By now you've most likely seen the polls reporting that roughly half of Millennials have a favorable view of Socialism and you're probably wondering how in the world that is possible. Didn't America win the Cold War?
Well, yes, we did win the Cold War, but we're losing the culture war.
As I was discussing the rising Socialist leanings of city councils with a reader of Intellectual Takeout, I made the point that what is happening now is the result of what was done over many decades. Americans didn't just become Socialists all of a sudden; no, the way was prepared for its rising popularity.
Now, not a few conservatives or libertarians will comfort themselves with the knowledge that many Millennials who view Socialism favorably can't actually define it. Politically, though, that doesn't matter.
What matters is how the typical Millennial perceives Socialism, as that will dictate how he votes at election time. If I have a favorable view of Socialism, then I'm quite likely to vote for the Socialist -- no matter that I can't define the ideology.
And how is Socialism perceived? As a system of governance that is fair, makes sure everyone is materially secure, gives purpose to life, and increases happiness.
Here are five reasons that such a system appeals so well to younger Americans:
1. Broken Homes: While our cultural elites want to ignore the problem, the shattering of the family unit over the last forty years has psychologically scarred many Americans. Homes without both biological parents in them, especially those without a father present, significantly increase the chances of depression and anxiety for the children as well as leave them wrestling with abandonment issues for life.
Are we surprised that a generation of Americans who grew up in broken homes are seeking an ideology that offers them security?
2. Education: As we and other pundits have warned, the education received in many a public school (and even private schools) intellectually forms students to view the world through a prism that makes Socialism appealing.
For instance, when teaching U.S. History, the themes emphasized the most are usually the Progressive Era and its fights against capitalism as well as the importance of pursuing equality, starting with the Declaration of Independence. Nor is the indoctrination limited to History or Civics classes, examples abound of Socialist-friendly school cultures and teaching lessons in almost all subjects.
3. Demise of Christianity: In America, Christianity has traditionally been one of the driving forces shaping our culture. It gave us a sense of purpose in life, helped us govern our passions, united us, and, even, gave us meaning in suffering. All that has largely been washed away, leaving a void in many a young American's life.
These days, too many of us want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, but not something that asks too much of us. Rather, we want something that serves us.
4. Creative Destruction: Let's face it, capitalism is scary for a lot of people. When will the next recession hit? Will someone make a product that makes my business obsolete? What happens if I lose my job? How will I pay my school loans and afford a house? And on and on the worries go.
A free society and economy require people who have the self-assuredness, self-control, and strength of will to fend for themselves. Once a free society gives itself over to desires for security, be prepared for freedom to diminish.
5. Decadence: Obviously, we have more material wealth now than at any point in human history. Most Americans have grown up never wanting for the basics. Our grocery stores are always stocked, the latest technology is always available, we can communicate across vast distances, the car and airplane are commonplace, and we rarely have to sacrifice.
Even the poor in America largely have indoor plumbing, air conditioning, TVs, radios, cell phones, cars, food galore, a computer, nice clothing, and so on. We are utterly blind to how wealthy we really are as a society and how wealth affects us. Furthermore, we spend our time often watching shows and advertisements that reinforce the belief that we can and should consume whatever we want. If we don't have the money for it, there's always someone who will lend us the money to get what we want right now. Everything is 'on demand'.
We have largely forgotten the hard work and sacrifice of previous generations to make it all possible. We can't fathom a different way of life. And so our lives are marked by self-indulgence, by decadence, and it corrupts our thinking. The very success of capitalism may very well be its undoing.
If you generally agree that those five items are some of the major root causes behind the growing Socialist inclinations of Americans, then there is something else that must be addressed. Of the list, there is only one subject that can be solved to some degree via a political solution: Education. The rest of the issues are fundamentally cultural problems.
As we have always argued, culture is upstream from politics. If you want to understand what will likely happen politically in ten years, simply look at the cultural beliefs of the younger Americans and how they live their lives. Politics and policy will eventually conform.
It is for that reason that the raising and educating of children is so important. How children are formed emotionally and intellectually will be the biggest determiner of our country's future. If you want to see political change tomorrow, then focus your efforts on the culture today.
Devin is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Charlemagne Institute, which operates Intellectual Takeout, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and the Alcuin Internship. He is a graduate of Hillsdale College where he studied history and political science. Prior to co-founding Charlemagne Institute, he served as the Director of Development at the Center of the American Experiment, a state-based think tank in Minnesota.
Devin is a contributor to local and national newspapers, a frequent guest on a variety of talk shows, such as Minneapolis' KTLK and NPR's Talk of the Nation, and regularly shares culture and education insights presenting to civic groups, schools, and other organizations. In 2011, he was named a Young Leader by the American Swiss Foundation.
Devin and his wife have been married for eighteen years and have six children. When he's not working, Devin enjoys time with family while also relaxing through reading, horticulture, home projects, and skiing and snowboarding.