I came across Vox's "How conservatives want to break Bernie Sanders’s spell over young Americans" and expected something resembling a plan with actual thought put into it. Instead, I got this:
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) said in a panel discussion that if millennials saw that national monuments that pay homage to America’s heroes, they’d be more likely to adopt American values.
I threw down with any number of Bernie supporters and at my worst I wasn't even half that condescending. And this was the high point of the article.
Conservatives are deep in a bubble of unreality
As so perfectly demonstrated by Rep. DeSantis, America's right-wing has carefully and thoroughly disengaged itself from any semblance of reality. In their world, anyone who does not love the free market is not a real American. Socialism is incompatible with prosperity and millennials just need to glory at the phallic power of the Washington Monument to realize that cutting taxes for the rich is simply the moral thing to do.
Conservative college students, already being sucked into this bubble, were aghast at the popularity of Bernie Sanders and his opposition to unfettered capitalism. Turning Point USA is a campus group dedicated to persuading their fellow students that unchecked corporate greed is the way to happiness. Think of them as Evangelicals but instead of preaching the message of Jesus, they preach everything he was against.
Accordingly, Turning Point consider Sanders a passing phenomena:
Of course, not every Sanders supporter is a willing convert. But Stack says many are persuadable, and he is convinced more will become so during the Trump years: “Right now, it’s just a Bernie Sanders fad … I really believe in what Trump and the Republicans can do with full control — when people see those changes in two or three years, they’ll change on capitalism.”
I had my own issues with Sanders but it's become very clear that his message is not going away. All over the country, Bernie followers are running for office, taking over state parties (the right way) and becoming a cohesive power within the Democratic Party. That's not a fad. That's a movement. And unlike the Tea Party, they didn't need billionaires to fund them.
They're in so deep they have their own alternate history
Conservatives will continue to write millennials off as just wanting "free stuff" because they've built an elaborate narrative in which they're all self-made:
“The only people Bernie appeals to are those in college with no direction, who are like welfare students and welfare people whose money is paid for by their parents,” said Geraldine Davie, 76, of Virginia.
“There’s nothing conservatives can do to change those mush for brains. They’re just going to have to wait … When they have a job and a baby, they can talk to me about socialism. Because then they’ll say, ‘no thanks’ and become rugged individualists.”
That's pretty rich coming from a boomer considering that when he was their age, he could get a college education for next to nothing and then comfortably raise a family on a single salary while earning a decent pension. The government poured billions into job training for his parents' generation and unions built the greatest middle class the world has ever seen. Then the boomers came along, took advantage of everything handed to them on a silver platter and declared that they'd done it all on their own.
Now they're retired on Medicare and Social Security and enjoying the fruits of decades of government largess. But, you know, socialism is bad and these kids are spoiled.
This inability to understand what's going on with millennials (and the economy) results from swallowing too much of their own propaganda:
Overwhelmingly, most argued the biggest difference would come from changing American education. Chris Astriab, 64, of Fairfax, Virginia, said students had forgotten “Economics 101” because they failed to teach it school.
“They need basic economics about how the free market works,” Astriab said. “These kids are so spoiled today that they don't even realize that the free market made them a possibility. That’s the biggest problem.”
It's not Bernie's dreaded socialism that makes pulling yourself up by the bootstraps nigh impossible today, it's the right's beloved capitalism. Just don't try to explain that to them, they won't listen. The bubble is their world.
No, seriously, the bubble encompasses their entire worldview
According to these savvy and knowledgeable conservatives, another clever solution to the Bernie Socialism problem is, I kid you not, to explain how horrible Soviet Russia was and Socialist Cuba currently is:
If fixing higher education didn’t work, conservative attendees stressed that young Americans needed to be reminded of life under the Soviet Union, arguing that they were insufficiently aware of the dangers of authoritarian states under communism.“
They need to take a one-week ticket to Cuba, spend some time there, and then come back and tell me about socialism,” said Ana Quintana, of the Heritage Foundation, at the CPAC panel about Sanders.
As someone who has spent a lot of time arguing with Sanders supporters, I can tell you authoritatively that this is a really stupid idea. Of the hundreds I spoke to, not a single one of them advocated for anything remotely like Soviet Communism. In fact, when I pointed out that this is exactly how Republicans would attack Bernie, they thought it sounded insane. And they were right; Bernie was incredibly clear about what kind of socialism he supported and full-blown communism was not it.
But inside that conservative bubble, any and all nuance is lost. Socialism bad. Capitalism good. A Bernie supporter could repeat a million times that they're talking about Democratic Socialism akin to the Nordic countries like Denmark or Sweden and it won't matter. Only the word "Socialism" will penetrate the bubble and be distorted into "Communism."
After suffering from the effects of brainwashing, it's no wonder conservatives think all it will take to sway Millennials to their side is more of the same. Fortunately, the right has taken great pains to bundle their deep love for capitalism (and Christianity) with their loathing of minorities/reproductive rights/gun control/etc. It's necessary to trigger the rage centers of the brain so conservatives will accept the rich robbing them blind. This is a problem because millennials are far more diverse and tolerant, making it incredibly difficult to sell them an unjustifiable and completely unsustainable economic philosophy.
The white nationalists of the "alt-right" have the right idea of seducing millennials through sexism first, racism second and then the rest of the right's warped perspective later. Maybe Turning Point USA could take some pointers from them because these Capitalist Evangelicals are going to spend a lot of effort and make very little headway with their current game plan.
But perhaps that's for the best.
There are 619 days left to the 2018 elections.
- This article kills fascists
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