Joe Biden didn’t just give me 15 minutes of fame; he gave me a rude political awakening. Conservatives have long been lulled into a sleepy comfortability over the upcoming election, but it’s time to wake up.
Yes, I’m the woman Biden dubbed “a lying dog-faced pony soldier.” The bizarre insult snowballed into more than I could have expected, making international news and helping facilitate the most precipitous, continuous decline of any candidate in the race thus far: 8.2 points in the national polls over the course of a week to be exact. However, his campaign struggled for survival long before--and after--my question. I am truly befuddled at the how, but he is, nonetheless, the presumptive Democratic nominee. From his overt cognitive decline and his credible sexual assault allegation, to his most recent and charming foot-in-mouth assertion, “You ain’t black,” folks on the right fall harder and faster into the certitude that Trump has 2020 locked up. Maybe they’re right. But what comes after 2020?
If we learn anything from this election, let it be that we are losing the culture war for the hearts and minds of the youth: my generation, and undoubtedly, there are many more elections to come in which they will not only be active but predominant voters. Both the 2016 and 2020 elections have demonstrated the rising popularity of far-left policies among young voters. Millennials and Gen Z overwhelmingly support self-identified democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders in his bid for the presidency. Perhaps the most telling evidence of this was the Michigan exit polls in which 83 percent of voters age 18-24 preferred Sanders to Biden and a close 81 percent of voters 25-29 also preferred Sanders. These voters are likely to be present and active for roughly the next 15 or so presidential elections. We need a better long-term strategy.
Think of the major developments and events this generation has witnessed: 9/11, the Great Recession of 2008, a massive uptick in deaths of despair (drug overdose, depression, and suicide), the COVID-19 pandemic, and now violent race riots. Young voters are seriously concerned about the direction of our country and rightfully so. After all, they will be the ones meeting America’s challenges in the decades to come while struggling to pay back massive student loans.
However, the policies they endorse can never produce the results they desire. Gen Z demands answers for growing income inequality, climate change, social justice, and more. Their solution? More government. In 2018 the Pew Research Center found some 70 percent of Gen Z favor greater government intervention to solve problems. More government, fewer problems, right?
This is not just misguided; it’s alarming. America thrives when the government subsists on the minimum force necessary to keep society intact, to keep us safe. After all, perhaps the most critical function of the federal government is to maintain national security, but Millennial and Gen Z voters don’t see it that way. They view government mandate, not personal responsibility, as the right path to effect positive change. If we neglect the challenge of defending the principles of limited government in favor of mocking voices like AOC, we will surely lose not only our limited capacity to connect with this generation but also our economic and political freedoms.
I say this with a great deal of sincere, if naive, hope that many will be receptive. Too often college liberals are highlighted as an unpleasant bunch of socially inept brats with blue hair and loudmouths; there are some of those to be sure. The vast majority are not. I’ve sat in a room of Bernie supporters who listened attentively to my eager, if simplistic, explanation of the tenets and moral defense of capitalism and limited government. They responded in a manner surprisingly engaged and open, despite my many requests that they stop me if they preferred we change the subject. “Wow, I never knew that” was perhaps the most frequent response I received.
I confess that I myself exerted a disproportionate amount of effort to maintain, in the ways I could, politically ambiguity for fear of social pressures. I spent the better portion of two years immersed in perhaps the most concentrated leftist circles in America, college debate, and managed to play the part well, placing second in the nation for my debate division in my freshman year. Conservative at heart but pressured to play the chameleon, I did more listening than talking for a long time. It wasn’t until I enrolled in the “Moral Defense of Capitalism” course on campus that I felt empowered to defend my views. I suspect I am not alone in this struggle against political conformity in exchange for social acceptance.
Many young voters like myself want the best for America, but feel scared to ask questions and unsure how to navigate political conversations. We can change that. As Charlie Kirk, founder and CEO of Turning Point USA, noted, “Young people are not opposed to conservative ideas, they are never exposed to them.”
It’s time for us to wake up. No more “owning the lib-tards” or “drinking snowflake tears.” I can hardly think of a less productive way to reach this generation than by mocking and being condescending. If we don’t rise to the challenge of reaching this generation, we stand to lose a lot more than an election, but then again, what do I know? I’m just a lying dog-faced pony soldier.
Madison Moore was the recipient of Joe Biden’s viral insult ‘lying dog-faced pony soldier’ during the Democratic New Hampshire primary. She is currently a contributor for Young Voices and an author contracted by Post Hill Press. She will graduate with a degree in Economics and International Affairs from Mercer University in December 2020.