How Not to Raise Your Kids

Last week, I wrote a post for NewsReal blasting Conor Friedersdorf for his contention that teen sexting is no big deal.  In his vapid response to his critics, somebody left a comment that perfectly illustrates just how demented the liberal mind is:

Would Calvin Freiburger prefer that a 14 year old girl take off her top IN PERSON to explore her burgeoning sexuality and hormones? If I were a sane parent I’d be grateful that the only sex my kid* were having was virtual.

10 years ago the problem was “hook-ups” where your teen was expected to engage in oral sex on a first date to keep up with her peers. Obviously, that still happens, but if we get lucky, maybe sexting will replace it.

This guy comes from the starting point that his kids are inevitably going to have sex, and there’s nothing he as a parent can do about it.  Far be it from me to put any effort into raising children!  Discipline?  Discussion?  Values?  What are these words of which you speak?

Whether it’s laziness, incompetence, or a simple lack of morals, if this is your starting point, then you’re abdicating your basic responsibilities as a parent, and you are a failure.

Conservatism Must Not Abandon the Cultural Front (Updated)

My NewsReal colleague David Swindle has been debating Pajamas Media’s Mary Grabar on the subject of drug legalization.  I side with the arguments made by Grabar, Ann Coulter, and others against legalizing drugs, but I’ve honestly never cared enough about the issue to explore it in depth.

I know there’s an argument that true conservatives should recognize that arresting people for voluntary drug use goes beyond the proper role of limited government.  But y’know what?  We’ve got plenty of cases of government overreach and violated rights in this country that don’t involve destructive behavior—stolen property due to eminent domain abuses, innocent babies destroyed in the womb, politicians constantly looking for new excuses to paw through their constituents’ wallets—that frankly, the tribulations of potheads fighting for the right to light up register pretty low on my sympathy meter and priority list.

But hey, maybe the Founding Fathers really would side with the libertarians on this one.  I’ll read with open-minded interest David & Mary’s continued exchanges, but I have to strongly disagree with one of David’s assertions:

John McCain lost to Barack Obama because of politics, not culture. Obama was a more exciting candidate who ran a much more effective campaign. It’s that simple.

A conservatism that can win is one which understands itself and defines itself as a political movement, not a cultural one. To do otherwise is to begin to destroy a functioning coalition that has been vital to defending America since Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley Jr., and Ronald Reagan brought it together in the 20th century. Conservatism must take the same approach to culture as the Constitution does — neutrality. Such an attitude worked for the document which has guided and protected our country for centuries and it will work for the Movement who has the same objective.

Far be it from me to read too much into the defeat of John McCain, the poster boy for almost everything a Republican shouldn’t be.  2008 was the culmination of years of GOP incompetence and lack of principle, and for reasons completely unrelated to ideology, Barack Obama was perfectly positioned to seize upon it.

But it’s another thing entirely to assume that culture played no part in Obama’s ascendance.  A culture that worships gratification (particularly sexual) without responsibility or constraints, that believes truth is personal and relativistic rather than grounded in permanent wisdom, that has been conditioned to expect everyone else to provide for their every need and clean up after their every mistake, that sneers at traditional morality and religious belief…these trends and attitudes cannot help but play into the Left’s hands.

Simply put, a narcissistic, relativistic, secular, ignorant culture will always be receptive to a political movement that promises to give them things paid for with other people’s money, affirms their “if it feels good, do it” mentality, and assures them that supporting statism and “environmental consciousness” are the only forms of morality or compassion they’ll ever really need.

A conservatism that disregards our culture will not win; indeed, its political prospects will only diminish further still.  I grew up in a public school system completely dominated by the Left.  I have seen time after time how easily the average apolitical teen, bereft of solid core values and spoon-feed the consensus of popular culture, assumes the Left’s claims on government’s role and conservatives’ evil to be true, to say nothing of every liberal myth from man-made global warming to the military-industrial complex.

More importantly, I have seen the Right’s feeble response.  This is a battle in which the conservative movement is largely—and the Republican Party is completely—AWOL.  How many conservatives are formulating strategies to break the Left’s stranglehold on education, both K-12 and college?  How many are drawing attention to the corruption of Church teachings on compassion?  How many on Capitol Hill are challenging the Left’s poisonous sexual dogma, or publicly illustrating the connection between the Democrat Party and the cultural forces it cultivates and feeds upon?

Republican electoral failures cannot be attributed to a nonexistent emphasis on culture; indeed, it’s far more likely that our woes are intimately tied to our dereliction of duty on this front.  The same old tactics—conservatives talking to the same radio audiences, writing in the same magazines, and posting on the same blogs, all mostly to each other—will win converts to the Right from time to time, but not in numbers that can even begin to compare to how many people are unwittingly fed liberal presuppositions about the world by stealth in their schools, TV shows, music, and churches, all of which form an echo chamber, reaffirming the messages for one another.

Republican strategists tend to think short-term: what will get us back into power in the next couple election cycles? Say what you want about Democrats (Lord knows I’ve said plenty), but they see the big picture, and play for keeps.  Conservatives need to open their eyes to it, as well, and settle in for the long haul. Any real, lasting return to the conservative values of the American Founding will require comprehensive strategies and solid commitments to oppose liberal encroachments on every front.

David invoked President Reagan in his post; let me conclude by doing the same.  In his Farewell Address to the American people, Reagan said:

I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let’s start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual. And let me offer lesson No. 1 about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins.

UPDATE: David has responded here. It seems the differences between our positions are less than they initially appeared, and I certainly agree with his central point, that the force of law is not an instrument of value enforcement.  I’ll have more thoughts later, but thanks to David for his thoughtful reply.

Generation Y Conservatism

David Swindle has graciously linked my reaction to his Conservative Chessboard piece on NewsRealBlog, but notes that I didn’t opine on “the piece on the board which he and I both fall into,” that of Knights and/or Pawns:

As those of us from Generation Y (born from the late ’70s through the mid ’90s) are beginning to emerge into the political culture it’s time to start the discussion: what will be our role in helping articulate Conservatism? What distinguishes those of us in Generation Y from generations past? What sensibilities and life experiences do we bring to the project of defending American Freedom that differentiate us from those who came before us? In other words, what is Generation Y Conservatism?

An interesting question, though one I’ve honestly never given much thought to.  I may be a bit of an odd duck among young conservatives (I’m a 22-year-old college junior, for those just tuning in) in that I tend not to think in generational terms.  (In fact, one of the things that most grates me about Meghan McCain is how every other sentence she writes seems to be “as my generation knows,” or something similar, as if there’s something intrinsic in youth that somehow confers heretofore-unknown wisdom on someone.  But I digress…)

Conservatism

I suppose a good place to start would be with what I understand conservatism to be.  With paleocons, neocons, libertarians, value voters, and assorted mix-‘n-match varieties vying for control of the Right, we can pretty much forget about pleasing everyone.  But in short, the conservatism I espouse can be defined thusly:

“Firm belief in the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the form of government established by the US Constitution and explained in the Federalist, the arguments for union and human equality made by Abraham Lincoln, and the observations about human nature and democratic society made by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America; and following this wisdom to its logical conclusions.”

This means that truth is neither bound to the passage of time nor relative to any given place or culture, that essential human nature does not change, and that the Founding Fathers were right then, right today, and will still be right tomorrow.  This means standing for government by consent of the governed, not the progressive notion of rule by an unelected, unaccountable expert class.  On the other hand, constitutional government also means that we have the rule of law to check the passions of the people, because there are things neither majority nor minority should be able to do to one another.

This means that all men are created equal, endowed by God with an inalienable right to life (from conception to natural death), liberty (free of government control over actions or property, so long as one is not violating the rights of another), and the pursuit of happiness (it is not the role of government to enforce anyone’s conception of morality; however, this does not mean individuals or private groups should be indifferent to such concerns).

I believe in the free market, low taxes, law & order (though I lean against capital punishment), the right to bear arms, and an originalist interpretation of the Constitution.  I believe in ending abortion, an injustice every bit as odious as slavery; and defending true marriage, an essential institution for a healthy society.  I believe that government efforts to provide for the people foster dependence on government rather than improve lives.  I believe in the separation of church and state, but not of religion and public discourse; like Washington, I understand that, “of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

I believe we should welcome immigrants who long to better their lives and truly join the American experiment, but not at the expense of national security or societal stability.  There is no “right” to US residency or citizenship, especially for those with no intention of truly becoming Americans or giving back to this country.  I believe in a truly color-blind society where all are judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I believe America has real enemies in this world, and cannot protect herself via isolation or appeasement.  I believe in peaceful conflict resolution if possible, but I also believe our words are worthless if our enemies know we lack the will to follow through with action.  I support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (if not their execution), President George W. Bush’s national-security and intelligence-gathering measures, and comprehensive missile defense.  I believe America must consistently maintain the most powerful military force on Earth, should never waver from her support for Israel’s fight for survival, and should never concede our sovereignty to foreign nations or entities.

Generation Y Conservatism: New Strategy, Same Substance

What, then, is different about Generation Y Conservatism?  For me, at least, its substance is unchanged.  I agree that David’s observations about distrust of non-government institutions, not putting all our eggs in the GOP’s basket, and distrust of elites are healthy, and should be aspects of everyone’s conservatism (though we abandon social issues at our own peril); but I’ve never understood these things to be lacking in past conservatism (inconsistently followed by self-described conservatives, yes, but not deficiencies intrinsic to the ideology).  Likewise, I believe open-mindedness is essential, but I’m always mindful of Chesterton’s reminder that the point of opening one’s mind “is to shut it again on something solid.”

Conservatism is that something.  I believe those who came before us—among them Locke, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Tocqueville, Lincoln, Bastiat, and Reagan—got it right.  We Generation Y Conservatives are the inheritors of an incredible moral & intellectual legacy, and our task is not to remake conservatism in our image, but to faithfully pass it down to the next generation and proclaim its timelessness.

Generation Y can contribute its energy, its vigor, and its familiarity with the contemporary “lay of the land” in finding the most effective strategies for bringing our message to the next generation.  We can keep conservatism attuned to the latest communication technology.  We can fight the stereotype that conservatism is only the domain of the old, prejudiced, and affluent, and show our generation that the Left doesn’t have a monopoly on vibrancy, fun, and individuality.  We can apply our energy to keeping a critical eye on those in power, fighting the Left at every turn, and holding the Right to its own standards.  We can remain ever vigilant for ways to show our generation the real-world consequences of liberal promises, and demonstrate how conservatism has already passed the test of time.

Perhaps our biggest contribution can be fighting back against the Left’s stranglehold on American education, from public schools through college.  The nation’s youth are, at best, given an education that doesn’t include an understanding of why the Founders established the country they did, or, at worst, actively taught falsehoods that tear down the Founders, slander America’s character, and distort the very meaning of freedom.  Leftist academics are reinforcing youth’s natural tendency toward arrogance and turning it into a religion that rejects the wisdom of the past and casts old, dead, white guys are the enemy—and we all know how well that turned out with the Flower Generation.

It is up to us to pull the curtain away and show the world the Left as it really is.  David is absolutely right that understanding the Left’s true nature—its origins, tactics, and character—is essential to effectively countering it.  If you think liberals and conservatives are operating from the same premises on human nature, belief in the Founding Fathers, or even the same definition of freedom, you’re in for a rude awakening (Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism is essential in this regard, as is familiarity with the writings of Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Croly, and other works of the early progressives).  The same goes for knowing how they fight and what they’re capable of (many people have documented and analyzed these things, but of particular value are Ann Coulter’s Slander and Guilty).

In short, I believe Generation Y Conservatives can embrace and reinforce our generation’s potential while countering the arrogance of youth and fighting for the timelessness of truth, justice and the American way.