This is Gen Z’s Moment
The criticisms of American Moment reflect a failure to recognize the new mainstream.
Conservative nonprofit American Moment launched on February 24. The Generation Z co-founders, Saurabh Sharma (23 years old), Nick Solheim (24 years old), and Jake Mercier (21 years old), published an op-ed in The American Conservative that day outlining the organization’s mission “to identify, educate, and credential young Americans who will implement public policy that supports strong families, a sovereign nation, and prosperity for all.” The board of advisors includes J.D. Vance, Terry Schilling, Josh Hammer, Ryan Girdusky, Saagar Enjeti, and Rachel Bovard.
American Moment is clear in its disdain for “Conservatism Inc.” By this it means the conservative establishment whose failures have led to “porous borders, endless wars, pandering to corporations, attacks on religion, assaults on freedom of expression, and the hollowing out of our economy,” according to the co-founders.
And so American Moment has ruffled the feathers of an editor at National Review. Severely. So much so, that he was inclined to go on a 2,000-word rampage vilifying everything from the organization’s launch event (saying the founders “would just prefer to host cocktail parties,”) to its vision of impacting the “common good,” to likening American Moment’s “fellowships, events, parties, happy hours networking, [and] podcasts,” to “Prestige Worldwide” in the comedy movie “Step Brothers.”
For a serious institution such as National Review that purports to publish cerebral work, the “Step Brothers” reference is low-bar and absurd. It’s petty and just, well, weird. But most of all, it is a clear sign that the old order is feeling quite vulnerable, threatened even, aware that its generational influence is fleeting among a youth who have diverse opinions on the future of the U.S. in the post-Trump climate.
Thus, the NR editor noted in a follow-up piece to the initial frenzy—after Sharma and Solheim accused him of representing “the old order’s circular firing squad” in an American Mind op-ed—that in his opinion American Moment “seems like less a healthy attempt to diagnose what ails the Right than a desire to run down anyone who isn’t in lockstep with what American Moment hopes will be the new order.”
The NR editor is writing from a legacy right-wing outlet, a place with as many connections and, I would assume, as much money as anyone in the movement. And here is this hastily snobbish article complaining about the up-and-comers at American Moment who wish to, in his eyes, take a ride in his grand and exclusive amusement park. But the truth is, it is not his amusement park.
The old order is not mainstream anymore.
In the eyes of a Gen Z conservative who was sincerely inspired by the Trump message, it is clear that American Moment aims to help move a new mainstream conservatism forward, and away from the days of being content to play the court jester in the left’s political correctness kingdom. This means enacting more than just corporate tax-cuts and applying theoretical free-market principles to Big Tech’s illiberal censorship. It means running on social and cultural issues, real issues, like immigration and trade, in addition to abortion. It means devising a plan to stop China and foreign adversaries from making a profit off our reluctance to fight for the blue-collar manufacturing sector.
The new mainstream conservative movement means having the guts to stand up for everyday Americans, to be unwilling to let the narrative that “millions of Americans aren’t doing their best,” from David French, stand unanswered by the tragedy of our corporate establishment’s neglect of rural America. It aims to build on the effort that President Trump did not start or finish, but ignited: one which 95 percent of attendees at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando said was their envisioned future of the GOP.
No one is saying American Moment is the most profound organization to ever launch. Nor should anyone be obliged to. They just launched. This is at the heart of why this crusade against the little guys is so appalling. Why is established conservatism so intent on portraying itself as the arbiter, or claiming it should be the arbiter, of truth? Isn’t there room for my generation to have a say in this country?
Americans from all walks of life don’t need Conservatism Inc. playing God. They don’t need lectures on capital gains tax rates, or why America should send our troops to the Middle East just one more time. Enough about the Old Order. Forget ’em. We ought to “let the dead bury the dead,” as The American Mind editors have suggested.
The right-leaning students I know want more. They want politicians like Trump to some extent, who express a love of country, and a love for the parts of the country that Republicans have long forgotten. They want someone who feels authentic and says what they mean—even if what they say is not up to par with what Republicans in the urban vacuums of America, at think tanks and out-of-touch rags, determine is politically correct.
I was eating dinner with fellow students at a Young America’s Foundation conference in November. It was just about the time when many in Conservatism Inc. were already kneeling before the leftist mob, despite the fact that Trump’s lawsuits were not finished. At the table, each student went around and said who their favorite politician was.
From one to the next, people mentioned the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Doug Collins, Rep. Jim Jordan, Sen. Tim Scott, Sen. Tom Cotton, Gov. Kristi Noem, Gov. Ron DeSantis, and so on. These were the people the students thought were fighting for their vision of America.
Then it got to the last student. He shrugged his shoulders. “Easy,” he said. “Trump is just really my guy. I love Trump.”
Every student at the table, including myself, nodded in unison. It was clear that we all had been looking for an answer that would sound impressive and intellectual and calculated, but this kid said what everyone was thinking. “I feel like Trump is the most important figure of our generation,” responded another.
Buckley powerfully moved conservatism into the future at age 25 with God and Man at Yale. Can’t we support a few ambitious young men who wish to carve out their own conservative future; our future?
And if American Moment fails, if they fail miserably in their intentions, and just end up another cog in the Washington wheel, then—only then—can Conservatism Inc. justifiably stand on its last legs and say, “I told you so.” But until then, American Moment deserves our support, or at least the benefit of the doubt.
Gabe Kaminsky is an intern at The Federalist and a rising senior at the University of Pittsburgh. His work has appeared in The Daily Wire, Fox News, Townhall, Washington Examiner, RealClearPolitics, Washington Times, and other outlets. Follow him on Twitter.