The internet and social media are drastically changing our politics. It all boils down to community versus individuality.
The Boomer generation was split down the middle between those who wanted government to take care of us, versus those who wanted government to protect us from foreign attacks and domestic criminals and otherwise leave us alone.
With the Cold War era long past, Generation X is now coming into its own, filling most of the leadership posts in government, business and society.
Gen Xers are notoriously more individualistic than communal, which is fitting for the generation that was once called the “latch-key” children. By all accounts, the rise of Gen X should signal a move to smaller government and increased individualism.
If the switch from Boomer to Gen X leadership were the whole story, this change would inevitably follow the path to smaller government.
But the concurrent story is that the Millennial Generation is now of voting age and increasing in influence.
The Millennials are known for four things:
- Living at home with their parents, even after graduating from college.
- Feeling entitled, and demanding that their employers put up with a culture of little work and high pay.
- Being vocally skeptical about everything.
- Being constantly linked in to various social media communities. The Millennials are basically the opposite of individualistic.
Put these four traits together, and the Millennials are shaping up as the most pro-government generation in history.
In fact, many pundits add a fifth character trait to the Millennials — they grew up thinking Barack Obama is the epitome of a good politician. Put simply, he is “cool.” He sings, dances, and is always hip.
Even conservative-leaning Millennials, who flocked to support Ron Paul, think Obama is cool, while they tend to see every other top politician of our time as stuffy, elitist and part of the dreaded Establishment.
As a result, the polls for decades to come are likely to show increasing support for liberal policies and decreasing support for conservative views — social as well as economic.
So what can those who care about lasting freedom and limited government do?
First, Republicans have got to put forth “cool” presidential candidates. Period. It’s less about the issues, more about personalities. Like it or not, if you want to win, you better understand this reality.
Second, they’ve got to stop alienating Millennials on all the social issues, and focus on the financial issues. Conservatives will never regain the majority on social issues. This is a reality. But many Millennials could be swayed to fiscal conservativism.
The problem is that when the Right focuses on social issues, it drives Millennials to the Democratic Party — and as a result it will continue to lose on every issue.
The Right needs to listen to the Tea Parties, ignore social issues, and come out swinging on fiscal intelligence.
At some point Millennials will stop living with their parents, buy homes, get jobs and care about finances.
If conservatives keep alienating them, they’ll stay Democratic even when they take on adult responsibilities. But if the Right becomes the party of fiscal intelligence, and makes it cool (like Ron Paul did), they’ll attract Millennials in Reagan-like numbers.
Errol Louis said on The Chris Matthews Show (March 31, 2013):
Millennials “are probably one Watergate away from being very skeptical about government. What we have not seen, what the Millennials have not lived through, is a major, disastrous, horrible scandal that can’t be explained away.”
The Millennials’ natural skepticism will turn on big government when such problems come.
Right now the great Millennial experience with government is 9/11, where Washington D.C. played the role of protector and hero.
But the Millennials will almost certainly have a major challenge to government credibility in their lifetime — a Watergate, a Kent State, a Goldwater mushroom cloud, an Iran hostage failure.
When it comes, if the Republican Party stands for financial wisdom and small government, the Millennials will likely move to it in droves — and we’ll have a chance for limited government.
If, on the other hand, the GOP symbolizes anti-immigration, anti-tolerance, anti-abortion, anti-minority, and other social “anti’s”, Millennials will stay Democrat even though they dislike big government — and the government will inevitably grow.
The other possibility is a third party, which will only succeed if it goes all in for fiscal intelligence.
Regardless of how you feel about social issues, the future of conservatism likely depends on how well it moves past them and focuses on fiscal wisdom.