How 2020 Made Me Conservative


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

I grew up a liberal in New York City who attended public school. I always associated myself with the Democratic Party, but, over the past few months, I have become a staunch conservative primarily due to the tumultuous events of 2020. 

My support for the Democrats continued through my first three years at the University of Notre Dame, a campus more liberal than most realize. During the 2020 Democratic primary, I shifted from being a conventional woke liberal to a believer in Bernie Sanders’ radical socialist agenda. His grandiose proposals and utopian ideas lured me into the fallacy of socialism an embarrassment I have not lived down. When Sanders dropped out in April, I was back in New York City with my family, where we suffered greatly from pandemic mismanagement by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill De Blasio

Zoom classes, extended quarantine, and mass lockdowns became my new reality as I dealt with getting the coronavirus and major depression simultaneously. It would later be discovered that numerous young Americans dealt with similar mental health issues due to the disastrous effects of lockdowns. 

In late May, a significant number of distressed leftists began making their presence known after the tragic killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. At first, I joined the entire political, financial, and cultural elite in support of the countrywide protests against police brutality caused by Floyd’s death. However, in the middle of June, my attitude changed dramatically as the rioting, looting, and violence by protestors mounted and the severe lockdown restrictions no longer seemed to apply. I began to doubt my core ideology when Democratic leaders and liberal media deliberately ignored the CHAZ debacle in Seattle and the mounting coronavirus deaths in New York State. 

For expressing these doubts, my leftist peers called me a racist bigot for supporting police officers and worrying about coronavirus. After that, I kept my doubts to myself out of fear that my career prospects in Democratic politics could be destroyed for speaking my mind. 

Throughout the month of July, my doubts steadily increased to the point where I decided that I would leave Democratic politics at the end of the summer. I was unsure of what my ideological commitments were and I did not know where to look for honest discussions about the events unfolding. Out of curiosity, I started reading conservative publications because they provided truths about the riots, thoughtful election commentary, and enticing ideological debates. The articles I read in The American Conservative, New York Post, First Things, American Compass, The Federalist, Quillette, The Daily Caller, and many other outlets exposed me to the nuance and intellectual rigor of conservative ideology that I was oblivious to beforehand. When I turned twenty-one at the end of July, I still felt lost politically, even though I was slowly warming up to conservative ideas. 

The experience that finally persuaded me to embrace conservatism came about a month later after I returned for an in-person semester at Notre Dame. Two weeks into the semester, I was quarantined at a fancy hotel after testing negative for coronavirus, because a friend had tested positive. While in quarantine, I quickly read through the excellent book, Why Liberalism Failed, by Notre Dame Professor Patrick J. Deneenwhich fully convinced me that I was a conservative. 

In his book, Deneen lays out the fundamental cause of American decline to be a radical individualism that underlies the emergence of wokeness, globalization, and the bloated administrative state. In order to address this core problem, Deneen calls for a renewed emphasis on socially conservative values and a localized economy that prioritizes American communities. 

A few days later, widespread looting in Kenosha occurred following the police shooting of armed criminal Jacob Blake. This behavior was rightfully condemned at the Republican National Convention, which presented a positive vision that contrasted the hollow platitudes of the Democratic National Convention. Additionally, the longing I felt in quarantine for my family, friends, and campus community emphasized the virtue of conservatism values and an agenda that puts America first instead of cosmopolitan elites. 

My transition from liberal to conservative was complete when I was released from quarantine. Ever since, I have read obsessively about conservative policy, politics, and philosophy in order to develop a deeper understanding of conservatism. The conservative values of freedom, patriotism, constitutionalism, capitalism, limited government, faith, community, realism, tradition, and family appeal to my sensibilities in a way that the intolerance, large government, socialism, social liberation, globalism, violence, progress, idealism, and anti-Americanism of the left never did. Despite the difficulties of 2020, I am grateful for the ideological change that the circumstances ignited, and the tremendous support I have received from conservatives after my political transformation.

James Lynch is a senior studying Political Science at the University of Notre Dame and is currently a Research and Production Intern at The Realignment Podcast. James grew up in New York City and plans on working in DC after college.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About James Lynch

James Lynch is a senior studying Political Science at the University of Notre Dame and is currently a Research and Production Intern at The Realignment Podcast. James grew up in New York City and plans on working in DC after college.

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