Rolling Stone. MTV. College campus after college campus. And now, The Daily Show. Finding substance tougher than celebrity, President Obama is desperate to return to the pop-culture-icon status that attracted record numbers of young voters in 2008. The president’s Daily Show visit also provided Jon Stewart with a major publicity push just days before his “Rally to Restore Sanity.”
Obama’s recent interviews and the Stewart-Colbert rally are part of the same two-pronged campaign: First, the Left hopes to travel back in time and party like it’s 2008, when active, swooning young voters abounded; second, they want to do something — anything — to halt the momentum of the Tea Party.
Stopping Tea Party momentum is a regular subject in this year’s election coverage. During a recent appearance on ABC’s This Week, Meghan McCain said, “No matter what the Republican party wants to think of this Tea Party movement, it is losing young voters at a rapid rate, and this isn’t going to change unless we change our message.”
McCain is not the first establishment Republican to make a name for herself in the mainstream press with substance-free bashing of the conservative movement; she’s not even the first McCain to do so. But press adulation does not change the truth. The problem for McCain, Obama, Stewart, and Colbert is that advocates of ever-bigger government will have a hard time recreating 2008’s Yes We Can fantasy in the Look What Happened world of 2010.
Faced with a difficult case to make, attacking Tea Partiers seems like a stronger argument. Stewart, whom the Guardian describes as a “potent direct line to younger voters,” demeans Tea Party rallies as “annoying, counterproductive” shout-fests. McCain, a self-styled voice for the upcoming generation, continually rails against the Tea Party as toxic to the youth vote.
With all due respect, as contributors to the recently published book Proud to Be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation, we have a different view.
We have all arrived at our positions based on dramatically different life experiences. Our political ideologies range from social conservatism to libertarianism. Even so, we all agree that the Tea Party’s commitment to individual freedom, fiscal federalism, constitutionally limited government, and free markets is badly needed at this time.
We may be young, as are all the Proud to Be Right authors, but we stand with Jonah Goldberg, the book’s editor, in rejecting an identity politics that enables opportunists to speak as if on behalf of others. We believe that for too long, conservatives have stood idle while the Democratic and Republican parties have begun to transform America from a constitutional republic into a social-democratic welfare state. The “tug-of-war,” as Friedrich Hayek called it, between conservatives and progressives has affected the speed but ultimately not the direction of contemporary political developments. The growth in the size and scope of government over the past century only serves to validate this point.
Rasmussen tracking polls show that 64 percent of Americans believe that “the country is headed in the wrong direction.” A CNN poll found that 56 percent of adults surveyed believe that “the government has become so powerful that it represents an immediate threat to the freedom and rights of citizens.” The size and scope of government, which currently amounts to 43 percent of GDP, will continue to exert downward pressure on economic growth as our generation matures.
Stewart, Colbert, McCain, and others may deride the Tea Parties as stupid, uninformed, and fearful masses, but these insults do not change reality. Unless we alter our current path, America’s reality is a grim one. The soaring national debt will fall squarely on the shoulders of today’s youth.
Now more than ever, America needs a vibrant constitutional conservative movement — one whose dedication is not to the preservation of government largesse but to the liberation of the individual and, by extension, the market. We believe the Tea Party is critical to this development, thus making it an important issue for Americans of all ages.
— Joseph Ashby, Andrew Foy, MD, Justin Katz, Evan Coyne Maloney, and Joi Weaver are contributors to Jonah Goldberg’s new book Proud to Be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation.