RE: Young Conservatives and Conferences

“In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.” — Oscar Wilde

Last week, Jay wrote a terrific piece on conferences, political pros and young conservatives. It was spot on. On the young conservatives who frequent political conferences, he says, in part:

There are some issues associated with younger conservatives and one of the larger issues is …they’re young. And they think they know much more than they do.

Here’s the thing: If you’re between the age of 15-18….you don’t know crap yet. That stings. I understand. I was that age. I now have two teenage kids that age. They don’t follow politics closely but they are convinced that Dad the old guy JUST. DOES. NOT. GET. IT.

I can see the 25 year old’s laughing at what I just wrote but guess what? All of you between the ages of 19-30. You know just a little more crap than they others. Same goes for the ones 30-35. You still don’t know everything. Hell, I don’t know everything and I’m 43. The people in their early 50′s don’t know everything yet, but they know much more than I do, so I listen to those people.

Although, admittedly, I don’t know crap yet, I would like to add my two cents on this section of the post.

In my observation, there are many young conservatives and libertarians who are, as Jay describes them, “bright, active young people who want to learn as much as they can.” But, to be harsh, there are many who are not.

I attended a career development panel for young conservative professionals in D.C. All of the four panelists talked about such things as networking – an important practice, to be sure. But only one of the four mentioned anything about doing your reading, learning about policy and political philosophy.

If I am being generous, I’d say that ratio plays out for the young conservatives I have seen at conferences, such as this year’s CPAC. Maybe one in four actually cares about learning what conservative politics mean. The rest are there to correct the errors of their forebears.

Whoever decided to make CPAC 2013 about youth may be somewhat at fault here. Young conservatives and libertarians, who don’t know crap yet, are given an inflated sense of their own importance to the cause, and take it as license to dictate where conservatism should go.

For example, because young people are “the future” and because the GOP apparently needs to do better among them, conservatism should embrace gay marriage like most young people do. Rather than persuade older conservatives that gay marriage is in fact conservative – a question for another time – the preferred method is essentially to say “you need us, so adopt our views.”

Well, that may be an accurate statement politically, but that doesn’t mean you are a conservative activist. Do these young people really like conservatism as a philosophy, or do they want conservatism to be a philosophy they like?

They may not distinguish between the two because of confusion as to what conservatism is. The Liberty Movement, for all of its merits, is popular among some “conservatives” and “libertarians” basically because they interpret it as the political version of telling one’s parents “I’m not a kid anymore, so you can’t tell me what to do.” Like Hamlet’s statement to Horatio, Shakespeare might warn them that “there are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Have they read Hayek or do they just know some of his quotes that the Bastiat Institute shares on its Facebook page? Are they here because they thought Atlas Shrugged was a great movie? (It wasn’t.)

In other words, are young conservatives interested in why conservatism as a political philosophy is of merit? Or do they simply happen to like the policies conservatives advocate these days? I’m afraid too many youth are in the latter category.