Obviously, not all young people who harbor liberal tendencies end up being conservative. But something happens to many youngsters when they hit their 20s, get married, have a kid or two, and discover the real world — the world of mortgages, and bills, and saving for college, and scrimping and saving for that vacation every year. They concern themselves with things they never gave a second thought to when they were kids: values, morals, and the responsibility that comes with raising children.
Conservatism as a philosophy answers many of these needs. Conservatism as a political ideology, not so much. Some conservative ideologues have hijacked the philosophy of conservatism and enslaved it to a very unconservative agenda that is non-inclusive, revanchist, and destructive of community. It’s not that young people are any more or less liberal than they were in previous generations. Nor is it true that gay marriage and “free” contraceptives will make them permanently leftist in their worldview. In fact, to make that point, Chait goes whistling by the grave yard because he surely knows that with age brings wisdom. And the riot of conceits that still defines liberalism usually doesn’t survive the path to adulthood.
The “Millennial Generation” (we have to call them something) is no different than any other generation. Conservatives like to say that kids today have been brainwashed by liberal academia. We were saying the same thing 30 years ago, just like they were saying it 20 years ago and 10 years ago. Young people have always absorbed liberal ideas from their teachers and sought to change the world. We used to think you could do it through music and marching. We ended up ruining far more than we changed. What we know now is that a single entrepreneur has the potential to change the lives of thousands of people in real, concrete ways that no liberal could have imagined 30 years ago, and few could imagine today.
What has changed — and what is driving the young away from the GOP — is the make-up of much of the base of the current incarnation of the Republican Party — dominated by hyperpartisan ideologues, anti-government activists, and Christian zealots at war with modernity. Until more reasonable, pragmatic voices begin to be heard in the GOP, writers like Jonathan Chait will continue to fool themselves into thinking that the generational evolution from liberal to conservative has been halted and that liberals have won a permanent victory.