Tucker Carlson | Flickr

One of the most mem­o­rable class­rooms expe­ri­ences of my life was during my sophomore year in History of Eco­nomic Thought, when Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Charles Steele — no enemy of the free market, mind you — marched to the front of the class, dropped a copy of Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital” on the table, and pro­claimed: “I’m going to make you all Marxists by the end of the week!” We all chuckled. This is the Hillsdale Eco­nomics department, we just don’t believe things like that. But throughout our dis­cussion Marxism and Soviet com­munism, not once did Steele describe these ideas as ridiculous, pre­pos­terous, or silly. I don’t think any of us left as Marxists that week, but we did leave Steele’s classroom with a deeper under­standing of these ideas and a rein­vig­o­rated appre­ci­ation for our own beliefs. Only through under­standing the other side could we ever begin to truly form our own jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for eco­nomic freedom. While this story is very much the norm at Hillsdale College, it is, unfor­tu­nately, unre­quited in many young con­ser­v­ative circles.

At Fox News, Tucker Carlson has infu­riated many a college socialist and Demo­c­ratic oper­ative through his dis­missive smirks. He has turned the split-screen deadpan into a work of art. This phe­nomenon con­tinues on the interwebs with the ever-popular “Inter­viewing College Lib­erals” or “Ben Shapiro Destroys” videos that rack up tens of thou­sands of views on YouTube. But while such low-hanging fruit pro­vides enter­tainment for young con­ser­v­a­tives (myself included), this trend of flip­pantly dis­missing argu­ments with which we dis­agree is destructive.

It is very easy to dismiss ideas like the Green New Deal, uni­ver­sally-paid for college, or just about all of Demo­c­ratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D‑N.Y.) platform as lunacy, but these pro­posals are sup­ported by wide swaths of the pop­u­lation. While young con­ser­v­a­tives laugh at the notion of America ever becoming a socialist country, our leftist peers actively work to make it so. The con­ser­v­ative argument might make sense to us, but that doesn’t mean it will come to pass.

One of the cliches of debate is that you must know your opponent’s argument better than he does. Unfor­tu­nately, this men­tality is an anomaly in the young con­ser­v­ative movement. Rather than seeking to under­stand the left’s ide­ology in depth, we try to learn just enough to offer what we see as a scathing rebuttal. Rarely do we ask our­selves: why do so many people my age openly embrace socialism? Rather, we resort to the easy mis­char­ac­ter­i­zation of all these budding Marxists as spoiled and entitled products of heli­copter parents. For those young Charles Krauthammers out there, have you ever con­sidered why the debunked doc­trine of socialism is so popular with your seem­ingly intel­ligent peers, or what the aca­demic or philo­sophical under­pin­nings of such an idea are? These may be important things to con­sider before rushing to laugh at the insanity of “that loon bag Bernie Sanders” staging his bid for the pres­i­dency.

According to a recent Reason-Rupe poll, 58 percent of college-aged Amer­icans view socialism favorably. Are these tens of thou­sands of people chomping at the bit to become the next Vladamir Lenin or Nicholas Maduro? Are they hell bent on enslaving the masses so they can live in luxury at the expense of others? The obvious answer is no. Perhaps, like most people our age, they see problems in the world and crave to fix them. Perhaps they see a broken healthcare system that leaves many with inad­e­quate insurance. Perhaps they see problems that are not being addressed by those in power. That does not mean their solu­tions are right, but unless we do our best to under­stand their per­spective, we will do nothing but throw stones from behind our ide­o­log­i­cally for­tified bunkers.

Many like to say that American con­ser­vatism has a mar­keting problem. Our message is obvi­ously correct (it’s the pro­mo­tions of eternal truths, for Kirk’s sake!), so we just need to figure out how to present it to the latest gen­er­ation. This men­tality may be agreeable, but it leads to an anemic under­standing of our core values. The “dunking on leftist” approach favored by your average college-aged con­ser­v­ative, and pro­moted by groups like Turning Point USA, may be deli­cious to those already in agreement, but it does very little to change the minds of the many fence-sitters.

Tucker Carlson’s smirking approach to pol­itics, while enjoyable, is toxic. Rather than laughing at your political oppo­nents, try to under­stand them, if for nothing more than to fortify your own posi­tions. Without the humility to question one’s own ideas, a person can never grow and learn. You never know, maybe in your crusade to rid the world of those Dum­my­crats, your mind might change once or twice along the way.

Erik Halvorson is a senior studying Eco­nomics.