The conventional image of baby boomer political rebellion features a young left-wing activist organizing, protesting or otherwise agitating, ideally with Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" playing in the background: "There's something happening here / What it is ain't exactly clear ..."
This gauzy version of youth politics, born in the romanticization of the 1960s, is near and dear to
Dean's nostalgia erased memories of race riots, antiwar protests, domestic terrorism and the aftermath of various political assassinations, including what were then the recent murders of
Also left out of this conventional narrative: conservative youth politics. Young Americans for Freedom, the group that groomed and galvanized a generation of conservative leaders, issued its manifesto, the Sharon Statement, on
SDS was the more successful organization, culturally if not politically. This was in part because SDS had the sympathy of the press, but also because it had the more exciting story. They weren't merely rebels; they were in revolt against their own side. The SDSers had a radically different view of politics than older liberals.
Meanwhile, the young conservatives took their marching orders from the grown-ups, like
This disparity can be explained both philosophically and sociologically. The young conservatives hailed from more blue-collar backgrounds, and they self-consciously aligned themselves with eternal truths and the wisdom of the ancients. The young liberals, who tended to be the children of elites, sought to reinvent the wheel, rejecting not just the ancients but also the generation that came before them.
Ever since, young conservatives have been inclined to take cues from their elders. But that seems to be changing.
In the current issue of the
Shapiro argues persuasively that young conservatives care about character and values, while older ones have largely abandoned such concerns, preferring solid policy victories and perceived wins in the war on political correctness.
What explains the opposing visions? Part of it, Shapiro writes, is the usual tendency of young people to gravitate toward libertarianism and idealism.
But there's another reason: Young people understand that some of the things old people see as "political correctness" aren't necessarily the product of a Marxist virus that somehow escaped a laboratory at
It may be time to play some Buffalo Springfield, because there is something happening here. As pollster