I was one of those midwestern, traditional morality, patriotic, Boy Scout youths described in “Crashing the Conservative Party” who was transformed during my years at Princeton. But it didn’t happen at the hands of scheming liberal professors or because of social pressure to conform. It was the result of experiences and conversations with fellow students.
While growing up, my family didn’t look too critically at our comfort and the history that framed it. Once I started to look at the current status of non-me people, I realized that our nation and the societies in it are quite far from the ideals expressed in the founding documents of our nation and from the description of society that dominated my youth. And the distance wasn’t an accident or something that would fix itself.
One modern conservative value and view is that there is not, and should not be, any guarantee of success, for people or ideas (especially other groups’). In the marketplace of ideas, it appears to me that conservatism is losing badly. It’s not from lack of effort or number or familiarity of ideas. It’s because of the fundamental hollowness and self-serving nature of most of them. Why should we make any special effort to preserve and amplify ideas such as these? I’ve kept most of the core values of my youth but found that conservatism is not the way to put them into practice.