A Rising Generation of Conservatives?

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Christen Mitchell of WU points out this interesting article in the City Journal, It’s Morning After in America. The author, Kay S. Hymowitz meticulously makes the case for a cautious optimism about recent social trends, especially among the younger generation, “During the last ten years, most of the miserable trends in crime, divorce, illegitimacy, drug use, and the like that we saw in the decades after 1965 either turned around or stalled. Today Americans are consciously, deliberately embracing ideas about sex, marriage, children, and the American dream that are coalescing into a viable—though admittedly much altered—sort of bourgeois normality.”

I find her case for a turn towards family, hard work and entrepreneurship encouraging… With the exception that young folks who are turning towards conservative values are buying the whole package as usually presented, including conservative war-mongering. (Thus the vital importance of LRC, AmCon and other outlets that demonstrate that conservative social values and a principled anti-war stance belong together).

The sharp Catholic philosopher Jim Brent of Saint Louis University has this interesting critique of the trends Hymowitz describes:Ok, so beneath the surface of a music/entertainment/advertisement/education/talk-show culture whose message remains “say yes to appetite”, there is a counter-trend rumbling But even this article pointed out that people want to preserve what was gained in the sexual revolution. In other words, it seems like what is brewing under the surface is a rather old-fashioned deception — you can have it all. You can have BOTH meaning/purpose and all the sex,drugs, and rock n’ roll you want. Perhaps this explains why the pornography industry is selling movies to couples at an all time high, not to mention the increasingly popular joys of web porn. And strip aerobics.

If that counts as a conservative trend, conservatism is a mile wide and an inch deep. The very talk of “meaning” in the article seems that of a meaning created and invented by solipsistic egos. When pop Sartreanism counts as conservative, Sartre must be laughing from the grave.

I’ll believe that there is a real conservative trend underway when two propositions become popularized.

1. There is a Truth prior to the human intellect and will to which human thinking must conform in order to be true and to which the human will must conform in order to be good. Governments especially are subject to this pre-existent Truth.

2. It is possible to know that Truth, and it can only be found by entering into, embracing, and acting in accord with a pre-existent Tradition.

Now THAT would be a conservative trend.

Nonetheless, the article perhaps gives signs that we are in a preparatory stage to the real thing. Perhaps we can get to work on advancing these two propositions in the public square.

5:20 pm on April 16, 2004