Yes, Virginia, young Conservatives DO exist!
Two weekends ago, I had the honor of attending the Young Republican National Convention in Indianapolis. This provided me with a new outlook on the future of the Republican party and the role of conservatism in it.
Despite the calls that “Conservatism is dead” and “The GOP is wandering in the desert,” that’s not what I saw. I saw many bright, young conservative Republicans there who prove to me that conservatism is not dead. Instead, there’s a growing group of people coming back to the idea that “if we can agree on 8 out of 10 things….” While the more hard-line conservatives would argue against it, I believe it’s the only way to go to prevent a split within the conservative movement among the social, fiscal, paleo-, and neo- cons.
Maybe it will take this vast amount of big government liberalism to bring us together on these issues that threaten to divide us. Although many fiscal conservatives decry the introduction of social conservatives to this group, we have to remember that liberals don’t like either one…so why not gang up against them rather than fight amongst ourselves?!
Right now, I think we can all agree that we don’t like what our government is doing right now. It’s insanity. I personally think that conservatives have a better chance now in the minority than we did in the majority to reach out and re-brand ourselves. In the end, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama may do more for conservatism in the end than they do for liberalism. If we as conservatives approach this right, many young people will realize that they are actually conservative.
The problem we have right now is that young people (unless they are political or historical junkies) don’t remember the principles of Reagan or even of the “Republican Revolution” in 1994. Right now for most people, conservatism=George W. Bush. Most of the young people that President Obama inspired during his campaign have no first-hand knowledge of Ronald Reagan or even of the “Contract with America” pushed by Republicans in 1994. For reference, I wasn’t born yet when Reagan left office and was only five when Republicans took over Congress. In ‘94, I was more concerned about watching “Thomas the Tank Engine” than I was worried about healthcare reform. Unless you’re a political or historical junkie, people my age (and even a few years older) only associate conservatism with George W. Bush and the last eight years of Republicans. Although I personally liked GWB, his policies (and the actions of Congress) have turned away many young people. Now is the time to help reclaim them.
What I saw at the YRNF convention is that there is a strong conservative movement growing among young people. Despite what the media says, conservatism is not limited to the group that gets the early bird specials and senior discounts. It’s also not confined to the white, upper class because many people are realizing that these insane liberal policies will result in less prosperity. Despite the massive liberal agenda being pushed by the President and Congress as being “what the people want” the harder they try, the more opposition that these policies encounter! Why is that? It’s because our conservative principles resonate with people! Most people want less government, less taxes, and more opportunities- not the opposite.
So if most people believe these things, how do we reach them? We need to articulate the core principles of conservatism whenever possible: personal responsibility, less government, less taxes, the free market, traditional values (whatever you believe those to be- whether personal or government-enforced), and a traditional view of the Constitution. And we need to find new voices to articulate these things to the American people. Whether you like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee (among others), it’s necessary for us to use the voices of all of them to get our principles across. We also need to include new, principled conservative voices (like I heard at the YRNF) to this group like Thaddeus McCotter, Aaron Schock, Rick Santorum, Mike Pence, and Mitch Daniels, among many others. These people will be the torch-bearers of the future for the GOP and we need to wind them up and let them go! Sure, we need to find one of these people to unite behind in 2012, but for right now, let’s focus on getting the message out about what we believe and why we stand opposed to the policies of President Obama.
If we (as young conservatives) step up to oppose the current policies AND provide an alternative based on our principles, I know that message will resonate with young people more than “hope” and “change” ever will.