Diary

New Conservatism

Cross posted at the Rockefeller Republican

There could be a little noticed sea-change coming in the world of politics and Generation-Y, which is expected to be as large as the Baby Boom Generation, could be the canary in the coal mine. Some recent headlines start to tell the tale.

Taxes Not a Big Issue on Tax Day–A new Gallup Poll finds 48% of Americans saying the amount of federal income taxes they pay is “about right,” with 46% saying “too high” — one of the most positive assessments Gallup has measured since 1956. Typically, a majority of Americans say their taxes are too high, and relatively few say their taxes are too low. Without taxes as a rallying cry, traditional conservatives would lose one of their most potent arguments against liberals.

Iowa Court Ruling Legalizes Gay Marriage–A February 2008 poll found that six in ten Iowans supported civil unions for gay couples, and just last week in Iowa, hundreds cheered, waved rainbow flags and shed tears of joy at rallies in seven cities to celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage. “Corn-fed and Ready to Wed!” read one man’s sign at a gathering at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. What has been a “left coast” issue has moved into the heartland.

Most religious groups in USA have lost ground, survey finds–America is now a land of freelancers when it come to matters spiritual. The percentage of people calling themselves Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation, scattering out of their traditional bases. The Bible Belt is less Baptist. The Northeast is less Catholic. And everywhere, people are exploring spiritual frontiers — or leaving organized religion altogether.

What does all this mean? It means the ground on which politicians, and especially conservative ones, stand is shifting beneath their feet. If issues like taxes, social issues and religion no longer motivate a majority of voters then what will the next generation of conservatives focus their agendas on? Generation-Y, those born approximately between 1980 and 2000 could be the leading indicator of what is to come.

So what exactly do the voters of tomorrow believe in? Gen-Yers are less nationalistic as they have grown up on the Internet where borders obviously do not exist. They support liberalization of drug laws and wouldn’t mind seeing marijuana legalized. And they are more tolerant of immigration than older voters. On these issues, they seem to lean left of the traditional center.

On the other hand they are free-traders, being more supportive of globalization than their elders. They truly believe a less intrusive government is better. And recent surveys seem to suggest that they support proposals to privatize Social Security, which they assume won’t be there for them anyway. Here, they seem to lean right of center.

The message? If current trends persist, the majority of America, or at least those under 40, will become increasingly more libertarian. Liberal on social issues, and fearful of government intervention in their lives. They will be less trustful of liberal leaning agencies and ideas like Social Security and the IRS, as well as conservative ones such as the military and intelligence agencies. They don’t want their internet purchases taxed but neither do they want the government telling them which doctor they can see. One could see evidence of this in the past election cycle; Ron Paul lived off of this type of support.

The definition of conservative and liberal is changing right before our eyes, and there is every reason to be hopeful if you are conservative. The current popularity and power of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi-triumvirate is steering the country further and further left with huge budgets and hints of invasive big government programs to come. This type of policy will certainly turn off the libertarian youth, and while they may not warm to the current image of the Republican party- they are more intellectually compatible than they may realize. What Republicans need to do is to refocus on what has always been central to their message, conservation.

They need to stand for conservation of the environment, of our resources, of our money, and of our freedom. This is a message that will resonate. America is changing and conservatives need to change with it. This does not mean an abandonment of principles, but it does mean a broader perspective.