U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley — the most popular politician in America — is offering advice to young conservatives: stop “owning the libs.”
“Raise your hand if you’ve ever posted anything online to quote-unquote ‘own the libs,’” Haley said to a room full of high schoolers at Turning Point USA’s High School Leadership Summit on Tuesday.
“I know that it’s fun and that it can feel good, but step back and think about what you’re accomplishing when you do this — are you persuading anyone? Who are you persuading? We’ve all been guilty of it at some point or another, but this kind of speech isn’t leadership — it’s the exact opposite.”
As a recent college graduate who was outspoken on an extremely liberal campus, I understand the temptation, and I’m not completely innocent. When your peers throw adult temper tantrums at every MAGA hat or even Jeb! poster they see, it’s tempting to provoke, expose, and broadcast their reaction every chance you get, especially to show older generations what we face on campus.
I’m no stranger to dealing with these overly-sensitive social justice warriors. In 2016, I captured a viral video of the infamous protester the internet named “trigglypuff.” While I didn’t “own” this “lib,” I did record her absurd reaction at an event and share it on social media.
In this situation, I didn’t have to provoke her. She made a spectacle of herself by choosing to go to a lecture that she knew would offend her. There is nothing wrong with sharing the actions of crazy campus leftists.
The problem arises when you ostracize those on the Left who are actually willing to have a conversation, or act purposely provocative in a way that pushes politically undecided or indifferent students away from the conservative cause.
As Haley noted:
“Real leadership is about persuasion, it’s about movement, it’s bringing people around to your point of view. Not by shouting them down, but by showing them how it is in their best interest to see things the way you do.”
You don’t need to go out of your way to provoke the Left. Our political discourse is at the point where the mere mention of pro-life values requires a trigger warning, and a talk by a free-market economist sends socialists scuttling toward a safe space. I have yet to see a conservative safe space, trigger warning, or protest that shut down a leftist speaker: Let’s keep it that way.
Even our “own the libs” Commander-in-Chief had to somewhat tone down his rhetoric after the election. Since becoming president, Trump has attended several meetings with Democrats to at least attempt to gain support for his agenda. If the man whom leftists consider “public enemy number one” can attempt it, so can you.
Haley isn’t telling young conservatives you can’t poke fun at leftists. What she is essentially saying is don’t be a jerk just to be a jerk — or to get a few laughs — but instead, try to actually win people over with ideas.
Campus conservatives are different. You see your peers every day, giving you the opportunity to persuade them. Whether it is in the classroom, tabling on campus or at club events, you must stay true to your beliefs and values while representing and sharing them with civility. The goal is to win people over to your cause to ensure a better future for yourselves, your family, and your country.
Will the Left always be civil back? Absolutely not, but if you’re already openly a conservative on a liberal campus, you have enough thick skin to get through it.
And while many people believe doing it “the old way” is a losing strategy, it’s crucial to the foundation of conservative values — and distinguishes us from the Left.
You don’t need to “own the libs” to be victorious. Just be better.