Making Millennials Conservatives
Culture warriors strategize on how to win the hearts and minds of America's youth at the Freedom Center's Restoration Weekend.
Below are the video and transcript of the panel discussion “Young Conservatives, the Culture, and the Future of the Movement” which took place at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2015 Restoration Weekend. The event was held November 5-8th at the Belmond Charleston Place Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina.
Mark Tapson: The topic this morning is young conservatives, the culture and the future of the movement, and we have a panel of speakers today who will enlighten you about that. Each one will have a little bit of time to offer his remarks, and we’re going to try to leave a lot of time for audience questions.
Youth and the culture. I just want to take a moment to emphasize how vital these are to the future of conservatism. Young people are the future and Katie Pavlich happened to mention that the millennial generation is the largest one that America has ever produced.
So, conservatives would do well to keep that in mind, and to engage that generation and try to win them over to conservatism because it’s a generation that is increasingly embracing Bernie Sanders and socialism – and socialism is a concept that the same generation can’t really define, but it sounds fair and fair must be good right?
They increasingly embrace identity politics without realizing just how divisive that really is. They embrace free speech unless it offends someone. Heaven forbid that we should micro-aggress anyone these days.
So conservatives need to engage with this generation and win them over. We need to seduce them to conservatism. Actually, that was probably a micro-aggression right there, the word seduce. I’m sorry. Please go the nearest safe space and recover yourselves.
As for the culture, everything begins with the culture. As the late great Andrew Breitbart was fond of saying, politics flows downstream from culture. The reason that Obama won twice in the political area is because for decades the left has been laying the groundwork for that in the cultural arena – and if we don’t begin to turn that cultural ocean liner around – and recapture the culture we will not win anymore in the political area.
Greg Thornbury: It is a great privilege and honor to be here at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. David Horowitz is a hero. I’m coming from the perspective of someone who is leading a campus of conservative young intellectuals on Wall Street in New York City – we are dancing in the dragon’s jaws, flying under the belly of the beast in the bluest of blues cities – and people like David Horowitz are heroes to us who have been leading the way.
In the 1960s, there was a famous song by The Who called The Kids are Alright and what I want to do in my brief remarks here is to speak out of both sides of my mouth a little bit. On the one hand, I am the president of a conservative college in New York City that is dedicated to faith, free enterprise and the American dream. We get the best and brightest kids. They’re competitors, they’re conservative, and they are infiltrating the strategic, public and private institutions that change culture.
When we saw that CNBC debate everybody was complaining about the media – as we ought to be. The question is where is the media? Woody Allen once said 80 percent of success in life is just showing up. If politics is downstream from culture, you have to go to where the culture is. That’s why we’re in New York City. So when I say – out of one side of my mouth – that The Kids are Alright is I do think that we have a real chance at recapturing the hearts and minds of this generation.
Case in point, the hottest show on Broadway right now – so hot that you cannot get tickets to it unless you want to pay $1,700.00 a ticket – is a reprise of the story of the Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father. This hip‑hop artist in New York City – he had done an off‑Broadway play before – but he read Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, and he was like “why don’t people know about this Founding Father?” The average person does not know as much about the man on the $10.00 bill and this young man, Miranda, wrote this play about Alexander Hamilton. It got great reviews off‑Broadway, is now on Broadway – sold out for the next 2 years – and it’s mostly young people that are wanting to see this show.
What’s the story of Hamilton the musical? It’s about a young man who didn’t have a father came to America to find the American dream – and here’s the point of the show – no one owes you anything. If you want to succeed in this county, you’re gonna have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and work hard. It is a story of grit, determination and hard work and how this ragtag group of revolutionaries changed America forever and gave us the American dream. It’s a powerful message to this generation and young people love it. So, there’s hope.
But now may I speak out of the other side of my mouth? So, while I’m on a campus with these young, bright people that want to go into the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, and into Goldman Sachs and Wall Street and the elite financial firms; that’s the good news. On the other hand, the reality is regarding the research on the millennial generations; there’s a couple of Debbie Downer points.
Number one. I was at a dinner last week on Monday night with a distinguished group of leaders of conservative organizations at the Union League Club in New York City and we were talking about how we can come up with the best ideas to shape the future. One of the things I said is that have to keep in mind is the principle from Marshall McLuhan; that the medium is the message.
And what I said – and it’s uncomfortable to say – is we assume as conservatives that ideas change people’s voting patterns; that having the best ideas makes you win. All that really matters is how it appears to people, and particularly millennials. So how did Barack Obama get nearly 70 percent of the millennial vote in both 2008 and 2012? He dropped the mike when he slow-jammed the news that Jimmy Fallon; he’s in with the millennials, right?
The medium is the message, and that demographic of the Internet generation is not one that leads with ideas. That’s not what motivates them first. What motivates them is that cool medium of the Internet and of image and of television. So we have to win the image war. I hate that that’s the case, but look at the demographics of talk radio and of Fox News. The millennials aren’t watching it, so we have to engage them on that level.
Number two about the millennials – and I’ll hurry through the rest of this – I hate to say this, but these are not people to be trusted. The millennials are not to be trusted because if you look at probably the best and most credible research on the millennials – and I don’t think it’s ideological – is the Harvard Public Opinion Poll extensive research for the past two decades on it.
These are people that speak out of both sides of their mouth all of the time. So for example, they will say that they distrust government and there are trends that the millennials are getting more conservative, and yet they will say they distrust government and yet they want poor people to have Obamacare. Almost half of them say abortion is immoral, but the vast majority of them think it should be legal. They will say that they are trending in a conservative direction, and yet they probably won’t vote for a Republican, right? They say that family matters, but the vast majority of them totally believe in gay marriage and are probably not going to vote for a candidate that is against gay marriage – that includes Christian evangelical kids.
They’re more libertarian in that sense, so they’re a hard group to poll and to figure out what they will actually do. They might get exited about an idea about distrusting government, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll vote in a way that we think they will.
Thirdly, they are motivated by people who represent service. Service to the world, doing something with your hands, giving back. That’s one of the reasons why Ben Carson is so appealing to a lot of them. One of the most amazing things in the last couple of weeks; you know who gave the biggest most recent endorsement to Ben Carson? Kanye West. Yes, he said Ben Carson is the most amazing candidate in the political field right now because he is a doctor. He’s a healer. Millennials like that language and if all you represent is politics, and not service, you might be in trouble with the millennials.
Now, so where do we go from here? We’re talking about a group of people that are one‑third of the electorate, so I’m going to say this is a thought experiment. Maybe we should just keep them out of this election. What we do know based upon the Harvard research is that once they start getting married and start having children, then they start becoming more conservative. So it could be possible that we might want to just cross our fingers and create the most toxic environment possible so that they will stay home and not vote for either side, which means the older people will vote and the older people are going to be more on our conservative side of things.
I’m throwing that out as a point of debate because last time Barack Obama got 66 percent of the millennial vote. We’ve got to hope that the democrats only get 50 percent this time and one way of doing that would be to hope that they don’t show up to the polls. So wait until they’re 24; it’s the old saw that if you’re not liberal when you’re young, you may not have any heart, but if you’re not a conservative when you get past 25, you don’t have any brains.
Herb London: It’s a great treat for me to be here. I’m reminded in listening to Greg of a very wise man who said there are three important lessons in life. The first is never climb a wall that leans toward you. The second is never kiss a woman that leans away from you, and the third is never ask an old man to talk about youth culture. Now I’m one of those old men. I’m not sure what I’m doing here. The point is that if you look at American culture today – and I often do, I spend most of my time thinking about foreign policy and national security questions under the rubric of the London Center for Policy Research – but it strikes me that there are some important lessons that I learned in my first reading of Plato; who made the obvious point that he who controls the chords controls the state. That is, the culture is far more important than economics, far more important than politics, that’s often overlooked by my conservative companions.
I remember a conversation that I had several years ago with a very important figure in the conservative camp who had a major publication. I said to him that very often the culture in your publication contradicts what is said on the political page and on the economics page. He looked at me – and excuse the language – and he said “Who gives a shit about culture?”
I do, because it strikes me that the culture war is critical, critical on any number of fronts. We are living with a counterculture at the moment. I am a member of the counterculture. I do not embrace the existing culture because we lost the culture war. It’s a very difficult thing to say, but quite true. Let me give you one very simple illustration. I grew up listening to Frank Sinatra, who sang love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. Lloyd Price, who followed Frank Sinatra, said I want to get married. Elvis Presley sang I want you, I need you, I love you. Elvis Presley was followed by Meatloaf, who sang I want you, I need you, but I’m never going to say I love you, but two out of three ain’t bad, followed by Dusty Springfield, who said you don’t have to say you love me, followed by NWA – I won’t even tell you what NWA stands for – who said my ho is the woman I want.
Now that tells you a lot about the changes that have occurred in our popular culture.
It is so fascinating to me that what we are now seeing is a different kind of reality. Dwight McDonald once talked about high culture, middle culture, and popular culture. There is no high culture. If you look at the people who are invited to The White House representing the cultural figures of America, our elite; who is there? Jay Z and Beyonce. What does that say about American culture?
I spent three decades in university life. I was often astonished by the changes that were occurring. I was a student of Trilling and Barzun at Columbia with David Horowitz; we are contemporaries, and I remember how wonderful that was and how exciting because of the free and open exchange of opinion. We have a very different kind of university today where I saw the emergence of an orthodoxy; a left wing orthodoxy. The social issues clearly came to dominate and what dominated was a kind of leftist dogma of relativism. I’ll never forget Social Issues, which is a very famous publication at NYU. Everything was relative; there is no truth. This comes right out of Nietzsche, who made the argument that you probably remember: there is no truth. There are only perceptions, interpretations, so that’s what these people believe.
So they came to my office and tried to convince me that I ought to contribute to this publication. We had an interesting exchange. Needless to say, we did not agree. At the end of the conversation, they walked to the elevator. I said, wait. Please do not go to the elevator. I want you to leave from the window. The fellow looks at me and says “What do you mean leave from the window?” I said, “Well, if there is no truth, then presumably you can leave from the window because the laws of gravity don’t apply to you.” They didn’t take me up on that proposition.
I also had the experience of having an office next to the very famous Derrida who spoke to students in a strange code, ergonality. I didn’t know what he was talking about, but the young ladies in that classroom sat there as though they found wisdom, the Rosetta stone of understanding. Universities perpetuate the myth that information is knowledge. We perpetuate the myth on the Internet that information is knowledge. In fact, it is a form of soft totalitarianism. Our judgment is lost as a result of all of this information. So what do we do?
First, we organize colleges like King’s College, which does a remarkable job of putting together the PPE, politics, philosophy and economics. Greg has done a remarkable job in leading this institution, and I must say I have experienced first-hand the extraordinary students who go through this college.
Then I think that we have to remember the past which is the portal to an understanding of culture. We have to recapture Western Civilization. Our civilization provided something that is unique. I remember my friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali telling me a story – a story, by the way, that had profound influence on her life, not written in any of her books. When she left Saudi Arabia and went to Holland, she was walking down the corridor with a young man. They came to a door. He opened the door and he said ladies first. She stood there paralyzed. Her eyes welled with tears. What do you mean ladies first? I never heard that expression. Ladies are last. Ladies are half of a man in a court of law. What do you mean ladies first? She’d never heard that expression.
We have to be able to say – as my friend Ibn Warraq said – the West is best. We have to say that to students time and again. Our civilization is superior, and we have to use humor, honesty and challenge as our weapons.
Keep in mind we can tear the cover off the claims that are made by the left. The BDS movement that I’ve written about a great deal seems to suggest that there is a need for some sort of boycott against the State of Israel. It’s not a boycott against Israel. Tear the claims from this cover and say what is truthful. It is an attempt to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel. We should also point out that optimism is on our side. We are the optimists. We are the people who believe we can change the culture and change the world, and I’ll end on this note.
There’s a story I love to tell about a man named Fast Eddie. Fast Eddie was the lawyer for the Capone gang, and whenever there was some infraction on the part of one of Capone’s associates or even Capone himself, Fast Eddie would find some technicality and get this person off. In Chicago, he became as well known as anyone in the City of Chicago. He built a palace right in the middle of Chicago, was an enormously wealthy man, and one day Capone came to the conclusion that he could not be trusted, and he was killed with 16 bullets. Fast forward.
Let me tell you about a man named Butch O’Hare. Butch O’Hare was a pilot in World War II. He was flying his aircraft on a mission when he told the captain of this mission I am running out of fuel. The captain said, “Well go back to the aircraft carrier; you can’t complete the mission.“ On his way back he sees six Japanese Zeros, starts firing at one; takes down one of these planes. Flies his plane into a second, takes off the tail of that plane. Flies into the third and takes off the wing of the third, the others scatter, and he manages to limp back to the aircraft carrier. He continues to fight in World War II, dies in the Marianas Island and receives the Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor. He is the most honored aviator in the history of the United States. In fact so well known is Butch O’Hare that we name the largest airport in the United States after him and if you go to Terminal 2 everything that I’ve said about the exploits of Butch O’Hare are right there with a big statue, and if you read the placard, it tells you about what he did in World War II – but the one thing it does not tell you is that his father was Fast Eddie.
Now the reason why I tell you that story is because in the United States, as the great philosopher of the 20th Century once said, Fats Waller, “One never knows, do one?“ Thank you very much.
Charlie Kirk: That was wonderful. I’m honored to be part of this panel, talking about the culture, young conservatives and where we stand with the millennial generation. First and foremost, I just want to point out Dr. Gregory Thornbury is running – to say it’s a unique institution in this increasingly totalitarian climate of higher education would be a vast understatement. I have the opportunity and the blessing to run a national youth organization, Turning Point USA, that has grown exponentially over the last 12 months.
We’re now on a thousand college and high school campuses across the country. The intolerance that the left puts upon our young people if they say conservative points of view is unparalleled, and it gets worse every single month, and to have an institution like the King’s College in New York City that unapologetically stands behind the principles of free enterprise, the constitution, and so forth is so necessary in this culture. So I do run Turning Point USA, but when I’m not doing that, I’m also an online student at the King’s College in New York City, and since they’re crazy enough to take me on as an online student and put up with my schedule I think it’s an incredible testament to what higher education needs to become.
The other person I want to thank is Mike Finch. Two years ago Allie Hanley brought me to the Horowitz Freedom Center Gathering and the organization I ran was very small. We didn’t have any staff, really not much of a budget or anything. Allie introduced me to Mike, and unlike other organizations, the Horowitz Freedom Center does not engage in this territorial kind of guardsmanship that you see so often in politics.
Instead, there is a philosophy of force multiplication, of not competition, but collaboration and I can honestly say that our success now as an organization – we have over 61 full-time staff, 53 in the field – is large in part because of the embracing of Horowitz Freedom Center attendees, staff and Mike Finch.
I think that is just so rare because so many of these forums I speak at, I’m told don’t mention the work that you do; just stick on subject, but Mike Finch and the people of the Horowitz Freedom Center have been so gracious to allow me a platform to share the work that has been going on. So thank you so much. I really appreciate that opportunity.
So I’m going to talk a little bit about the millennial generation and over the last two weeks, I’ve become really – I don’t want to say pessimistic – but increasingly despondent after the budget deal that was passed in Washington. I say that because I worked my tail off – and so did our activists and so did our students – to get strong fiscal conservatives into the Senate and into the House to take a stand against the increased borrowing at the expense of the younger generation.
This budget deal passed in the middle of the night – $2 trillion in new debt with absolutely no fiscal discipline – and it’s my generation that’s going to have to pay for it. I saw this happen and of course in 72 hours there was supposed to be a change in the dynamics of the way that business is done; yet unfortunately we saw the exact opposite. It’s almost as if Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are still in leadership and the Republicans continue to capitulate to them.
So I decided to go to college campuses and talk to young people about what they actually think about what’s going on in Washington and the budget deal. So I went down to Florida Atlantic University down in Southern Florida and I just started to talk to some students there. They really didn’t have much of an opinion of what’s going on with the budget deal because they really didn’t care. They didn’t know, and I started to talk to more students – I even went to Miami to see if it was different campus-by-campus – and suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks.
The left has created a culture of young people that essentially is apathy by design. In order for them to engage in this big government theft scheme they need the younger generation not to care. If the young people I deal with on a daily basis actually realized what was going on in Washington D.C. – $10 trillion of new debt and Obamacare that is literally designed to bankrupt future generations with 27 new taxes – they would never get away with this.
For lack of a better term, the apathy young people have gives politicians a license to steal; I say that in the purest sense because when I talk to these college students they say there’s no difference between the two parties. Yet the left does not want an active participatory citizenry. They would rather have an American Idol type of general election that is purely based on identity politics, where they will vote on someone that is cooler and nicer and more hip, and then they completely remove themselves from the political process.
What they want politics to be is for maybe once every couple weeks to flip through their Facebook or their Twitter feed, see Barack Obama with their arm around a celebrity, a big smile and to say everything’s okay; there’s nothing to see here. Yet as young people start to get more apathetic towards the political system, the plunder and the deceit only intensifies. The thievery only gets worse. The lies only get amplified further and I ask young people what do you think about the IRS scandal, fast and furious, the ballooning national debt, and it’s not that they don’t have a stance or an opinion; it’s that they’ve become completely disengaged from that conversation completely. But I believe firmly that if young people realized what was going on they would not allow it to happen.
Fighting back against a military draft in the 1960’s is child’s play versus what’s going on in Washington D.C. right now. You have a political class that is hell bent on destroying an entire generation’s future for their political expediency, and instead of a younger generation rising and getting angry about it, they’re continually embracing people such as Senator Sanders and Barack Obama based purely on identity politics and not on deeper policy.
So where do we go from here?
Obviously my organization is one of the few that is solely focused on bringing this fight to college and high school campuses to get young people engaged so that they can start to fight in the political and the cultural battle day in and day out. What I’ve seen is the left does not want a participatory grass-roots movement that understands what is going on in Washington D.C.
They would rather have a nice-looking, culturally understandable person like Barack Obama say there’s nothing to see here; just keep on scrolling. That’s the type of politics that they want. The inverse is what we’re trying to create; a generation that understands exactly what’s going on in Washington D.C. that stay engaged on a daily basis, that gets the information to be able to act.
I’ll never forget this story. I was at University of California Los Angeles where we have a chapter, and a young person came up to me and they said, “Well what is all this?” We had set up booths on campus – that’s one of our big outreach mechanisms – where the huge into grassroots engagement, and he said what do you mean the national debt is skyrocketing? I don’t understand why you guys are so upset, and I asked him well what do you think the national debt is? He says well, I don’t know. I said well, why don’t you Google it. He says oh no; that takes too much time, and I said we’re dealing with a generation that has almost unlimited access to information, but it’s absolute no knowledge. They could look up any fact, any piece of information at a moment’s notice and they almost refuse to do so.
We have an iPhone generation that is voting for a post office party, and when you really think about it, it’s a younger generation that so willingly enjoys the fruits of free market capitalism. That so happily delights in the benefits of entrepreneurial competitive innovation yet simultaneously demands for a socialistic-type governing style. So a Bernie Sanders rally will have young people that want to meet at Starbucks beforehand and get a customized Chipotle burrito and Tweet about it from their iPhone, but they are the ones that want to stop the evil corporations and really restrict excess greed and profit and say that there’s something wrong with capitalism. We’re really seeing an inflection point amongst the younger generation. They simultaneously are enjoying everything that is good about the free enterprise system yet vocally are doing everything they can to destroy it.
So what we have right now – not just in the election and politically but culturally and generationally – is an opportunity to say that we are the iPhone movement. We are the iPhone party and the Democrats are the post office party. They are the party of special interests. They are the party of big government cronyism, and we are the party of grass roots innovation. We are the party of entrepreneurial capitalism. They are the party of taxicabs; we are the party of uber. They are the party of blockbuster; we are the party of Netflix. They are the party of school cafeteria lunches, and we are the party of Chipotle. We are the party that will innovate and create and risk to show results, and they are the party that will protect old special interests, that will not change, that will become inefficient, that will continue to restrict your choice and individual liberty.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity. One‑third of the electorate is now comprised of millennials. Despite their apathy in the legislative process, young people are getting more and more engaged in voting in general elections. This is because of relaxed voter laws. This is because of Secretary of States in Florida and Ohio making so easy to vote you can vote from your iPhone in some cases. So they are apathetic to what’s going on in the legislative process but they’re becoming more engaged in voting in general elections and Barack Obama demonstrated that.
The differential of this victory in 2012 in Ohio and Florida was based solely on his ability to be able to get enough younger voters to reinvest in his agenda in Florida and Ohio on college campus, later in high school and to get young people to go out in the streets and march and work for him. If you would have removed the 18 to 24-year-old vote, Mitt Romney would have won the electoral college by a landslide in the popular vote by an incredible margin.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity, but we also have a responsibility to reinvest into the college campuses so we have an opportunity to be able to win them over. Hillary Clinton is the antithesis of what is going on in this country right now – grass roots innovation entrepreneurial capitalism that young people are embracing at a surprising rate and she’s going to be the party of old. She’s going to be the monarch that wants to continue the dynasty to keep moving forward. If we nominate a candidate that can say I am not part of that last generation that can put forth new ideas, a new vision, if we can get our grass roots mechanics right and beat the community organizers at their own game, I believe that we have a new vision and a new leader. We must fight. We must win. This election means more than just the votes that will be tallied. The left and the progressives know that if they can win this election, they can pretty much finalize all of their big government progressive ideas.
Mark Tapson: I just want to point out an interesting statistic that might give you some idea of just how influential pop culture is. Ted Cruz has about 25,000 followers on Instagram, and if you don’t know what Instagram is, then that’s part of that cultural disengagement I was talking about. Hillary Clinton has about 500,000 followers on Instagram; twenty times as many. Kim Kardashian has over 50 million followers on Instagram.
The point is it’s easy for us to laugh at someone like Kim Kardashian, but when Kim Kardashian says in an interview like she did recently that she’s for Hillary and she’s for gun control that goes out to far more young people than any message Ted Cruz could ever come up with.
Don’t underestimate the power of cool. Barack Obama is president now twice because he’s cool. As we pointed out, he hangs with Beyonce and Jay Z. He slow jams with Jimmy Fallon. I mean who wouldn’t want a president like that, at least for the millennial?
Herb London: I think you’re quite right in making this point about popular culture. I was trying to make a similar point, but what you overlook is that Western Civilization is not simply based on popular culture. I live in Western Civilization. I live with Aristotle. I live with Beethoven. But if you were to ask the average person about Beethoven, they are likely to tell you he’s a cartoon character.
My wife and I went to Carnegie Hall last week to listen to Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn. Everyone in the audience was either a Chinese kid from Julliard or someone over 70 years old. When you find the basis of Western Civilization is dying, as it is, you’re left with popular culture, which is no defense for our civilization. Now, you could be left with Kardashian. She’s very popular indeed, but Kardashian is not the basis for Western Civilization.
The challenge that we have is to maintain the best of the West. That’s what I kept referring to, and it strikes me that if you lose sight of that, then you have to ask yourself what are we defending? Many of the students in our universities today do not learn about Western Civilization. The consequence of that is they do not know why we are defending that civilization. So we have to once again retrain a generation, not only in popular culture, not only in social media, but also in what is the best of our civilization that we should retain? So many of our students, to use the Thorstein Veblen’s expression, trained in incapacity. They are trained in incapacity. They do not understand why we are here, what is the purpose of our civilization and why America is unique and exceptional. If you do not understand that – and you’re not going to learn that from popular culture – you’ve got a problem.
Charlie Kirk: The answer is yes, and so the left is making a big mistake, and we have an opportunity to capitalize on that mistake because they think they can use the Barack Obama playbook with Hillary Clinton. That’s not going to work as well. The great thing about running someone who’s never done anything in his life is there’s very little that the American people know about him. So when Barack Obama ran for president, there was no preconceived notions. He was just this wonderful nice figure – even though we all know differently – that the media never did the investigating that they should have.
En masse, the American people don’t trust Hillary Clinton and her favor has declined significantly. Young people in general are rejecting the political class, and the Clintons embody that better than almost any other political family probably besides the Bushes. Bushes would be Number one; the Clintons Number two. The left is going to make a big mistake if they try to run the same playbook that made Barack Obama successful with Hillary Clinton.
Audience Member: Charlie made a very important point, about the disconnect between our politicians and candidates, that the distance between them and the American people, especially young people, is like a chasm in the Grand Canyon. But Charlie put forth if there was a candidate who went to young people and to old people why young people should care when they’ve been abandoned. When they are being struck with the fact that they will be the first generation deprived of their rightful inheritance as Americans, and somebody going and making that case to their parents and making the point that they are being stolen from and being robbed blind.
This is because these politicians have failed America; you begin to give them a vision of what America is supposed to be. See, I don’t care about all this stuff. I mean I do care; I’m a child of the 60s. I understand popular culture, but to not understand that there is in this country, even with young people, a sense that runs in their blood about well, responsibility, country, what’s right and wrong – those things can be rallied.
When I was a young person, there were people who would speak to that. I can’t get a Republican candidate to speak to anybody. I don’t know what they do for the most part, but as do Democrats, they babble talking points but if you bring passion to politics and a passion to the argument of what’s at stake, they will respond like everyone else will respond. It’s not all because they’re all lost in the uselessness of popular culture. It is because we have provided them no other way to express or be felt. I lived through a period when that did work, and I believe it works again, and I was really taken with your comments.
Audience Member: A lot of the parents in the room and parents outside the room that are faced with a very awful situation where they’re both Republicans, but their kids end up loving Bernie Sanders. And, they don’t know what to do about it, so there are two questions. One, is there anything – when you speak to the students, do you feel that they turned on campus because sometimes the kids are good, then they go to campus and they turn into these raving Obama supporters. So is there something that the parents should talk to them in a different way? Does it start at home do you believe? Or, is it just out of control when it gets to campus and they want to be one of the clan?
Gerg Thornbury: Can I start off by answering that question? And, it goes back to the definition of what insanity is that Albert Einstein gave. The definition of insanity, Albert Einstein said, is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. We keep sending our children to institutions that we know are ideological factories. The agenda from the time they step on campus, and this isn’t only the professors, these are the student life teams, these are all of the support mechanisms, is to turn students against their parents. And, we keep sending them into that buzz saw over and over and over again. And, what you have to wind up doing is deprogramming them. And, the way they get deprogrammed is the school of life and hard knocks. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to do that. So I think we have to start building. That’s why I’m the president of a college in New York City committed to these values. We need to build our own institutions because the left has the hearts and minds of the whole generation. In the medieval world, what did Martin Luther protest? He protested corruption in the church. What is the church today? It is the university. The university controls the hearts and the minds and the spiritual destiny of an entire generation, and we have to break up that cabal. Let’s bring it down.
Herb London: The question is an excellent question. It seems to me that one of the responsibilities of a parent is to counter the things that you hear in the elementary schools, the high schools and the colleges. When my daughters were going to school, I would invariably ask what happened on that exam today. My youngest daughter took an examination in African history and was asked the question who was the George Washington of Africa. And I said, there is no George Washington in Africa. She said, dad, I couldn’t answer the question. I said I’m glad you couldn’t answer the question. I went to the school and I said to the instructor, who is the George Washington of Africa? He told me, the father of the ANC.
Now, that’s absurd. That’s absurd. But, unless there’s a challenge, why would students know that? How could students possibly know that? So parents have a responsibility to be teachers today. And, most parents do not take on that responsibility, and that is a problem. They rely on the institutions that they think are educating the young. Those institutions have failed us. And I think Greg stated it very well. If you are looking for an orthodoxy or a dogma, you will find it in the educational institutions of the United States. And, if you’re looking at the publishing industrial and the mass media, you will find the dogma exists. So the problem is how do we counter that. And we counter it at home with sensible conversation, not with the internet, not with the cell phone, but with a conversation over dinner which of course doesn’t occur very often.
Charlie Kirk: I just would like add from one other perspective. I can’t tell you how many people I encounter and they say,
“Charlie, my youngest daughter or my son was conservative all throughout high school, and I have no idea what happened.“
I say, “Well, where’d you send ‘em to school?
They respond, “Well, UW Madison or UCLA or UC Berkeley.“
And I say, “Well, what did you expect?“
They reply, “Well, I really thought that I did a great job of engraining these beliefs.”
They might have, but what we did at our organization and I’d love to share this with everyone, is we studied the 150 largest most liberal schools in America and we compared their introductory freshman courses. They’re almost completely the same across the country. This is an indoctrination recipe that they have created that has been mastered and perfected throughout the last couple decades. Where these professors come together at these conferences every summer and compare notes of how to better indoctrinate and to better execute the ashamed philosophy of America; the rejection of capitalism, the questioning of the West. They have become so effective at this that no matter how great of a job that might have been done up to senior in high school – and there are people that do reject it and stay strong – because at some of these universities they’re stated goal in the social science department is to create the next generation of social justice advocates.
My number one advice is to people that are passionate about this country and the constitution; I could name you 15 school that would be a better option that have high educational standards: Hillsdale, Grove City, King’s College. Why would you spend $250,000.00 to even risk your child’s philosophical trajectory and future? To me it just blows my mind. The final thing is this, I talked to some people that are rather well off, conservative donors, and they will make seven-figure gifts to universities that will fund Muslim-like student organizations that will give them the financial resources to continue this indoctrination process. At the same time they’re complaining about how we’re losing the youth. I’m not always in the position to challenge, but I say and I think to myself, over the last 20 years you’ve given $100 million to propagate the next generation. There are other educational alternatives and institutions that do paint that other point of view, and there is that rising tide. And I’ll say one final thing. The Democratic Party would lose their base of support over the next 30 years if the younger generation paired with their parents started to make more informed decisions of where they place their students into college.
Audience Member: Yeah, this is a follow up on the educational system. You can rail against donors, giving major gifts to colleges. I want you as a panel to explain to me, I live up in Vermont, so I view things in other states at a distance. We congratulate ourselves to candidates. We won 900 state races nationwide over the last couple election cycles to put Republicans in state legislative seats. And you look at Texas with Republican government, super majorities, both houses with the same progressive K through college education system, no change, no effect, no interest in making any changes in their own state system. I just want to explain to all of us your theory why electing Republican is gonna help at all.
Herb London: I stated right at the outset that culture trumps politics. This is very evident if you’ve spent time in a university system. It is not a question of who’s elected every two years, four years or six years, it is a question of who controls the culture. I very recently have been associated, well have been associated with an organization called the National Association of Scholar. These are scholars who are very much concerned about the free exchange of opportunity on campus and very much opposed to the orthodoxy. I created the organization in 1986. We have more than 3,000 members of faculties across the United States. The influence that we have is very limited. We have Robby George, Harvey Mansfield, Victor Davis Hanson; there are some extraordinary professors. But by and large our influence is very limited largely because of the way in which universities have been organized, with academic freedom once a professor is in the position of standing in front of that classroom, the is the authority. You cannot challenge that. Academic freedom gives him the opportunity to say what he wants to say. We did a report at the National Association of Scholars on Bowdoin. Some of you read it in The Wall Street Journal. It was a very interesting point about the politicization as well as the trivialization of Bowdoin. Several months after that report I was asked by the Maine Heritage Society to come up to Bowdoin and talk about our report. I invited by Mr. Mills who is the president of Bowdoin to engage me in conversation and I invited the faculty members as well. They boycotted the event. Students came but neither the faculty nor the president would entertain the idea of engaging me in debate. Before I went I looked at the catalog very carefully. Now in the catalog there are three categories as is the case with most universities today: social science, science and humanities. Needless to say I concentrated on the humanities, the area I was most interested in and while the courses I’m about to mention to you are not the only courses you could take to fulfill the humanities requirement, they are in the humanities section. Here they are: Lesbian Gardening. Now you’re spending $65,000.00 a year to send your kid to Bowdoin to study Lesbian Gardening. When I mentioned this to the Maine Heritage Society they couldn’t believe it. So I said well let me give you other examples. Prostitution in America, prostitutes being a beleaguered group and we have to study prostitutes. And they say no field visits involved! The one that I can’t even conjure from my own imagination, which is absolutely remarkable is Clitoral Hermeneutics. Yeah, Clitoral Hermeneutics. I don’t know what that is. And I’m not even going to try to explain what it is. But this gives you an idea of one, the extraordinary politicization and secondly the trivialization of university life.
Audience Member: If the culture of politics is downstream of the culture and we got guys like Ted Cruz who’ve got 25,000 Instagram followers while the Kardashian have 50 million, it’s still important to be genuine. Yet how can be genuine and be relevant culturally without hearing the **** storm for putting on airs?
Greg Thornbury: That’s a huge question. I just would like say with respect to Ted Cruz, sincerity can win. Most of the kids that are on these college campuses are coming from either broken homes now or they’re in very unhappy homes. I think the thing that could be the most powerful thing. Ted Cruz could on his Instagram feed focus on his family. He has a happy family and he’s got a beautiful wife who’s hugely distinguished, along with children. I think when I say the medium is the message, to say a vote for Ted Cruz is a vote for what you never had a home. It’s this I think that begins to restore confidence in the family. You know Charles Murray talks about there are three things in his book, Coming Apart, three things that you’ve got to recapture is you want to stop societal dissolution, the things that built the country: faith, family and vocation. I think that the Republicans, any of the Republican went at that all day long, but you asked a question about Ted Cruz. That’s the kind of thing that people really deeply want is a sense of home, that home is good, and it’s okay and I think that that’s where you win on Instagram.
Charlie Kirk: Can I say one thing and then I’ll yield to Dr. London. So about the social media aspect and the Republicans in general, and I want to make a point of this. I think it’s a very good thing so let’s just look at 2012 versus now. In 2012 our candidates, every single candidate in that random 2012 Republican primary, ran away from any sort of late night talk show, the social media like it was a Chernobyl, they were so far away from it in a total disconnect.
Now it’s the exact opposite. Our Republican candidates are vying and vouching and yearning to get on these late night talk shows. For better for worse we just had a Republican presidential candidate MC or host Saturday Night Live. I mean that’s generally a good thing. Um, would you ever think Mitt Romney we host Saturday Night Live in the middle of an election? No. Ted Cruz, late night talk shows, he’s been on every single one of them, from Jimmy Fallon to Seth Meyers to Steven Colbert. So I do start to see this new class of Republicans start to engage in that sort of cultural fight. Whether or not they do it effectively and as well as they could, that’s different. At least they’re showing as Craig said. The final point I’ll say is this; Hillary Clinton is really bad on those types of mediums. As Jonah Goldberg said, she’s that woman in the library that tell you to stop talking so loudly and stop eating. She’s not funny, she’s not good at that sort of engagement and she’s not relevant. It’s so funny, she was at an event and they asked her somethin’ about a social media device and she said well what is Snap Chat? So we do have an opportunity however it shouldn’t just be episodic every election that we go on the these late night talk shows. I would love to see people like Jonah Goldberg get on the late night talk shows more often, so.
Herb London: This is an example of what you’ve just suggested, Mr. Sousa, in your very good question, former student of mine by the way. Take for example my dream late night talk show with Jimmy Fallon, Karl Marx, Immanuel Kant and Aristotle.
First thing that happens.
Immanuel Kant, you’ve written this very big, fat book call The Critique Pure Reason. It’s several hundred pages, Now we got a commercial break in about a minute and a half. Would you summarize for it, Manny, because he’s not called Immanuel anymore, or Mr. Kant, he’s Manny. So you start to see the trivialization.
You come to Karl Marx, in the introduction to Das Capital you say you are not a Marxist. What do you mean you’re not a Marxist? You’re a Marx. Well you know we have a little break. Maybe you wanna do little dance for us or something, Karl?
And then you get to Aristotle. What’s this Nicomenian ethics? What are you talkin’ about? I mean come on, I don’t understand this language.
The difficulty that you have is that you’ve had the dumbing down of America and so you now have political candidates who have to act like fools and get on Saturday Night Live while I understand that you’re trying to reach the Millennials, you have a real problem. How can you avoid hypocrisy when in fact you’re not treated as a serious figure. The media has forced you into the compression of ideas.
Years ago when Pat Buchanan left Crossfire I replaced him. I remember having what I thought was an interesting discussion about healthcare with Mr. Stark, the Congressman from California. And at one point the producer of the program turns to me and says, “You’ve got this guy on the ropes, kill him.” Now I’m not out to kill anyone. I wanted to engage in a serious discussion. You cannot do that on TV. The compression of time doesn’t make it possible and the trivialization doesn’t make it possible either.
Greg Thornbury: I’ll just end very briefly by saying that just underscores my point that the medium is the message. And I wanted to say if you’ve not seen the new documentary on Buckley versus Vidal, watch it.
Mark Tapson: Thank you panel.