If someone’s illiterate, would you throw a book at them and expect them to learn? Absolutely not. That’s not only illogical, but cruel. So, if someone lacks the ability–not the will, but the ability–to see something from an alternate perspective, because they’ve never been taught to do so, how do you reach them? Find an issue on which their perspective is similar to yours, and work from there. Build from the ground up.
I was recently asked an interesting political question by a colleague. He’s a conservative, and during our conversation, he mentioned that he was the youngest person at a recent Tea Party gathering–and he was born when Perry Mason was still a hot new TV series. He then asked me how conservatives can possibly capture the youth vote when it has, for quite some time, belonged to the left. I responded with a long pause, then said “I don’t know.”
I’ve been a conservative since I became involved in politics as a teenager, so for me, it’s always made sense. My upbringing provided me with the tools I needed to dissect my own perspective, and see its component parts from multiple angles. This approach led me to my current opinions on political issues. Through this internal examination, I’ve come to the conclusion that constitutional conservatism is the best approach to governance.
Why did I come to one conclusion, while most other young people come to another?
I believe the stifling of thoughtful examination begins somewhere in middle school or high school, and becomes reinforced in college. Our institutions of learning are overwhelmingly staffed by leftists. That’s just a fact–though I don’t know why it came to be. So, the high school and college years–the years during which one forms serious and thoughtful opinions about the world–young people are surrounded by a gallery of leftists. No wonder young people vote Democrat when 90% of their teachers are Democrats!
Given this near indoctrination, how can a conservative possibly engage a staunch Democrat, whose brain has developed under a singular frame of reference? Find the point at which your opinions converge, and build from that foundation.
To this point, I have an example. My roommate is very much a leftist. He loves Bernie Sanders, and shares all the socialist memes that come up on Facebook. Presumably, his opinions developed under the influence of liberal teachers and was reinforced by liberal media, so he’s never laid out all the pieces of his philosophy for a thorough examination.
He came home the other day, and told me he was annoyed by how much the state takes out of his paycheck. Though his philosophy–like the philosophies of anyone his age–is like a tightly woven tapestry, I found the loose thread, and I pulled. Our conversation wasn’t entirely fruitful, but that’s not the point. These things take time.
The point is that I found common ground. And from that common ground, more ideas can be explored.
In my experience, most young people vote Democrat because they’re social liberals; they’re hardliners on a particular social issue, and they vote on that issue alone. Whether that’s gay marriage, abortion, or whatever, they put so much weight into that singular issue that it drives their entire political policy perspective.
However, if you can find common ground on foreign policy or economics, you can slowly pull back the curtain, and show them a new perspective. In other words, once you sync up your longitude and latitude on one issue, you can begin to open their minds to other issues they may have never considered from a conservative point of view.
Remember that most young people have been inundated by liberal ideas for years upon years. So time and extraordinary patience are required. More than that, however, it takes proper articulation. If you can’t explain conservatism in a way that’s digestible, and above all relatable, you can’t expect to change anyone.
2016 is an election with monumental consequences. It’s also a unique time. People are waking up; people are sensing there’s something wrong with the way we’re going, and they’re wondering why. It’s our obligation to seize this once-in-a-lifetime moment, and give them the tools to understand what’s going wrong, and how they can help fix it.