Back in November 2008, my son participated in his first presidential election. He was 18 at the time, a senior in high school and still in the process of figuring out the world.
He pulled the lever for Barack Obama.
“I’m sorry, Dad,” he said to me as we sat in our living room, watching his candidate ride the wave of idealism to victory. “I know you’re conservative.”
“That’s fine,” I said, proud that he exercised his right to vote at all, unlike so many Americans. I understood that being a liberal was fashionable at the time, and I believe he felt in his heart that he was doing the right thing. “But if you support the man, you have to defend the man.”
“I understand, and I will,” he said.
Fast forward to 2011. April, to be exact. My son was, at the time, close to finishing his junior year of college. Unemployment was stubbornly holding above 9%, and many of his older friends who had graduated were having trouble finding work. Maturity and experience had given him new perspective, and a speech by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels inspired him to call me one evening.
“Dad,” he said. “Will I ever get a job?”
“What do you mean?” I replied.
That’s when my son, the 21-year-old, laid it out.
“Dad, Obama is killing business in this country and doing nothing to create jobs that my friends and I are going to need to support ourselves when we’re done with school. He’s installing regulations, inflating the size of government and getting us in debt to the point where my generation will never be able to get out.”
A smile broadened across my face. A solitary tear may have even formed in the corner of my eye. My son. He’d finally seen the light.
And to my delight, he wasn’t done.
“Dad,” he went on. “The president has no idea how destructive his policies have become. We have to get entitlements under control. We need fundamental tax reform. And we need to do something about lending.”
Fundamental tax reform. Boosting credit formation (what he meant when he said lending). Putting money in the private sector, where it can fuel job creation and economic growth. It was music to my ears. And almost instantly, I realized that the tune was familiar: it was almost the exact same one I was humming when I was his age.
It was the late 1970s, during the dark days of Jimmy Carter, and I was attending Loyola University Chicago. Interest rates and unemployment were out of control, and inflation was rampant. I, too, was concerned about whether I’d ever find a job.
It turns out I wasn’t alone. Many of my peers (and the majority of the TKE house) had also reached the conclusion that government doesn’t create wealth, it redistributes it. Traditional values and individual rights were finding their way to college campuses. A generation of Young Republicans came together and rallied behind the supply-side policies of Ronald Reagan.
And in return, we got the greatest bull market of the last 100 years.
I believe something similar is taking place among twenty-somethings on college campuses around the country today. There are many young men and women out there who, like my son, can no longer defend the choice they made in 2008. They’ve seen the prosperity-killing results of big government, unchecked spending and higher taxes first hand, and they’re ready for change.
A little ironic, isn’t it?
If my fellow Chicagoan has given one gift to conservatives, it’s an opportunity to invigorate the movement with the power of youth. We must forgive our sons and daughters for their fashionable idealism of 2008 and remind them that, under Reagan, this great country was able to unwind bad policy and create jobs. We must take this opportunity to welcome them to the right side: the supply-side.
We did not let Jimmy Carter kill this country’s spirit. And with the help of my son and the new generation of Young Republicans, we won’t let Obama kill it, either.
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