One of the ten conservative principles laid out by the philosopher Russell Kirk states, “Men and nations are governed by moral laws; and those laws have their origin in a wisdom that is more than human—in divine justice.” Expounding on this principle, Kirk continues by stating,
“At heart, political problems are moral and religious problems. The wise statesman tries to apprehend the moral law and govern his conduct accordingly. We have a moral debt to our ancestors, who bestowed upon us our civilization, and a moral obligation to the generations who will come after us. This debt is ordained of God. We have no right, therefore, to tamper impudently with human nature or with the delicate fabric of our civil social order.”
Moral law? Divine justice? Moral debt? Civil social order? Sounds a bit preachy, and to the young 21st century conservative, it may just be that. It appears these principle, have lost their meaning in the minds and hearts of many young millennial conservatives. In the mid-to-late twentieth century, most conservatives recognized that American political issues went much deeper than fiscal policies and legislation; rather, America was ultimately in the midst of a cultural battle between the conflicting ideologies of conservatism and liberalism. William F. Buckley Jr. understood this culture war. The credenda of his magazine, National Review, reads,
“The largest cultural menace in America is the conformity of the intellectual cliques which, in education as well as the arts, are out to impose upon the nation their modish fads and fallacies, and have nearly succeeded in doing so. In this cultural issue, we are, without reservations, on the side of excellence (rather than “newness”) and of honest intellectual combat (rather than conformity).”
Today, we can identify the “intellectual cliques” as being leftist social activist groups, prominent scholars, trendy celebrities etc. and the “modish fads and fallacies” as their constant appropriation of cultural Marxism and political correctness which are then imposed on the minds of young adults of all political bends. In our case, millennial conservatives innocently suffer at the hands of these cultural fads, but not by our own will. An individual does not necessarily need to give a willing ear to the Left in order to be influenced by their rhetoric, but rather exist and live in the thicket thereof. Because of this flexibility of culture that exists within the framework of our society, social leftism finds a firm niche, conveniently placed by all the commercial resources necessary to spread its attractive moral bankruptcy.
Social leftism does not require detailed and eloquent explanations in order to be validated by members of a society, but rather requires shallow, simplistic emotional appeals and a people who are distraught to the point at which where they are willing to put their confidence in a popular social phenomenon. Because social leftism functions like carbon monoxide, millennial conservatives adopt the attitudes and characteristics of social leftism without noticing or realizing it. For example, a Reason-Rupe survey from 2014 found 43% of conservative millennials would support a socially liberal politician. In the same year, Pew Research concluded the following about millennial conservatives:
“Some of the most striking generational differences within Republicans concern social issues like homosexuality and immigration, but younger Republicans are also less conservative when it comes to values related to the environment, role of government, the social safety net and the marketplace.”
What was supposed to make us inherently different from the Left was not our sound logic on economics or our concern with the Founding Fathers and natural law, but our overall moral character and, more specifically, our recognition of transcendent moral order underlying human actions as well serving as the foundation of civil law. I am not saying young people must be “prudes” or “stiffs,” but we must be more modest, humble, and sincere in our character and interactions, and cast away the temptations of relativism and moral anarchy.
The influence of Leftism will always triumph if we allow its lax moral attitude to influence our character and attitude as conservatives. The ability to contend for conservative philosophy and principles is meaningless if one’s mindset and character default to Leftist values that undergird our generation’s “hook up culture,” moral relativism, and subjective truth. It is challenging to stand for moral Truth, social order, and divine justice in the face of Leftist demagoguery and alluring emotional appeals.
But, as conservatives, we must, or no one else will.
In the midst of a generation of young adults nurtured by a culture of feelings and immediate gratification, the Left has been able to comfortably sustain itself. If we as young conservatives want to see the conservative movement flourish in the future, we must outwardly express virtues of charity, kindness, and courage. We must not sell out our moral values and social principles in order to seem more appealing to our fellow millennials, but rather set an example that properly represents the conservative soul.