Conservatism Needs You, O Apathetic Youth

For conservatism to survive politically, on either side of the border, it needs young people. It’s a truism made all the truer by inescapable demographic realities.

Just as they are beginning to retire from everything else, the boomer generation is gradually starting to ditch out on politics. The average age of a Canadian MP is currently 52, and 58 for a US legislator. Sometime soon, a new generation is going to have to replace these people. And if conservative parties want to retain control, they’re going to have to start churning out some new leaders.

It’s all the more vital for the right, in fact, for the simple reason that demographic trends of the continent favor electoral success for the left. Rising numbers of immigrants, welcomed and serviced by the liberal parties who organized their entry, coupled with ever-growing urbanization, and declining political participation from he sorts of people who usually vote conservative (i.e., old people and rural whites) all foretell future doom for both the GOP and CPC.

Almost all serious conservative pundits are now more or less in agreement that the only surefire way to reverse this trend is to pray for a cultural change of sorts, one that makes conservatism seem, if not outright “hip,” then at least socially acceptable among the post-Boomer set. The degree to which conservative politics is generally anathema to youth can’t be understated, though often the purported solutions are just as depressing as the problem itself.

The conventional wisdom of much of the establishment press and punditry is that young people are all hedonistic social deviants of one form or another, and that therefore any sort of Christian-oriented traditionalistic social moralizing, in the style that has historically defined conservative politics, must be ditched to win youth support.

And indeed, to the extent such things exist, the continents’ various “young conservative” outfits, usually run by overzealous, status-climbing partisan apparatchiks, fall over themselves to promote their party as a nonjudgmental movement of freewheeling economic libertarianism. Lower taxes, less government regulation, more cash in your pocket, that sort of thing. The long-running appeal of libertarianism to spoiled, selfish youth aside, the pitch is usually rather transparent. Libertarianism is offered because it’s supposed to be the magical antithesis of social conservatism, and not because it’s something the top party brass has any serious passion for.

The patronizing belief that young people cannot appreciate even the most moderate forms of social conservatism and must instead fed bland tax-reform wonkery, smells uniquely offensive because it so ignorantly denies the very real existence of a new youth-driven form of legitimate conservatives that is quietly arising amidst little notice. It’s a phenomenon I like to unflatteringly call “douchebag conservatism” because of the way it represents an enlightened return to common sense within a larger youth culture that has been programmed to regard such thinking as grossly impolite and improper.

Douchey conservatism is neither strictly economic nor strictly social in focus, but a meld of both, rejecting the traditional one-or-the-other narrative the conventional wisdom is always claiming all battles for the soul of conservatism must be fought. It’s a belief system championed by the sort of middle class young adults who want to be successful, yes, but also proud of their culture, pleased with their lifestyle choices, and opinionated about those around them — the sorts of things that are now increasingly hard to talk about in polite society without getting labeled, well, a douche.

If modern conservatism is about nothing else, it is about rejecting the barriers of political correctness and nanny-state goodthink in favor of what actually works. Despite being blasted for years with airy-fairy theories to the contrary, there is a burgeoning community within the next generation that is starting to realize that the facts of the world, as Mrs. Thatcher so famously put it, are indeed conservative. It has nothing to do with the GST or abortion, just a common-sense faith in traditional beliefs such as working hard will generate success, getting married is better than being single, minorities should try to fit in, and relying on welfare or a government job to provide your livelihood is not respectable. The Boomer generation, engaged in an excessively prolonged adolescent war against their parents’ morality, fought mightily to kill these beliefs, but truth has proved a difficult thing to exterminate.

A political party willing to openly stand up for the winners in society — those who have worked hard to get good jobs, committed partners, intelligent friends, and adult lifestyles (and not be shy about denouncing those who have no interest in any) could make considerable political hay among a certain sector of the youth population frustrated by their culture’s indifference to their maturity and success.

It’s a shame no one is interested.

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