Confessions of a classical liberal

Political thought mutates and evolves over time.

We are in the midst of such a transition. No one seems to know precisely what a Democrat stands for today as the party drifts leftward toward more socialism far away from what pragmatic moderate Democratic philosophy was 25 years ago.

No one can pinpoint exactly what a “true” Republican is today as the party drifts more to the right on social issues either.

The Trump voter has thrown up their hands in disgust with both sides, thrown caution to the wind and said, “Blow it all up and fix it! I don’t really care how you do it but just do it!”

Millions of North Carolinians have abandoned their former party affiliation and registered as unaffiliated, roughly 2.1 million in number. They are the second largest registered bloc of voters in the state. At current rates of decline in Democratic voter registration, unaffliiateds may soon be the majority voting bloc in the mid-2020s.

Michael Cromartie, a dear friend with a vibrant mind and lust for life, called himself “a conservative for liberal reasons.” He grew up in the ’60s, lived in a Christian commune outside of Durham after college, and generally embraced the anti-Establishment mindset of the time as well as an enhanced welfare state.

While working with the new Prison Ministry Fellowship started by former Nixon aide Chuck Colson in 1978, he was attacked and held hostage in a hotel room where he said he was “mugged by reality” and started to move his worldview from one of enlightened liberal state utopia that didn’t seem to be working to a more conservative worldview based on faith, values and freedom of the individual.

The word “conservative” nowadays turns many millennials and younger people off. To them, after years of indoctrination in academia and the media, the word conservative conjures up visions of Bull Connor in Birmingham using firehoses and German shepherds to put down the civil rights marches of the ’60s.

Young people eventually grow up. They get mugged by the reality of taxes, mortgages, debt and the general matter-of-factness that comes with working in a capitalist society where anyone can be fired at any time and any business can be overtaken by technology or a competitive idea.

What would these young people think about conservatism if they knew that the true philosophical DNA of an American political conservative derived from the classical liberal freedom thinkers of the 19th century?

Young people love the destructive power of the capitalist marketplace even if they don’t recognize it as such. Uber and Lyft are “destroying” taxi cab monopolies at airports. Amazon is “destroying” the concentration of the marketplace at shopping malls which “destroyed” the concentration of the marketplace in downtowns all over the country in the 1970s and 1980s.

That is classical liberal freedom — plain and simple. Without mentioning Adam Smith or John Locke at all.

If conservatives of today want to attract more younger voters, perhaps they should talk more about being free from concentrations of power in any sector. Young voters are inherently skeptical of anyone in authority anywhere to begin with … the recent list of forced resignations in Congress, Hollywood and the news media reinforce their skepticism.

“Why give anyone more power to tell you what to do?” should be a winning message to young voters.

The classical liberal concept of standing up for the individual rights of everyone within a democratic republican structure of self-governance should be the goal of conservatives seeking to attract support from younger American citizens.

Being a conservative should not be a dog whistle to make people think conservatives support the continuation of things as they are, warts and all. Freedom wins in American elections.