Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Strom Thurmond: Candidate of the Rising Generation

Maggie Gallagher directs us to a poll that shows young people like socialism more than the rest of the population and just love the progressive label.  That seemed disturbing enough that I followed the link.  She is right, but I found an even more amazing result.  The young are also the group most likely to support states' rights.  In fact they like states'  rights more than they like socialism, capitalism, progressivism or even civil liberties.  Eighty-four percent approve of states' rights and only fourteen percent dissapprove. Now either the Dixiecrats are set to sweep into power, or the poll is telling us that many young people don't know much about the history and policy associations of the labels they are being asked to evaluate. 

Just asking: Was there any word the pollster could have put in front of "rights" that would not have gotten a positive response?

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 8 Comments

Excellent post!

I suspect they even like property rights. They are libertarian, even in their "socialism."

"States' rights" does not equal "Dixiecrat." It is part and parcel of any conservative or classical liberal understanding of American government. The only problem is the use to which the concept is sometimes put. The same is true of all other good concepts. As for young people's putative support for the concept, it may be a rare case where historical ignorance is actually useful in thinking about things more clearly. The poll result probably indicates that young people want to have things both ways: a heavy welfare state but one that doesn't cramp their style. But their support for states' rights in concept is not stupid in that case, let alone morally wrong. Just empty of content.

Good post. However, you guys need to take a more optimistic view of the Millenials and successive generations. One important thing to remember is that the idea of social justice/relativism/progressive idealism has been pushed on us since kindergarten (even earlier than that if mom read certain books - my mother didn't allow toy guns in the house until she noticed we were shooting at eachother with the hairdryer). Any view that doesn't directly reflect what's been drilled into our heads for 12+ years is a small victory in and of itself and provides a small beach head from which to begin making inroads. Many social issues will work themselves out as we grow up and have children. As prenatal technology improves (allowing the baby to be viewed earlier and survive outside the womb earlier), the case for abortion-on-demand seems more and more barbaric (the sticking point in "Juno" was that the 4 week old fetus already had fingernails). Gay marriage will be tougher to tackle, for, as Allen Bloom disparagingly noted, we could be described in one word as "nice". However, spouses dedicated to eachother and their children will probably be more open to defense of marriage-type legislation. On that note, "traditional marriages" will probably make a comeback with us, as women will no longer have to worry about "the problem without a name" thanks to the internet and iphone technology. The resources availible to a woman who wants to be a stay-at-home mom are vast, and provide ample opportunities to teach and do from the home. Now, taken in the context of "states rights" sympathies, the federal technocrats will not be able to jam social change down America's throats without a huge fight.

Additionally, having joined the workforce in the midst of the Great Recession (heard that line the other day), we will be very jealous of our personal wealth and private property. You really think some finance major who spent two years substitute teaching part-time while looking for a real job will be inclinded to pay for someone else's morgage on a 5 bathroom house or welfare checks for the able-bodied? Growing up in the most affluent society in the history of human civilization but then coming to age amidst the economic turbulence we're seeing was a great gut-check which will not soon be forgotten. We are selfish and materialistic, yes, but those are virtues to those who want to resist European socialism (a la Greece).

I really think the cosmetic changes our world has seen have overwhelmed the senses of conservatives. Twenty-year-olds running around with iPhones and watching Jon Stewart, listening to Lady Gaga, and not attending church have convinced many that the Visigoths have crested the seventh hill. However, I genuinely believe in conservative principles like those espoused in the Constitution; as such, all things being equal, most people will listen to a reasonable argument, and our side has all the reasonable arguments. The problem isn't the message but the delivery. We owe a great debt to the conservatives who stood with their finger in the dike throughout the later half of the 20th century, but it's time to go on offense. Quite frankly, I don't many politicians or custodians of our intellectual heritage who are equipped to do so. Thus, short term we'll just have to vote Republican and hope the mediocrities in office can resist a bit longer.

David, it works just as well (though it isn't as absurd) if you fill in Goldwater (who was not personally a segragationist or a white supremacist) for Thurmond. Unless one assumes that the 84% who were for states' rights shared Goldwater's principled objections to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or some such - there would probably have been a positive response to "city rights" or "UN rights". There are probably ways to reconcile, as a matter of both theory and political activism the large majorites who approve of progressivism, states rights, and civil rights all at the same time, but I doubt very many of those who answered as approving of all three had done such a thing. they all probably just sounded like good things to be in favor of.

Andrew, lots of good points. I'm thinking about them.

Andrew is right (though Allan Bloom was describing MY and not HIS generation . . . though that may be a distinction without a difference as I don't think much has changed as it relates to this point). The great advantage that we have here is that the millennials are (as were/are the "X"ers before them) essentially blank slates when it comes to understanding politics and their country. This is not to say that there are not strong (and wrong) prejudices that need to be overcome. But the pablum they've been fed in most places and at most schools is pretty easily thinned by the realities of life and in the face of better arguments (particularly when those arguments are well-timed, well-crafted, and are delivered in the right spirit--that of persuasion instead of snark and insult).

The overwhelming character of the "civic" education most of us have is that it was lightweight, boring and unimpressive--it did not particularly engage one way or the other. So most people who think they lean left are not really committed . . . they just parrot what they think is (as Andrew notes) "nice." This ought not to be taken as an indication of a lack of ability to engage . . . it's more a lack of occasion for it or substance behind it--because most of us don't understand how some things touted as "nice" and "liberal" actually aren't "nice" or "liberal" at all. We shouldn't disparage a tendency in Americans toward "niceness" . . . it's actually a very good and very American thing that we seek to be "nice." Americans are nice. Being nice is not the same thing as being good . . . but being nice indicates that one is seeking to be good. And there's nothing wrong with being nice. It's just that it's got to be coupled with being smart and being secure in love of country. We do love it, but many don't know why. And we don't like to give voice to things we don't understand . . . lest we offend or look stupid. Most gen Xers and millenials want to be able to articulate their love . . . but they don't know how to understand it. I think there is a vast hunger for this kind of knowledge. And I think we conservatives have been guilty of underestimating our ability to be persuasive--with this group, especially . . .

I think this poll demonstrates just how ignorant (self-contradictory) the young in this country have become. They have no idea what they are agreeing with -- it's all image and no substance. If it sounds good and noble, then it is.

Conservatives have always counted on middle-age (and the weight of multiple responsibilities) to offset the stupidity of the young, but I've always thought that is a passive strategy that guarantees a good bit of mischief in the body politic.

When will more conservatives understand that they have to take back the universities and the media if they want a hopeful future? If you want real traction, you have to seize the institutions. It's been my experience that the Right severely under-funds intellectual endeavors, which comes perhaps from a deep distrust of intellectualism (admittedly warranted, but you have to play the game to win). Places like the Ashbrook Center, the Heritage Foundation, and such are just a start. Much, much more is needed. We no longer influence the academy or the media because we were asleep for decades -- time to wake up.

While I am deeply grateful for my first-rate education which gave me my political bearings, as an ignorant and self-contradicting youth I do not think that I would want your type dictating the kind of learning I engaged in.

With all due respect, it is this posture -- not the academy -- which can turn off youth to conservatism most easily. I didn't become a conservative because I was told that everything I had ever known before I reached college was stupid and wrong (even though a great deal of it was). Rather, I was taught that I am a human being as capable of governing myself as any other man, and was exhorted to virtue and to living a respectable life.

Keep it up, and you can expect to continue to "count on the offset the stupidity of the young."

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