as likely a majority of "moderates" are liberals who -- usually because of self-delusion (a leftist bailiwick) and a desire to sound "reasonable" -- don't brand themselves what they really are; bear in mind when pondering this that liberals are generally solipsistic and fancy that they define the center, and also realize that the label "liberal" has been discredited enough so that many won't don it. Yet even more significant here is that it isn't just people's perceptions that shift -- the definitions of "liberal" and "conservative" do, too.
Consider that while a conservative in 1952 America was staunchly anti-communist, a conservative in the Soviet Union at the time was a communist. And "conservatives" in Western Europe are often our liberals' ideological soulmates. This isn't for lack of truth in political advertising. Rather, it's because the only consistent definition of "conservative" is "a desire to maintain the status quo" while "liberal's" only consistent definition involves a desire to change it. This means "conservatism" is always changing: tomorrow's version will reflect today's liberalism's success in altering the status quo. Conservatism is the caboose to liberalism's locomotive (I treat this in-depth here).
This explains a few things. First, it's often pointed out that a healthy plurality in America describes itself as conservative. Is this surprising? All it really means is that many, many people align themselves with the status quo -- and if this weren't the case, the status quo wouldn't be the status quo. Second, some insist that millennials will move toward conservatism, and this is true in that most people become somewhat more traditional with age. Yet it's also true that conservatism will move toward them.
That is to say, as "conservatism" drifts "left," it follows that millennials will "become more conservative" even if they stay in the same place, in that they will be situated more on the post-shift political spectrum's right side; this is just as how a person can become poorer in a definitional sense if the poverty line standard is altered.
That so few recognize this reflects the relativism of our time, where we label ourselves with provisional terms and measure ourselves against other people (it's people who define the political spectrum). If we want to see matters clearly, however, we must define them differently: in absolute terms.
In other words, what do millennials actually believe? Well, never before has an American generation been so tolerant of intolerable sexual practices, so supportive of faux marriage and skeptical of actual marriage, so relativistic and disconnected from Christianity (church attendance is one of the best predictors of voting habits). Never before has an American generation been to their degree socially "liberal."
This brings us to the claim that millennials are, at least, fiscally conservative. Now, not only is convincing evidence of this elusive, but considering it a saving grace is essentially saying that it profits a man to gain the world but lose his soul. Regardless, however, while the social liberalism/fiscal conservatism marriage may exist in particular cases, I suspect that in principle it is an impossibility.
For instance, speaking of principle versus particular, if you ask people, "Do you believe government should balance its budget and be frugal," of course they'll say yes. But if you ask them if they're willing to relinquish their particular piece of the pie (government college aid?), their tune changes. Espousing fiscal responsibility requires only a voice; achieving it requires virtue.
Second, consider the side-effects of social liberalism in modern times. And this should be prefaced by saying that since this explanation warrants a book, my treatment here will necessarily be lacking. But just as an example, social liberalism means loose sexual mores. Loose sexual mores mean a high rate of single motherhood (today it's 42 percent... and rising). And what does this mean? Since the modern West won't let these women twist in the wind, the government will step into the breach and play daddy with handouts and/or mommy with tax-funded daycare. It is unavoidable.
And in point of fact, this cultural decay brings us to the real reason for political drift. It was something about which the Founding Fathers -- as well as great thinkers throughout Christendom's history -- spoke much. Ben Franklin warned, "As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." British philosopher Edmund Burke observed, "It is written in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters." And John Adams wrote in 1798, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Question: does "moral and religious" describe us today?
Of course, some will now say, "But why do you think millennials supported Ron Paul? They want liberty!" Sure they do.
So does a tiger in a zoo.
So does a toddler.
Neither, however, can be allowed to roam free in civilization without hurting himself or others. And the less people are civilized growing up, the closer they will be to that infantile or animalistic state -- and the more they have need of cages and masters.
The truth? Government can be no better than the public's virtue, though it can be worse. And this morality-government relationship is evident in voting patterns. Is it a coincidence that every group orthodox Christians label immoral -- those involved in "alternative" sexual deathstyles, criminally inclined inner-city dwellers, effete college professors, grunge-type youths scarred with multiple tattoos and body piercings -- vote left? "What fellowship hath light with darkness?" The darkness hates the light. When people have sins they yearn to rationalize away, the last thing they'll do is support leaders who would uphold, even just through word, a moral standard condemning their passions.
Providing specificity as to how this affects government is another book-worthy topic, so I'll offer just two examples. We've heard about those ruggedly individualistic Americans who'd rather live in poverty in Appalachia than accept government handouts and those spirit-of-entitlement types who protest violently when they don't receive them. And society will always contain both kinds, but the ratio can vary greatly. In a nation characterized by self-sufficiency, honor, and virtue, a redistributionist will find barren ground. But if a spirit of greed, covetousness, and thievery prevails, people will be susceptible to the demagogic appeal, "You've been cheated, but give me power and I'll get you your piece of the pie, comrade!" Or consider lust. If people resolved to be chaste outside of marriage, do you think the abortion movement or taxpayer funded contraception appeal could gain traction?
So how do you make a civilization susceptible to dark demagogues?
Make it love the darkness.
I wouldn't first and foremost spend time on intellectual appeals. As the Soviets once did (as explained by ex-KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov) I'd seek to undermine the morality of the target nation. I'd spread the idea that morality is really "values" and values are relative -- all just a matter of perspective, you see. Once this was accepted and people no longer believed in the rules of morality, it would be as if they ceased believing in the rules of human nutrition: not thinking any food could actually be "bad," they'd be governed only by taste and would try, and could develop an affinity for, anything -- even perhaps poison. Vice corresponds to this on the moral menu.
I'd then get them hooked on their bad moral diet through inundation. Stoke their lust's fires via highly sexualized entertainment, and portray violence as just as casual and cool, so lashing out at others seems the norm. I'd engorge their egos with media messages about how they could determine their own morality so that, as the serpent said, "you will be like God." I'd provide co-ed dorms and a general party atmosphere at universities, creating "occasions of sin" that will ensure the kids have as much as possible they need to justify. And after robbing them of moral judgment and creating a visceral craving for vice, I'd fill their heads full of anti-Western, anti-Christian -- in fact, anti-goodness -- ideas in college classrooms. When I was done with them, they'd not only possess the discernment of a man in the midst of a drug-fueled orgy, their egos would be so bloated they'd consider their ignorance wisdom.
Speaking of wisdom, when conservatives indulge wishful thinking and suppose that millennials will "wake up," they ignore that we actually need a shakeup, something that changes the cultural trajectory on which we've long been (so if an asteroid strikes the Earth, millennials may turn into conservatives -- of course, they instead may turn into cavemen, too). Until then, whatever the keepers of the flame plan had better require the participation of only a zealous minority. For the masses will not wake up when beset by a cultural narcolepsy in which nightmares are fancied nice dreams.