This week, thousands of young conservatives from across the United States will gather in National Harbor, Maryland for CPAC, an annual political conference that traces its history back to 1974.
As young political nerds ought to do when they meet their compatriots, there will be more than a standard amount of drunkenness and debauchery that will pepper the gathering. Cynical observers may even say that the entire point of a gathering like CPAC is for young conservatives to find impromptu mates and egregiously subvert alcohol consumption guidelines.
It shouldn’t be that way.
Young conservatives are inherently an oddity. They are already subverting a commonly accepted societal maxim that young people are constitutionally liberal. Because of their novelty, adults with platforms to dole out often give them megaphones earlier than most political commentators, putting them in a position to be leaders at an uncommonly young age.
They also tend to be unique figures in the environments they find themselves in. College students that publicly profess even slightly right-of-center views are often thought of as the lone conservative in their social circle. They carry not only the responsibility of representing their worldview but also the group of people that hold that worldview — whether they like it or not.
As young conservatives, we must shoulder that responsibility, not only ideologically in terms of being winsome and well-educated advocates for our beliefs, but personally as well, as examples of virtue and character.
Limited government and God-given rights, two core tenets of the American conservative worldview, require a moral and virtuous people in order to create functioning societies. Advancing a slogan-filled libertarian-conservatism while simultaneously engaging in a debauched and reprobate lifestyle damages the credibility of both the conservative political project as well as the person advocating it.
If you’re confident enough in your political perspective at the age of 20 to be an activist, speaker, or leader, then you have an unshakable responsibility to be a practitioner of the moral virtues that your worldview requires in order to work. That means exercising restraint and being sober-minded about what you shouldn’t do — practice temperance and abstinence. It also, more controversially for the performatively traditional, means practicing much more active values like charity, gratitude, humility, and kindness.
The latter is harder than the former for a certain kind of modern traditional-conservative. Moral condemnation comes easier to many young conservatives than does the posture of kind strength that actually inspires people to moral virtue. Bellowing finger-wagging lamentations off of the rooftops about the state of modern society is a lot easier than serious personal charity towards the lost and wayward. However, those positive virtues are just as important if not more so than the restraint-oriented values that constitute good character.
Properly implemented, a temperamental and personal conservatism, not just a political one, can be much more effective and stable than one untethered from traditional values. If you’re worried this posture will mean being “judgemental,” something our morally astray culture recoils at, don’t be. Lead by example, and others will follow. Seeing a well-adjusted, kind, moral political advocate is often what it takes for someone skeptical of your worldview to give it another shot.
Sounds like a valuable priority for a Conservative Political Action Conference’s attendees, doesn’t it?
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.