Sunday, December 24, 2006
Young Conservatives
I don't mean to be so political lately, but I've actually been intending to blog about this for a while now. I was reading an article in a recent issue of Harper's magazine entitled "The Kid's are Far Right: Hippie hunting, bunny bashing, and the new conservatism". It was a report on the National Conservative Student Conference put on by the Young America's Foundation, a college campus group for young conservatives. I came away very disturbed by what I read. The attitudes and beliefs of these conservative young people are very extreme. It's not just that I disagree with their political assumptions (which I do for the most part), it's more the sub-culture of compassion-less conservatism, extreme libertarianism, and aggressive, arrogant political rhetoric that is being bred into these kids that disturbs me.

Let me just quote from the article to explain what I mean:

  • In response to why they came:
    "I'm here because I want to make the liberals cry and subvert the socialist agenda."
    "I'm here because I'm a Christian."
    "Liberals on my campus make me sick, and I want to figure out how to combat them better."
    "I came to D.C. because I might get the chance to slap the jaw of Ted Kennedey."
    "I want to teach freshman how to defend themselves against dirty hippies."
    "I'm here for How to Bash Liberals 101."
    "I came here to network with my fellow right-wing conspirators, because we're all going to be running the country someday."

    (One can hope that most of these were said facetiously, though I'm not entirely sure.)

  • One student, Samantha Soller, lists among her hobbies "political science, philosophy, and hippie-hunting, enjoys foreclosing on poor people's cardboard boxes, eating red meat, using her Sigarms P232 Stainless to shoot cute little bunny rabbits." The writer also relates some of Soller's lunchtime dialog about her disdain for the fajitas being served.
    "What's this?" she says, surveying the buffet. "I don't eat anything that's not American."

    A boy standing nearby assures her, "It is American; it's Tex-Mex."

    Soller frowns. "I'm having the salad," she says. "I don't want to get sick."

  • The article also quotes Bennett Rawicki, a student attendee from the University of Dallas, pontificating about how to solve poverty:
    What lies at the heart of the poverty problem, Rawicki muses, is that America's poorest families have turned pathological; they're "crippled," as he puts it. Taking a box cutter to the public safety net, and driving the poor into a modern-day state of nature, he says, might be just the thing to teach them a few important lessons in family values.

  • Another, more moderate student bemoans his inability to reveal his true opinions regarding gay rights at the conference:
    "If I said that gay men and women are still men and women, the people here, they would say, 'You're immoral, you pig.'"

  • In regards to the official content of the conference, the article records remarks from an African-American speaker, Dr. Walter Williams of George Mason University:
    Williams has come here today to let students know that, the recent tax cuts notwithstanding, American private property is in the gravest of danger. The free exchange of money for goods and services, he informs the students, is akin to "seduction." Taxation, by the same token, is akin to sexual assault. "Government," in exercising its powers to raise revenue, "is the major source of organized rape in the world." ...In his opinion, the duties of the IRS are a legalized atrocity comparable to slavery, the Stalinist purges, and the Nazi persecution of the Jews.
    Williams also refers to the NAACP as "poverty pimps" and "the Klan with a tan".

  • Another African-American speaker, Ms. Star Parker from the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education, speaks on the inherent wickedness of liberals:
    [Ms. Parker] declares that the conservative vocabulary would be improved if everybody were to abandon the term "liberals" to describe members of the left and to instead call them "creature worshipers... They worship and serve the creature rather than the creator," she explains. "They think that they are God."

    The creature worshiper are a motley bunch, Parker continues, encompassing "the feminists", "the environmentalists", "the racists - the black ones, I'm talking about, that you encounter on your college campuses," homosexuals, and all adherents to secular humanism. What unites these disparates, she says, is their common ecstasy in the slaughter of unborn infants. As Parker has it, abortion is the creature worshipers' "sacrament". "When you think about the creature worshipers, and their obsession with killing children in the womb and allowing that blood run the way that they do."

  • Another, more liberal student attendee (whose father bribed her to come) records phrases from the lectures that have appalled her especially: Robert Novak's comparison of Hillary Clinton and Gore to Hitler and Stalin, Newt Gingrich's description of campus Democrats as "young socialists and defeatists", and one speaker's claim that "liberals have joined the dark side in our time."

  • In a session on conservative books to read, Elizabeth Kantor of the Conservative Book Club is asked for recommendations for books that are good but may not originate in Western civilization.
    Kantor gives a slight, apologetic grimace. The answer is no. "There's an awful lot of people reading things just because it's not ours, and who hate what's ours, and I just think we should cut that out." Applause erupts for the first time in the "Great Books" talk.

  • However, the capstone of the whole event was the final speaker of the conference Wayne LaPierre of the NRA. He spoke about what he considers to be the greatest tragedy and most important moral lesson of Hurricane Katrina: not the hundreds of thousands of refugees created by the storm, or the 40,000 people stuck at the Superdome for days while FEMA twiddled it's thumbs. No, the most eggregious evil of the whole thing, for LaPierre, was that in the aftermath of the storm, the cops went around town and confiscated an unspecified number of citizen's guns. Pierre says:
    "If anybody ever looks you in the eye again, one of those arrogant media elites, and says, 'Why do you need a firearm?' look 'em straight in the eye and say, 'Remember New Orleans.' If anybody ever looks you in the eye and says, 'Come on, they'd never really come into your home and take your gun,' look them straight in the eye and say, 'Remember New Orleans.'"

Again, I certainly have my disagreements with most of the opinions expressed here (and many others in the article that I didn't quote) but that's not what bothers me. What bothers me is the sheer immaturity and childish level of discourse evidenced at this conference for young leaders. There is no attempt to intelligently engage with liberal positions, there is just demonization, false characterization, and name-calling. It'd be reassuring if I could just blame the tone on the young age of the participants, except that the most extreme and absurd quotes mentioned in the article seem to come from the adult presenters.

Amazingly, in this context, Newt Gingrich (one of the guest speakers) comes across as one of the most compassionate and intelligent contributors. In his talk, Gingrich confirms that the Republicans are not doing so hot, and suggests that the G.O.P. needs a radical reversal of its message. He tells the students:
"You have a chance to create an entire new discussion, one that nobody expects to come from the right, where you actually stand for a better future for everybody, not just for those who are wealthy."

That's a statement I can agree with, and a discussion that I would gladly have with those on the right regarding how to best accomplish such a future. But how can any dialog occur if, in their view, anyone who is not an extreme libertarian is a "creature worshiper" that delights in killing babies?

If this is the conservative milieu that our future leaders are being indoctrinated into, then I suppose that I really do have reason to be cynical about the future of our nation.


posted by Mike Clawson at 12:13 AM | Permalink |


At 12/24/2006 08:34:00 AM, Blogger doctorj2u

Great post. I agree with you 100%. I am a native New Orleanian and a conservative. The total lack of empathy and compassion towards my city has been eye opener. They don't want to hear the truth of the governmental incompetence from an eyewitness because it doesn't jibe with what the party says. Sure, the left wing media has clouded my eyeballs. LOL! The fanatism is scary beyond words. I am changed forever. Luckily it seems the American voting poplation is seeing the light also. They better start listening to Newt or the party will go the way of the Whigs.


At 12/24/2006 09:18:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Thanks for sharing your perspective doctorj2u. It must be a hard thing to still be a conservative in New Orleans. (I tend to think it must likewise be a hard thing to still be a true conservative in the GOP these days.)

The situation in New Orleans during Katrina shouldn't have been politicized. All level of government failed. We should have just fixed the problem. Instead both parties just wanted to play the blame game.

Funny thing, I was a Republican supporter back when Newt was still in charge. I wouldn't agree with most of what Newt says these days, but even still, I'd rather see someone like him at the helm of the GOP than the neocons we have now.


At 12/24/2006 06:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

I'd prefer not to comment on this post where it could be read by everyone. I could be wrong but it seems you've fallen for the social gospel theory. If you're interested in learning why it's wrong, from a slightly differing perspective, please contact me.


At 12/24/2006 10:59:00 PM, Blogger Jen

wow Mike, this was quite the post. I don't think I've met any young people with this extreme view. I really hope this is a tiny minority group of radicals. or else we really will be in for a crazy future...


At 12/25/2006 10:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous


At 12/25/2006 11:15:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey Jen, I'd like to think this is just a small fringe group, but the article mentioned that YAF and similar groups have thousands of branches on campuses across the country and a budget of over $30 million. (Compared to a few hundred branches and a budget in the hundreds of thousands for similar Progressive student groups.) YAF, apparently, is the foremost conservative student's organization in the country.

Scary really.


At 12/25/2006 11:22:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Thanks for the offer Bryan, but I can assure you that I'm already very familiar with the so-called "social gospel", just as I'm also very familiar with the evangelical "get your butt into heaven when you die" gospel. Both, IMHO, have truth to them, and both, by themselves, are sorely lacking in the fullness of the gospel that Christ preached in Luke 4:18-19 when he said:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Happy Christmas!


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