Liberalism appeals to many young people despite Carmel’s conservative tendencies



Senior Moira Kehoe has always shared her father’s conservative political views.

“I was like (my father’s) clone,” Kehoe said.

However, midway through her freshman year  Kehoe said her outlook started to change. Some of her friends influenced her political views, and she said she started to conduct research on important issues.

“I started sympathizing more with people and viewing government less as a business and more as running a country that has actual people in it who have actual problems,” Kehoe said.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 2.36.46 PMSome might call those views “liberal.” These views stand in stark contrast against Kehoe’s formerly more conservative beliefs.

However, Kehoe’s views aren’t specific to her. According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center, the rate of people with a high school education or less who identify as liberals has increased by 13 percent from 2000 to 2015.

This leads to the question: What makes students more liberal?

Brian Hancock, CHS Democrats Club president and junior, sheds some light on the issue.

“First of all, it is human nature to help people. We live and survive as one, and when we see someone struggling there is a natural tendency to want to help. Additionally, as a Catholic, I feel that it is my religious duty to help those in need,” Hancock said via email.

According to government teacher Michael O’Toole, historically, students tend to be more liberal because of the meaning behind the ideas of liberalism.

“A lot of it has to do with the ideas of what it means to be liberal versus conservative,” O’Toole said.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 2.36.59 PMFor example, O’Toole said current issues involving free college tuition and increasing minimum wage are issues that students specifically can get behind.

O’Toole pointed to the current crop of presidential candidates for an example.

“This current election going on; Bernie Sanders, who’s liberal, is trying to pass policies that will typically help younger generations, such as free tuition,” O’Toole said.

Yet, liberal issues like the ones mentioned by O’Toole aren’t the only issues  that young people value. According to a 2016 poll conducted by political consultant Frank Luntz, 28 percent of Millennials view income inequality as a major concern in the United States.

Although Kehoe said she is “really big on social issues,” she is also in agreement with Hancock, as she upholds nearly the same democratic position on economic inequality. Both Hancock and Kehoe share similar economic views of the unequal distribution of wealth to the poor.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 2.37.07 PM“It’s good to redistribute wealth and other resources to people who really need it,” Hancock said.

While Kehoe and Hancock tend to lean to the left on economic issues, only Kehoe said she found it difficult to share her liberal opinions in Carmel’s political climate. She said that it is hard to support liberal ideas in Carmel, which tends to lean toward more conservative viewpoints.

“I’ve definitely had a few colorful debates,” Kehoe said.

She said she uses the conservative opposition as a chance to gain knowledge. By researching the topics  that are discussed, she said  she can back up her argument more efficiently, and this helps her to express her views. Debate is useful for her because she said “it really makes you have to back up your argument.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 2.37.31 PMLike Kehoe, O’Toole said he believes students should base their ideas off of facts, instead of what their parents or teachers tell them.

“It is important (to have opinions in high school) as long as it’s fact-based,” O’Toole said.

However, parents are a part of students’ everyday lives, and they can also influence teens’ political views. This can make it difficult for some students to separate their views from that of their parents.

While Kehoe started out inheriting her ideas from her father, she said she does not think that teenagers should automatically accept ideas from their parents.

“I just want people to know that there are other things out there than following exactly what your parents say,” Kehoe said.

According to a December 2015 report from The American Sociological Association (ASA), a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the advancement of sociology,  surveyed 3,356 families between 2006 and 2008  and found that over 51.2 percent of children rejected their mother’s political beliefs and that 54.2 percent rejected their father’s beliefs as well. Researchers came to the conclusion that children can create their own political identity.

With those numbers in mind, it can still be difficult for students to share their differing views, especially in a more conservative community like Carmel.

While Hancock said he uses his club as a way to express his views, Kehoe said she achieves this same  vocalization through social media. She has a political blog on Tumblr and uses Twitter as her main avenue to express her ideas.

Moreover, Kehoe said she is open about her liberal principles. On that same token, though, Hancock said he tries to not let his liberal political views interfere with his personal self.

“I like to define myself as myself, not by my political views,” Hancock said.

Kehoe said she is not trying to be quirky or different with her views as a liberal,  and she said she is prepared for criticism of her liberal stances.

Kehoe said, “If you question why you believe something, you’ll maybe see that there’s flaws in your ideas.”Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 2.37.38 PM