Somewhere between 2008 and 2012, it would have been fair to place the future of conservatism in the trough of despair.
For many Americans, the two losing presidential candidates of those years were the latest remnants borne out of the evangelical “Moral Majority” era of the 1970s and ’80s, of the establishment, and trying to tell everyone else what to do — no matter how much they feigned otherwise.
If the Republican Party wishes to survive the rise of the millennial generation, such candidates will be the last.
A notorious 2009 cover of TIME labelled the GOP elephant an “endangered species.” And sure enough, despite the (in my opinion, Pyrrhic) victories of the 2010 midterm elections, with Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012 it seemed that the right wing could be politically exiled for at least a generation. All that the Democrats needed to do was sit comfortably, keeping their eyes on the long-term, while their demographic advantages continued to roll in; all while they watch the Republicans sow the seeds of their own discord and destruction.
But, alas, the ascent of identity politics over the past few years has brought some interesting revelations. For while the left has been savoring the steady downfall of their adversary, they have failed to learn from it.
The millennials helped hand-deliver Barack Obama two terms in office. A few judicial victories followed the Executive. But not content with political triumph alone, the left has never lost sight of total intellectual and cultural triumph. Society must be remade, and disagreement must be weeded out. The battlefield is both in the universities and online, and those who dare to diverge from the doctrine of political correctness have their jobs and reputations to lose.
Young people are indeed the future — the ones who can keep all of this possible — and are the left’s most vocal representatives regarding what is acceptable versus what is “problematic.”
This has proven a double-edged sword.
Now when it comes to being compelled into dogmatic submission, one is no longer much reminded of the late Jerry Falwell, but rather of legions of gender feminists, social Marxists, apologists for Islamic extremism, and all manner of entitled, college-aged “SJW” who ignore the real issues to nitpick at the rest. The unmistakable focus on microaggressions, trigger-warnings, and safe-spaces is a sad reminder.
These “regressives” (as they are often called by opponents on both sides) seem to emulate the very worst of those they traditionally disdain. One such ironic trait is an off-putting zeal and aversion to facts that, despite their general atheism, I dare to call religious. Another is the strong desire to be sheltered from outside scrutiny, even in higher education, where views are meant to be challenged and dissected.
But arguably the biggest is minding everyone else’s business, which has only been possible on such a scale with the help of the Internet and social media. The Puritans themselves could never have dreamed of such pervasive influence as this.
While the left may have the government, they also have an existential crisis: becoming what they hate. And given the sensible and widespread pushback against the creeping specter of the Thought Police, it appears that free speech, individualism, and other relics of the Enlightenment could turn into American nostalgia. Perhaps the future belongs to those who can remain satisfied with simply leaving others alone.
So this Christmas, when you’re not giving food, clothing, and cheer to the truly needy, try giving your fellow citizens the gift of your respectful, empowering disinterest.
With any luck, it may save a nation.