“If you’re not a liberal by 20, you have no heart. If you aren’t conservative by 40, you have no brain”
It is no secret that young people tend to be liberal. There are many explanations as to why this is, some that hold more validity than others. But what is also true is that often times as people grow older, they grow out of their radical ways. When young people leave the world of academia, and step into the real world, they suddenly find that many of their assumptions about the world are wholly false. They also begin to pay taxes, start a family, and own property. This is what William F. Buckley, Jr. called “a liberal being mugged.”
There are many prominent conservative voices in all sectors of society, from presidents, to writers, to economists, all of whom changed their worldview dramatically since their younger years in favour of conservative principles.
The first example is probably the most well known: President Ronald Reagan. Reagan, while in Hollywood, was a vocal supporter of the Democratic Party, and was a union apologist. But as he grew older, he began to, as he put it “follow another course.” Reagan would go on to become a Republican President of the United States, and 23 years after he left office, be posthumously hailed by conservatives as one of the best presidents the nation had ever had.
Reagan isn’t the only example, far from it. Many of today’s most articulate defenders of conservatism in the idea arena were once critics of the very policies that they now promote. Charles Krauthammer, a syndicated columnist and psychiatrist, used to write speeches for Walter Mondale, calling himself a “small ‘L’ liberal.” He was a supporter of the new deal policies of FDR, but over the last 10 years, he has been one of the most articulate defenders of the Bush foreign policy in the Middle East and has been a vocal opponent of President Obama’s spending policies. Politico calls him “Obama’s biggest critic.”
Economist Milton Friedman, who was well known as one of the most prominent advocates of free markets, was also a supporter of the New Deal policies of the 1930’s. These same policies, he would go on to fervently oppose in his years as an economist.
Thomas Sowell, who is now an author, columnist, and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, has possibly taken Milton Freidman’s place as the top free market warrior in America. However, Sowell remembers his days as a student at the University of Chicago, when he described himself as a Marxist. Ironically enough, his professor at the time was none other than Milton Friedman himself. Sowell says that he was a Marxist before studying under Friedman and he was a Marxist after studying under Friedman, but what turned him against his collectivist worldview was working for the government.
There are other prominent figures in the media who made mid-life conversions, some later than others. Famous Rolling Stone editor P.J O’Rourke is today a conservative and says he was brought up in a conservative household, yet after going to college he “became a communist, because college does that, and I wasn’t going to get anywhere with the cute girls.”
Dick Morris, who helped Bill Clinton get elected President of the United States and advised Clinton during his time in office, can be seen on the Fox News channel once a week ripping into the Obama administration.
Andrew Breitbart, the website mogul who founded BigGovernment.com, along with a series of other conservative blogs immersed in the Hollywood elite culture, says that he was a “nambly pambly liberal” in high school and remembers the bigotry of the Clarence Thomas hearings, and having to live in a rent controlled apartment, as his ideological turning points.
There appears to be a trend that sees many young liberals growing out of their leftist ways and becoming conservatives as they grow older. It will take a strong will from the next generation to shake off the liberal dust that has collected on their brains after spending so much time being praised and congratulated for their bleeding heart ideals, but thankfully, real life has a way of doing that to you.