Two eye-opening recent polls tell us a lot about where America is headed in the future, and it should be alarming to most Americans.
First up is a recent Public Opinion Strategies poll that found, among younger Americans, 53 percent want the U.S. to become “more socialist.” Only 40 percent disagree.
Next, a McLaughlin and Associates poll finds that among those under the age of 30, 66 percent agree with the idea that “America is the source of most of the world’s ills: political, economic, and environmental…” Among those aged 31 to 40, 49 percent agree. Overall, 53 percent under 55 years old agree, with only 38 percent disagreeing.
While immediately, among the overall population, the results are reversed when older Americans are factored in. 51 percent overall oppose socialism, with 45 percent in favor. And on whether the U.S. is the source of the world’s ills, it’s divided equally 46 percent to 46 percent.
In the short term, then, the results might benefit President Donald Trump and Republicans in 2020 as a choice election between socialism, universal health care and the Green New Deal on one side, and less government, lower taxes, more choices and abundance and prosperity on the other.
But longer term, these trends make things like socialism, the Green New Deal and universal health care that appear radical and alien to us right now highly possible or even likely to be implemented — and rather soon — because of how younger Americans are currently leaning. It’s a recipe for one-party rule.
Let me say this is hard to write upfront because it flies in the face of how conservatives have approached culture, public institutions and also certain private ones. Yet these results are alarming enough and appear to show an urgent need for action. This is a discussion we need to have, and need to have right now.
Clearly influencers in our society are playing a key role. For example, education plays a fundamental role in shaping political attitudes yet conservatives have rejected and ceded too many institutions like public education as being organs of the left, and as a result, have discouraged an entire generation from participating in them, resulting in the complete ideological domination we see today.
If you consider political attitudes among educators, a 2017 survey by Education Week Research Center said in 2016, 50 percent of teachers voted for Hillary Clinton and 13 percent voted for a third party candidate. Only 29 percent voted for Trump. Yet that is not really representative of how America voted in 2016, with Americans on the whole being far more closely politically divided.
Republicans promote school choice alternatives to public education, but only about 3 percent of children are home schooled and about 10 percent attend private schools. Now, I’m not saying there shouldn’t be alternatives to public education. I actually believe we need more of those and if you have the means the current alternatives are very appealing.
But we’re lucky those numbers are as high as they are, and it clearly is not a replacement in this day and age, at least not yet, and the numbers show that, with more than 87 percent of children going to public schools.
If anything, the key decision is not even in whether to home school or to send your kids to private school, it is the decision that younger people are making about what profession to go into. With fewer conservatives and Republicans becoming teachers — one of our most influential institutions — it is clearly taking its toll on the body politic.
In the short term, something state legislatures can look at are ways for older, non-educators to become teachers in areas they have expertise through accreditation reform. But long term, the future is young people. It always is.
So why don’t conservatives go into more of these institutions? The development is easy enough to understand. Just consider the messaging choices conservatives make.
Public schools are bad — although most Americans take advantage of them without viable alternatives available — and so in the process do we encourage our children to become teachers to balance our classrooms out?
The entertainment industry is too liberal and radical, and so do we encourage our children to participate in the arts?
News media is overwhelmingly liberal, and so do we encourage our children to become journalists?
The bureaucracy is something sinister, and so do we encourage our children to become civil servants?
It seems to me that conservatives have allowed culturally entire institutions to be dominated by a single ideology, allowing for the most radical ideas to take root in them almost unchecked.
It’s been 20 years since Paul Weyrich famously told his supporters that “we probably have lost the culture war” and promoted separation and “drop[ping] out of this culture.” He told people to tune out. And so we have. But where is it leading us?
Schools are one thing. Then there’s media. To a certain extent, privately owned media poses a separate challenge insofar as it affects hiring decisions. So, good luck being a Republican working in the news business or entertainment. There is certainly a disincentive from doing so presently, no question. Who wants to be blacklisted and ostracized by their peers?
Republicans promote free markets and yet fail to invest capital in media to the same degree and so pop culture is entirely dominated. Are conservatives just poor? Perhaps they lack the capital, and yet numerically they are consumers, tens of millions of consumers, who should be able to, via markets, opt into conservative alternatives.
Conservatives need to compete.
And it’s starting to happen. You do see certain crowdfunding ventures that are showing some success in creating alternatives to Hollywood and pop culture but I think it’s also fair to say conservatives haven’t done nearly enough. This is merely scratching the surface.
Philosophically you can step back and perhaps attribute much of what we see to ideas that appear to ignore the need for institutions. Yet, clearly institutions are critical to how societies develop.
Fortunately, all hope is not lost. Recall in the socialism poll, for example, 40 percent of young people don’t want more socialism. So what is to be done?
This is a generational challenge. Republicans rail against governmental institutions even while they contradictorily campaign for office declaring that they’re better at running them. They never actually abolish public institutions. Societally, we’ve invested too much in them.
So, does it make sense for conservatives to discourage their children even implicitly from participating in these institutions? How is it working out for us? If conservatives are concerned about representation in these critical institutions then it’s time to start participating in them.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.