When I first started lecturing early in the 1990’s, leading heroes of Republican youth were Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley, Jr.As for the values question, it can't be avoided even in the economic debates. It's always there, under the surface. In conservative circles, this avoidance is associated with libertarianism which is rooted, often times, in a radical individualism, e.g. I'm accountable to no one or standard beyond myself and what I want to do.
Individual freedom, respect for constitutional limitations on government, and traditional values was the message. There was a sense of purpose. America as a “shining city on a hill,” quoted so often by Reagan, taken from the Puritan pilgrim John Winthrop, captured the picture.
Now, increasing numbers of my campus hosts ask that I not talk about “values.” Leave out the stuff about marriage, family, and abortion, please, and just talk about the economy.
The materialism and moral relativism that created our left wing culture is now infecting our youth on the right. Young Republicans may be pushing back on government, but too often now their motivation is like their left wing contemporaries. A sense of entitlement and an interest in claiming rights with little interest in corresponding personal responsibilities.
David Yepsen, who directs the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, recently described Ron Paul's success as a "resurgence of the libertarian and isolationist wings of the Republican Party," resulting from "hard times and unpopular wars."
While I agree with libertarians on many of their limited government, free market prescriptions, I believe "radical individualism" which guides some folks is ultimately a dead end and destructive to the individual and society as a whole. We live in moral universe which we didn't create nor do we have the power to recreate it.