Yes, there are young conservatives, but they’re not at college or watching TV. Instead, they’re working hard and watching conservative YouTube videos.
There’s a young man I’ve known and admired for many years. I met him through one of my children’s activities and quickly sized him up as extremely bright and incredibly hardworking. He also has a brilliant sense of humor; one, moreover, that is perfectly attuned to children. When he left the job through which I met him to start his own business, I didn’t follow him, because doing so would have involved a lot more driving. That was a bad decision because my child’s interest in the activity vanished when the young man left.
It’s been many years since I last saw this man, but I keep up with him on Facebook. He doesn’t post often, but when he does, I’m always blown away. He may be a millennial, but he’s a rock solid libertarian-conservative-classic liberal and he’s not shy about defending his viewpoints. He has a mastery of the issues and will expand upon them if he feels it’s appropriate.
Because I find this young man interesting and his conservativism heartening, I reached out via Facebook to learn a little more about him. He gave me some fascinating information about young conservatives. Here’s what I learned:
My friend believes that young conservatives in his age cohort (people under 40) are much more common than anyone realizes, as evidenced by Trump’s huge victory across America. As far as he’s concerned, the perception that his generation automatically hews Left is a byproduct of the Left’s own self-referential world view in entertainment, media, and the universities, each of which relentlessly promotes and reinforces its own cultural dominance.
Because his job involves teaching skills to young people, my young friend has seen a lot of young people grow up over the years. He therefore sees a trajectory that has them sucked into Leftism through school, and then finding their way out of it again when they hit the real world. He breaks this arc down as follows:
From 15-18, young people are fairly centrist politically and rely on common sense.
From 19-22, young people go “off to indoctrination sleep away camp…. errrr…. I mean University.” There, peer pressure, combined with a system that punishes dissent, pushes them so far Left that they actually view Leftism as a centrist political position.
From 23-25, these kids hit the real world. There, they discover that the real world is unlike anything their education told them it would be. Nevertheless, they are slow to realize what’s going on.
Only after reaching the second half of their twenties do young people start figuring out that they really do live somewhere in the center, and that the whole “institutional racism” issue is not the problem. The problem, instead, is the people relentlessly complaining about “institutional racism.” At this point, it hits them that the far Left isn’t fighting “the man;” it is “the man.”
Fascinating take on things, right? Especially because it comes from someone who lives in the middle of the young demographic.
But here’s the most interesting thing the young man told me: We old people still look at television as a driving force, which is why we’re so exercised by the crap spewed on the major news networks. His generation, however, isn’t really a TV generation, especially for young conservatives, who feel locked out of television. For that reason, young conservatives go someplace entirely different: YouTube. According to my friend, “there is a huge grass roots Conservative-Libertarian-Classic Liberal movement going on now on YouTube and on podcasting formats.”
My friend didn’t pull the adjective “huge” out of thin air. Instead, he offers just one example: A British young man named Carl Benjamin, who puts up videos at YouTube under the name “Sargon of Akkad.” According to my friend, Benjamin’s videos pull in an average of 500,000 views each, and he’s putting them out on an almost daily basis, using only a microphone and editing software. Meanwhile, cable news, despite the myriad minions employed and the huge infrastructure it needs, pulls in only 1.5-2 million viewers each night.
In other words, with minimal overhead, Benjamin alone pulls in about 25-30% the number of viewers all the cable channels do. When you add to Benjamin’s audience the many people who watch Milo, Steve Crowder, and a host of other young conservatives who have found success on YouTube, you’ve got a lot of young people imbibing stuff other than the mainstream media. (It’s probably safe to say that, while there is going to be viewership overlap on these videos, that overlap will not be complete. Many of the viewers can be counted separated.)
To put it in terms we old folk can understand, YouTube has become the young conservatives’ version of Rush Limbaugh. Cast your mind back to the 1980s, when he began to gain his ginormous following from people disenchanted by the big three news outlets (ABC, NBC, and CBS).
Moreover, these young conservatives look to YouTube for the same reason that an earlier generation of conservatives turned off the news and tuned into Rush: instead of stupid sound bytes and packaged stories from airbrushed “personalities,” these video stars do what Rush still does, which is to explain their viewpoints at great length and in great detail. As my friend said of Benjamin, his views are logical, detailed, and perfectly expressed. You may not agree with him, but you know precisely what lies beneath his political and social conclusions.
Incidentally, few of these young YouTubers are conventionally conservative. We know from polls that even conservative young people are more socially liberal than older generation conservatives. Some, indeed, don’t even think of themselves as conservative. They’re more “anti-Left.” Take the British born Benjamin as an example, if this Wikipedia article can be trusted:
Benjamin is an atheist. He self-identifies politically as centre-left and a classical liberal. He has opposed movements that purport to defeat online misogyny, such as the British group ‘Reclaim the Internet’, which he called “social communism“.
Benjamin was a vocal supporter of Brexit and described Donald Trump as the “lesser of two evils” compared to Hillary Clinton. Prior to the primary election of Clinton as the United States Democratic Party candidate, Benjamin stated he would have preferred Bernie Sanders over Clinton or Trump. Along with Trump, Benjamin has endorsed other right wing politicians such as Marine Le Pen. In 2017, he supported the Justice Democrats, a political action committee with the goal of reforming the Democratic Party to reject corporate influence.
To me, Benjamin’s allegiances don’t sound very conservative, but to the Left, he’s alt-Right. No wonder, then, that my young friend identifies these views as “centrist.” In the new political landscape, they are. Having said that, there’s no doubt that most of Benjamin’s views will be more palatable to Trump conservatives than to any Progressives. It’s only when he gets to corporatism that he veers Left, which explains his support for Bernie.
I wish I could explain to these young people that the problem isn’t corporations. Because they believe that corporations are the problem, these people join that angry, old, jaw-boning Marxist Sanders who wants to control corporations.
The reality is that it’s people like Bernie who are the problem, because corporations become toxic when the government starts running them. The moment that happens, it’s in corporate interests to buy government and it’s in politicians’ interests to support the corporations that fund them.
The smart money isn’t on getting corporate money out of politics, because it will always find a way in as long as the government meddles in business. Instead, the smart money is on getting government out of business. Get rid of subsidies. Get rid of overwhelming regulations. Get rid of a labyrinthine tax code that makes it in business’s interests to meddle in politics.
And you know what? That’s precisely what Trump is trying to do by getting rid of one regulation and executive order after another, and with his press to simplify the tax code. The next step is to make it clear that businesses will have to rise or fall based on market merit. Nothing will be too big to fail anymore. No one industry will get government handouts thanks to government favoritism, which is the worst type of market manipulation. But I digress….
The bottom line is that the young conservatives are inventing something that’s not your mother’s conservatism, but that’s definitely not hardcore Leftism either. They hate Social Justice Warriors; they hate man-hating Third Wave feminism; and they acknowledge that unbridled Islamism, especially when you willingly incorporate it into your own country, is a serious problem. I’m on board with all of that. We can do our bit my nudging them towards an understanding of free market capitalism.
Image Credit: Screenshot of the Sargon of Akkad YouTube page.