I always had somewhat of an interest in politics through my early teen years. I voted in the 2014 midterm elections just after turning 18. The Fall Semester of my first year of college in 2015, during the heat of the Republican primary and the rise of Donald Trump, I really took an interest. I was simply enthralled by long-shot candidate Donald Trump being constantly on cable TV and taking on criticizers left, right, and center.
I started watching people like Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos, and even attended Milo’s talk at my school. I would argue with fellow students in my classes over politics. I cackled with glee when candidate Trump told liberal “journalist” Jorge Ramos to “go back to Univision” after his outburst about immigration policy interrupted Trump’s speech. I very much enjoyed “triggering the libs,” but when the election was over and Trump took office, I started to change my mind.
I took a political science class with a conservative professor, and he gave me a few names of great conservative thinkers. I read some of his suggestions and became interested in what they had to offer. Along the way, I discovered the works of Russell Kirk, Edmund Burke, Alexander Hamilton, Phyllis Schlafly, Ayn Rand, and Pat Buchanan.
As much as I enjoyed watching Ben Shapiro take on pro-abortion college students and President Trump make heads explode on CNN’s nightly Jerry Springer pundit cage match, I learned that there is much more to conservatism than “triggering the libs.” I am by no means a head-in-the-clouds intellectual, but I very much enjoyed sitting poolside in Florida at a conservative conference in December discussing things from Burke’s “little platoons,” to Phyllis Schlafly’s views on the traditional American family to the importance of America’s commitment to our Middle Eastern allies over drinks with complete strangers. Some became my good friends, and I keep in contact with them to this day.
Of course, political tribalism feels good and can be effective. Republican pollster and operative Frank Luntz tweeted, “People can debate policy all they want, but they can’t deny that he ‘triggers the libs’ – that is a very underrated campaign asset [for Trump]” in March.
While it can be a base-pleaser, is anyone going to change his mind by seeing a travel mug with “LEFTIST TEARS” written on the side? Is there anything being accomplished by telling feminists that there are only two genders? Probably not. Does sharing a clickbait Facebook video of some eye-candy pundit screaming her head off about controversial and sensitive topics and calling people who disagree with her childish names going to cause a valuable discussion? Is anyone really going to “change their mind” about abortion while having arguments in the middle of the quad on a college campus? Perhaps, “I’m pro-life. Want to know why?” would be a more productive conversation to have instead of demanding someone to come and try and change your mind.
Young conservatives have to be strong-willed, yet smart. With how college staffs are made up these days, people generally do not have the chance to understand conservative thought, what we believe, or why we believe it. Alienating and antagonizing people on purpose for a release of endorphins and a giggle is not the way to win hearts and minds for the conservative movement.
While facts don’t care about feelings, sometimes people’s feelings don’t care about facts either, and that must be acknowledged.