There’s a great misconception among conservatives today that needs to be dispelled immediately. I often hear from fellow conservatives that Millennials are stupid. That may be the case for some, but the right-wing has its fair share of stupid people as well. Here’s the problem with that mentality. If we go forth believing that our task is to fight stupidity, then we’ll be ill-prepared to give a righteous explanation as to why conservative philosophies are invariably superior to progressive ones.
We have to assume that the radical progressives who are rising in ranks are not stupid. They’re just gullible. The ones who truly are stupid cannot be reached by reason, therefore we shouldn’t bother trying to reason with them. Instead, let’s focus on the thoughtful hyper-leftists who are simply misguided and the rational moderates who are ripe for conversion to the conservative viewpoint.
To do this, we have to understand the education system from which the Millennials of today recently emerged. I remember my high school journalism teacher who was a remnant of the hippy generation. To her, anything the even remotely smelled conservative was an abomination that wasn’t worth the newspaper it was printed on. Thankfully, I was properly prepared to handle her attempts at indoctrination even at an early age, so it had little effect on me other than one important issue: teachers’ pay.
I fought along side her and the majority of the student body to pass a piece of legislation that would increase pay and decrease classroom sizes by hiring more teachers. It all made sense at the time. Even though I was a conservative, I was made to drift from my still-developing principles on this issue because it was one that hit close to home.
This bill was a huge deal at our school. We even held a widely-covered debate between the governor who was in favor of the legislation and a local conservative pundit and businessman who was against it. The debate was organized by our chapter of Young Conservatives, for which I was Secretary. It was the proudest moment for our chapter to have such important people accompanied by the state press, all sitting uncomfortably in our hot auditorium.
Unbeknownst to our chapter’s President, I had a series of questions prepared for the conservative that were intended as “gotcha” questions. I don’t remember what they were, but I was proud of them nonetheless. They were intended to put this businessman in the shoes of the teachers and corner him into admitting that if her were a teacher, he’d have to consider moving to a different state where the pay and conditions were better.
Our chapter’s President wasn’t having it. Mine were supposed to be the last questions of the night, just as I planned. But before I could ask my second question, my student “boss” jumped in and thanked everyone for attending. Time was up. My “gotcha” moment was spoiled.
As my mind drifted towards the wording of my next editorial in which I announced I was leaving Young Conservatives because they’d denied me my freedom of speech (yes, I was adorable back then), the conservative businessman approached me. He wanted me to finish asking my questions even if it wasn’t going to be on television. What happened next was the moment I realized that being a conservative is a mindset for which there can be no compromise. There’s no need to take policies case-by-case in which one can be selective with their conservatism. In the ten minutes I talked to him and the days of reflection that followed, I realized that proper conservatism is about consistency. Without consistency, conservatives can fall for he same selective righteous indignation that plagues leftists.
Was it unfortunate that teachers in my state were paid less than teachers in other states? No. Cost of living was lower in my state. Tax dollars were more localized as well, meaning the state took less but the cities and counties brought in more. This is why the average wage of teachers in the state was lower but in some districts it was higher than in neighboring states. I don’t recall the reasons he gave me for why the bill was bad for my state, but I vividly remember the change in heart they created.
I wasn’t just a right-leaning “free thinker” as I liked to think of myself at the time. I was a conservative from that moment on.
I was lucky. Between my journalism teacher’s manipulations, the indoctrination I was put through in college, and the massive progressive media blitz that followed through the Newt Gingrich years, it’s very possible I could have ended up being a moderate at best or even a leftist with conservative social leanings. But one conversation at 17-years-old changed that forever. Like I said, I was lucky. Or blessed.
Based on my experiences as the recipient of a conservative message in high school and the deliverer of conservative messages since then, I’m a firm believer that many leftists or potential leftists are one conversation away from seeing the truth. This applies to Christianity, conservatism, and patriotism, all three of which can advance through firm intellectual wake-up calls. But for that to happen, we must stop treating these impressionable Millennial leftists as stupid and start talking to them as if they’re simply gullible.
Everyone is gullible to some extent when we’re young. The problem with the 15-25 year range is that we’re arguably at our most gullible, yet we think the exact opposite.
Our current political atmosphere has degraded to petty insults and tribal allegiances as the left focuses on angering the masses while the right focuses on scaring them. Millennials are often the primary target for both sides. I believe the sooner conservatives are willing to stop throwing our hands up and calling them stupid, the easier it will be to bring them over to the right philosophies. Until then, our insults will only push them deeper into the clutches of the radical progressives.
Whether we like it or not, Millennials aren’t just our future. They’re emerging quickly as the present representatives of activism and political direction. They need guidance which comes through respect, not insults. Let’s start guiding them down the right path.