Screenshot: @NikkiSchwab (Twitter)

A semi-wise man once misattributed to Winston Churchill a quote that, I’m paraphrasing here, goes something like: If you’re not liberal when you’re young, you have no heart. Then you grow old and your heart turns black and you are compelled to vote for similarly black-hearted, joyless Republicans.

That brings me to a piece in today’s New York Times, which profiles a number of young conservatives who are attending a four-day leadership conference put on by Turning Point USA in Washington. Because I’ve always viewed young conservatives with a measure of sympathy and morbid curiosity, and because TPUSA is one of the most demonstratively lame, astro-turfed political “movements” currently en vogue, I’m going to have to roast these youngsters, ever so gently. It’s not too late to get out now and save yourselves from a lifetime of pretending to be excited about crypt keepers like Louie Gohmert and Peter Thiel!

The story opens with Daniel Jakob, a 15-year-old from New Jersey. Asked what “conservative” means to him, Jakob responds:

I’m a conservative because I believe the government should be fair

OK, wait, me too...

and that the Constitution shall not be infringed. Where I live in North New Jersey, to get a license for a gun is really difficult. Without a gun in your house, you’re vulnerable, and not just from terrorists or criminals but also from the government, because the whole point of the Constitution is to protect us from the government.

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Sorry bud, you lost me.

Asked whether he’s an outlier among his liberal classmates, he says:

A majority of kids in my high school are liberal. I do know a few conservative kids. All my teachers are very liberal. Whenever I’m in a class and I share my political opinion, I’m basically the bigot, that’s what I’m called. In my literature class we were reading “1984,” and my teacher compared “1984” to President Trump’s America, and when I refuted that, the class just shut me down.

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Damn, sorry, sounds like you probably deserved it, though. I’m sorry, but you’re 15 and you support a guy who’s big thing right now is separating babies from their parents??? This does not compute to me.

Then we get to hear from Mason Scioneaux, an incoming freshman at the University of Mississippi, who seems to be the stand-in for the Logic and Reason caucus. Mason, what’s happening!

It’s important to be politically open-minded, not necessarily to subscribe to a certain person, whether it’s President Trump or Hillary Clinton. For me, it’s important to listen and decide for myself what I believe to be right and true.

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Hm......OK..........

I’m a Trump supporter

LOL

but I’m going to criticize him

The eagle has landed. But Mason, what’s really wrong with the the country these days?

The biggest problem in America is polarization. It would be refreshing to see people on both sides come together to discuss how to fix our problems. Today it seems everyone is either on the deep right or deep left, with just name-calling and personal attacks.

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Ah yes, the “deep right,” where people like the president you support and the speakers from his administration who spoke at your conference reside. They are definitely as problematic as the “deep left,” who want people to have free healthcare and a living wage!

We need less politics and more problem-solving. We have to be willing to compromise, both sides have to give and take.

I need a glass of water before moving onto Grace Klassen and Clare Hillen, two 18-year-olds who are heading off to North Dakota State and George Washington, respectively.

Why did you come here, and what have you learned?

Grace: In May, we were given the chance to hear a speech by Candace Owens. It was really interesting to hear from people out there who are questioning the way they were brought up. I’ve been raised conservative. For me, every policy goes back to moral law because I’m a Christian. I see my future in politics becoming the face of young conservative women.

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Tell me more....

We were very blessed to go to a Catholic school. About 10 percent were liberal, 20 percent were vocal conservatives and the rest were just people who knew where their families stood on politics. I’ll vote for people who believe in what I believe in. If they’re pro-life and pro-gun, I’ll be more likely to vote for them.

Abortion has long been an issue that social conservatives feel a moral imperative to oppose, and one in which liberals have largely ceded any perceived moral high ground. (It’s a messaging failure, not one of ideology!) But if college freshmen start trying to tell me that Jesus said “Thou shalt have lots of guns,” I’ll swiftly lose my mind.

What is your vision for America?

Clare: Tolerance.

[Taking a cautiously optimistic breath]

Coming to this conference, we’ve learned the need to be respectful, be kind, be open minded to having your mind changed. People like to say if you’re conservative, then you’re a racist, and if you’re liberal, you’re a psycho. You have to listen to the other side to better understand your own beliefs.

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I thought you were listening to the other side to potentially have your mind changed? Oh well.