Now that we Millennials have officially surpassed the Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation, the internet is abuzz with predictions of how this will impact everything from marketing trends to transportation. And, of course, how this will impact conservatism and the future of the Republican party.
While I’m generally chary to make grandiose predictions about the future, it does not currently look good for those of us who believe in the traditional conservatism espoused on this blog, or especially the rapidly aging and increasingly out-of-touch Republican party. While the great hope is that the party would learn to reinvigorate the message of conservatism that’s worked in the past, the great fear is that it would devolve into something hostile to conservatism.
What may happen if current trends continue is the traditional left vs. right divide of the established parties may give way to a new left and a new right. The new left appears to be taking on a decidedly more socialist—even Marxist—tone with the advent of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the appeal of socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders among millennials. There was a time when the mere allegation someone was a socialist ended any political career they had. We may soon enter a new era in which a democratic candidate with any perceived credibility has to tout their socialist views in the same manner every Republican claims to be the next Ronald Reagan. Maybe.
The new right is harder to define because it’s still very much in flux. 2016 appears to be a transitional year, and it can be hard to see where things are going in the midst of all the chaos. Might the Republican establishment succeed in retaining their lofty positions of power and influence? Do the more radical elements of the Tea Party have a shot at wrestling control from the establishment they scorn? Will we see a furtherance of the ugly rise of authoritarianism and nationalism under Donald Trump’s unconventional tutelage? Or will the libertarian movement, which extols the virtue of liberty and ignores all the other virtues necessary to sustain liberty (as I argue here), finally supplant conservatism?
Of this much I am certain: the future of conservatism is not guaranteed, and much work lies ahead for those who wish to see it continue and thrive. History has not promised any political ideology inevitable victory, as I argue here. The work ahead is long and tedious, and millennials will be a real challenge to reach, as Kristen Soltis Anderson argues in her book, The Selfie Vote. But reach them we must if conservatism is to survive in the 21st century.