BY: Ian Underwood @IUnder22
After the previous election conservatives all across the country have taken a step back to reflect on the loss and many have begun to reevaluate the messages and the tone in which we as conservatives presented them. Everyone has their opinion; some say we should move more to the middle on many issues to adapt to the ever-changing demographics of the nation, while others claim we were not conservative enough.
I, like many others in the conservative movement firmly believe that we must become the movement of ideas rather than being simply anti-liberal.
For example, conservatives in the 2012 election were firmly against the Affordable Care Act or as known by it’s popular name “ObamaCare”. We vowed to repeal what we believe to be a deeply flawed piece of legislation, but we never offered a great idea to replace it. We simply morphed into the anti-Obama movement. This was seen by independents as petty. The conservative movement is at its best when it is offering up ideas. The ideas that conservatives win on are economics and the power of the free market.
The economy is a very complex idea to explain. As a young conservative I often find it frustrating to try and distill the subject into a message that is easily explainable. In the age of Twitter and Facebook attention spans of my generation are shorter than ever. So how do we present the message to younger Americans? We have to paint a contrasting picture of the two very different ideas. What propels economic prosperity? Is it big government spending or a flourishing and robust private sector?
As a conservative that answer is easy, because we believe that it is imperative for the private sector to create the jobs for all hard working Americans. We believe while government may play a small role in some regulations, they should not oppress business owners with bureaucratic over-regulation and increased taxing. The idea that big government spending will lead us to economic prosperity is completely false. We as conservatives must hammer away with our message of opportunity and prosperity, not the movement of austerity.
What most resonates with younger people are jobs, and while this was a theme of the 2012 election, I don’t think we did a very effective job in presenting this in a simple message. The number of young Americans that voted to reelect the President clearly proves that. We allowed ourselves to get caught up in distractions, and President Obama did a great job in pinning the current economic woes to his predecessor. Again we came away as the “old mean conservatives.”
In my time at college I have witnessed students being moved by social issues such as personhood and abortion. However when it comes to the issue that will perhaps affect them the most, the economy, many are simply unengaged. It is just too complex of an issue to fire them up. With liberal rhetoric of the wealthy paying their “fair share” even some conservatives think, “well yeah they should”, not knowing what the government even considers as “wealthy”. This is where conservative students must stand up and grab hold of the conversation and combat the rhetoric.
Just this past month, I read John Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. While reading I could not help but notice the importance that our founding fathers like Jefferson put on public knowledge of government affairs. Jefferson believed that without citizen’s interest in the workings of their government, democracy could not flourish. Jefferson wrote “ Do not be too severe upon [the people’s] errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and assemblies, judges and governors shall become wolves.”
This is what we as young conservatives must do to “reclaim by enlightening”. On campus and everywhere we engage young Americans, we have to combat liberal bias, because many in our generation will not do the research on their own. Most will may flip through MSNBC, CNN, or FOX on their way to their favorite reality TV show without ever looking at the facts. We have to present these ideas in a conversational and simple message.
The young people in the conservative movement are passionate about jobs and growth. We believe that citizens know best how to spend their money and run their business, and that a robust private sector leads to a prosperous America.
That message should take priority.
About Ian: Ian Underwood is a graduate of Mississippi College with a degree in History. He is the current Executive Director of the Mississippi Federation of College Republicans and a co-founder of Generation Mississippi. He is from Pascagoula, Mississippi. Follow him on Twitter @IUnder22