Writing last week about the new affection for socialism on the part of Millellenials, electoral maven Karl Rove warned us not to ignore or dismiss this enthusiasm. Socialism’s long record of failure “doesn’t mean new forms of socialism can’t gain a following.” Rove’s solution is for Republicans to “do the hard work of updating old arguments,” and “hone their arguments” against socialist policies in preparation for the 2020 presidential race.
Welcome to 2500 years of dubious thinking about the power of rational persuasion and coherent argument to talk people out of bad ideas. It didn’t save Socrates from the hemlock, and it’s unlikely to change the minds of the worst-educated, most self-centered, and most pampered cohort in American history. …
The Greatest, Silent, and older Boomer Generations grew up in a harder, more dangerous, more contingent world of material want, disease, and daily physical labor. Their expectations were tempered by hard experience and constant reminders that their desires and dreams were a matter of indifference in such a world. More of them were skeptical about the utopian promises of socialism and communism. These collectivist ideologies did see some success after initial enthusiasm, but invariably they failed because they couldn’t meet the expectations they had raised. As a consequence, collectivist ideologies have had to resort to murder, gulags, tyranny, and corruption––imposing by force what could not be won by the persuasion of success, as free-market capitalism has done.
Millennials are a different breed. They have lived in this brave new world of affluence from childhood, and so have a much higher baseline standard of material comfort, and greater expectations for achieving their political ideals like universal free health care, guaranteed jobs, free college tuition, social harmony, and equality of outcomes rather than of opportunity. But they are continually disappointed and aggrieved because despite the serial failure of a century of socialist economies and social policies, our country hasn’t been eager to repeat those failures. This is the same childish mentality that has fueled the rise of political correctness, hate speech codes, whimpering “snowflakes,” and all the illiberal and oppressive policies that have followed.
Finally, having spent 40 years in the university watching the degradation of scholarly disciplines, I’d like Rove to show me where he will find the millennial socialists educated enough in traditional subjects like history, philosophy, or critical thinking to be open to rational persuasion.
A generation marked both by an elevated, unearned sense of self-regard, and an arrogant certainty about their own intellectual and moral superiority is more likely to scream and threaten rather than listen thoughtfully.
hat-tip Stephen Neil