I recently attended the Arizona Western Conservative Summit. It was a one day event in Scottsdale, Arizona. The full multi-day event took place in Denver, and a number of speakers and panelists were simulcast from Denver to our location. The theme of the Summit was “Freedom’s New Day.”
The panels that stood out the most to me were the ones about Youth, and their coveted vote. First, you should know that the majority of attendees seemed to be (judging solely on hair color), well beyond their youth. But, then again, at 31 years old, I wasn’t considered youth either. At least, not for he purpose of purchasing the youth priced ticket for the Summit. When I attended BlogCon back in May of this year, there was also a lot of talk about the Youth. At the Con and the Summit, the concern was how to attract the Youth to the Conservative/Republican movement, and what is it we’re doing wrong? The opinions from BlogCon and WCS were fairly consistent: It’s the messaging, stupid.
I disagree. And not necessarily so respectfully. I’ve heard people say that the Youth really do believe in America’s foundational principles of liberty, self-responsibility, and free markets…they just vote for the party that, according to its platform, believes the exact opposite of that. Yes, yes, I understand that the Republicans get a lot wrong, too. However, if Liberty and the principles that founded America are going to gain a foothold anywhere, it’s more likely to be in the party that believes America’s foundational ideas are exceptional. So, if you really believe in those things, why vote backwards or for the party least likely to accommodate those ideas? The answer: because you don’t believe in those things.
And how could you? If you’ve not been living in a bomb shelter with Brendan Fraser in one of the worst movies even committed to film, then you’ve been subject to American culture. That culture, especially in education, is owned lock, stock, and chalkboard by Progressives (or, Leftists, if you prefer). If you’re lucky enough to make it out of your mother’s womb alive, you’ll likely soon find yourself seated in lovely government-run classroom. From an early age you’ll be taught the it-takes-a-village line: Johnny has ten apples, Sara has four apples – clearly Johnny has more apples because he is a privileged white Christian male. They ease you into it, so by the time you hit junior high, you won’t question them when they tell you that the second amendment really just applies to the military. That way, by the time you’re writing essays for college, you can wow them with how you don’t feel like an American citizen, but rather a Citizen Of The World. Yes, very original.
Clearly, we have a youth problem. But, it’s not the one we necessarily think we have. It starts earlier. We have to start educating when they’re 2, not 22. Sure, minds are still pliable and salvageable at 22, but the younger the better. And branding and marketing executives know this. They know if your parents buy Volkswagen, Starbucks, and McDonald’s, then when you get all grown up you’ll be speeding down the highway in a Passat with a quad latte on the way to get a Big Mac. In some ways it’s less about the product or the packaging and more about familiarity. However, the unmitigated disaster of New Coke shows that there does need to be some substance.
I’m not saying we should resign the education arena, but the battle is uphill. Both ways. In the snow. With no shoes. And being chased by a pack of hungry wolves. With a salami in your pocket. But we do need to make youth more familiar with our ideas. As it stands, we have to do a lot of that outside of the classroom setting. Thanks to my dad, I cut my teeth on reason magazine, CATO, and Liberty Magazine – they were always around, they were my bedtime stories. When I got older, we talked about the ideas in those pages, he asked me questions that didn’t have yes or no answers, he showed me parts of the country or parts of history where ideas at odds with liberty had failed, and where freedom succeeded. My dad taught me how to think not what to think. He led me to places, like the Federalist Papers, where I could find answers for myself. That only made me want to find more. Ultimately, this bred in me a familiarity with Liberty. My spirit became more than kindred with Liberty, it craved Liberty. That is what we need to pass along. This is the Youth problem we have: They don’t crave Liberty. They desire the safety of mundane dreams and a certain future promised by Big Government. Instead, they need to be taught to hunger for the opportunity to clear their own paths and to be excited about the possibility of what they’ll find behind the thistles and thorns.