The one millennial-focused panel on the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) main-stage Thursday was titled “FREE stuff vs FREE-dom: Millennials’ Love Affair with Bernie Sanders?” It got worse from there.
While the panelists—only one of whom was a millennial—had a lot to say against socialism of the Venezuelan or Sanders sort, they failed to so much as mention the socialist tendencies rising in their own ranks. The Donald Trump administration, Trump voters, and the “alt right” have all expressed support for socialism-lite policies, from trade restrictions to mandated maternal leave. Why the new “conservatism” looks so much like the old socialism might have made for an interesting conversation, but instead we heard the same tired tirades about Obamacare and socialized medicine, ignorant kids lionizing Che Guevara, the Marxism found in academia, and how Democrats are “normalizing socialism.”
When asked why young people might express nominal support for socialism, only Florida state Rep. Ron DeSantis offered any structural critique, citing the economic mess millennials inherited as one not-ridiculous reason they might be wary of capitalism. For the other panelists—Ana Quintana of the Heritage Institute, Greg Dolin of the American Conservative Union Foundation, and Mercedes Schlapp of The Washington Times—it was simply a sign that millennials “have absolutely no concept of reality,” as Quintana put it.
Asked what might bring Bernie-loving millennials around to Republicans or capitalism, the panelists continued to bash Democratic policies such as the Affordable Care Act and the socialist policies that wrecked Venezuela. But they still failed to offer any positive visions of their own. It served as a stark reminder why the Republican Party does so dismally with young folks—in polls, just around 20 percent of millennials tend to identify as Republican—and why provocateurs such as Milo Yiannopolous and others of his ilk are able to command such a share of young, right-of-center attention.
For all the things establishment conservatives think millennials should be against, they have a hard time articulating what young people should be for, how that relates to the Republican Party, and how conservatism and capitalism can help young people accomplish the things that they think big government is needed for.
Meanwhile, at CPAC’s millennial session, the panelists pondered instead how to make millennials more patriotic. They concluded that it might help them to visit Washington monuments and the Arlington Cemetery. When policy ideas and politics fail, there are always dead soldiers, I guess.
For more on millennials, socialism, and capitalism, see: