A lot of us have heard of the seismic political upheaval of the 1960s. We’ve seen it in pop culture references, watched movies about it – heck, a lot of our teachers have gushed about how “great” it was to be a part of it. Hippies. Vietnam. Feminism. Gay rights. These movements were anti-conservative, anti-establishment and, in some cases, anti-American (though few in the public school system will admit that). In many ways, the 1960s were dark days for America.
But as young conservatives, we can learn a thing or two from the “fight-the-power” impetus of our parents’ generation. First, we have to recognize that these protest movements did change the national dialogue in a profound way. Kent State was a watershed moment in Vietnam. Watts helped redefine questions of both racism and crime. Stonewall made homosexuality a national issue. That’s something we can concede as conservatives – liberals were able to change the course of national policy through counterculture protests.*
But how? As usual, it was young people who first got the ball rolling on these issues. Petitions and protests have to get started somewhere, and (even though a lot of older people don’t give us much credit) the youth more often than not are at the frontlines of such nation-wide battles. For some young people, involvement is a civic duty – for most, though, it’s just trendy. Many of the liberal movements in the 60s fit the definition of “trendy” in every way. Parental rebellion, empowerment, and anti-authority sentiments could all be distilled in a politically useful form of popular anger.
As conservatives, we can learn from these liberal tactics, prehaps even turn their own weapons against them. Our nation faces a crisis of monumental proportions. I’m not speaking in hyperbole here either. The debt crisis is the single biggest enemy this country has faced since communism. But whereas with communism we could rely on our political officials to keep the country safe, we no longer have the luxury of competent representatives to face down our ballooning debt.
Our parents’ generation has deserted us. The establishment is incompetent, corrupt, incapable of performing its most basic duties. Our freedom is being used as collateral so that others can enjoy what is rightfully ours.
Sound familiar? This message is the one liberals took to young people in the 1960s. It was well accepted and used with remarkable force to change the course of American history. What’s more, it made liberalism the political creed of the youth. There’s no reason conservatives can’t do the same today. The youth vote is a key demographic for Democrats. Why should it be? The Republicans, not the Democrats, represent the best future for America’s young people, a future of freedom and prosperity, not debt and constriction.
And for that, I’m willing to fight the power. Are you?
*If you want to learn more about how conservatives were able to combat these movements, I recommend you read Hayward’s The Age of Reagan. Great read, excellent book, and a good way for us 90’s kids to learn some GOP history.