By Linda Feldmann, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
Usually, they feel like the outcasts of their college campuses.
But for one week here in Washington, they were the darlings of the Republican establishment.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) of Georgia addressed their gala dinner - and received their new award, the Newt Gingrich Vision and Leadership Award."Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi addressed their luncheon at the Capitol. Other conservative headliners - including Lt. Col. Oliver North, Bay Buchanan, and anti-affirmative action guru Ward Connerly - imparted their wisdom to the group.
It was enough to make the 120 assembled young conservatives at the annual convention of the Young America's Foundation (YAF) stand a little straighter and feel a little less lonely.
"Campuses are overrun with liberal thought, and they came here to find out how they can fight back," says Melissa Moskal, a staffer at the Herndon, Va.-based group and a senior at George Washington University here.
No one is claiming that conservatism among the young is on the rise. If anything, say experts, libertarianism is the reigning ideology: keep the Republicans away from our personal freedoms and keep the Democrats away from our wallets.
But for the YAF crowd, Conservatism with a capital "C" rules. They are, without exception, against abortion, against homosexual rights, and for unbridled capitalism. When TV personality Reginald Jones declared that public education - "government schools" - should be abolished, the crowd roared with approval.
In Reagan's footsteps
Ronald Reagan is their philosopher king. And soon they will be able to walk, literally, in the great communicator's footsteps. With private donations, YAF bought the Reagans' multimillion-dollar Rancho del Cielo in California to be the center of YAF's Ronald Reagan Leadership Development Program. Nothing at the ranch will change, not even the furniture.
Some of the young people gathered here are so conservative, they've quit the Republican Party for being too liberal. "Newt Gingrich talks one thing and does something else," says Jim Logue, a student at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. …