January 14, 2005


On Campus, Conservatives Talk Back (Brian C. Anderson, Winter 2005, City Journal)

Throughout 2003 and into 2004, a surge of protests roiled American campuses. You probably think the kids were agitating against war in Iraq, right? Well, no: students at UCLA, Michigan, and many other schools were sponsoring bake sales to protest . . . affirmative action. For white students and faculty, a cookie cost (depending on the school) $1; blacks and Hispanics could buy one for a lot less. The principle, the protesters observed, was just that governing university admission practices: rewarding people differently based on race. Indignant school officials charged the bake-sale organizers with “creating a hostile climate” for minority students, oblivious to the incoherence of their position. On what grounds could they favor race preferences in one area (admissions) and condemn them in the other (selling cookies) as racist? Several schools banned the sales, on flimsy pretexts, such as the organizers’ lack of school food permits.

The protests shocked the mainstream press, but to close observers of America’s college scene lately they came as no surprise. For decades, conservative critics have bemoaned academe’s monolithically liberal culture. Parents, critics note, spend fortunes to send their kids to top colleges, and then watch helplessly as the schools cram them with a diet of politically correct leftism often wholly opposed to Mom and Dad’s own values.

But the Left’s long dominion over the university—the last place on earth that lefty power would break up, conservatives believed—is showing its first signs of weakening. The change isn’t coming from the schools’ faculty lounges and administrative offices, of course. It’s coming from self-organizing right-of-center students and several innovative outside groups working to bypass the academy’s elite gatekeepers. [...]

Back in 1995, reports UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, 66 percent of freshmen wanted the wealthy to pay higher taxes. Today, only 50 percent do. Some 17 percent of students now value taking part in environmental programs, half of 1992’s percentage. Support for abortion stood at two-thirds of students in the early nineties; now it’s just over half. A late-2003 Harvard Institute of Politics study found that college students had moved to the right of the overall population, with 31 percent identifying themselves as Republicans, 27 percent as Democrats, and the rest independent or unaffiliated. “College campuses aren’t a hotbed of liberalism any more,” institute director Dan Glickman comments. “It’s a different world.”

Youthful attitudes are volatile, of course, but this rightward trend may intensify. In a mock election run by Channel One, which broadcasts in public schools, 1.4 million high school students reelected George W. Bush in a landslide, with 55 percent of the popular vote and 393 electoral votes—greater than the 51 percent of the popular vote and 286 electoral votes that he actually won.

Today’s right-leaning kids sure don’t look much like the Bill Buckley–style young Republicans of yesteryear. “Conservative students today will be wearing the same T-shirts, sneakers, and jeans that you find on most 19-year-old college kids,” says Sarah Longwell of the Delaware-based Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), which promotes the Western intellectual tradition on campuses. Jordana Starr, a right-of-center political science and philosophy major at Tufts, tartly adds that you can spot a student leftist pretty fast: “They’re the ones who appear not to have seen a shower in some time, nor a laundromat.”

The new-millennium campus conservative is comfortably at home in popular culture, as I’ve found interviewing 50 or so from across the country. A favorite TV show, for instance, is Comedy Central’s breathtakingly vulgar cartoon South Park. “Not only is it hilariously uncouth, but it also criticizes the hypocrisy of liberals,” explains Washington University economics major Matt Arnold. “The funniest part is that most liberals watch the show but are so stupid that they’re unaware they’re being made fun of,” he says, uncharitably.

They've got a lot to learn--don't they know conservatives are the Stupid Party?

Come On Out to South Park . . .: . . . and meet Brian Anderson and the new breed of young conservatives. (David Skinner, 01/14/2005, Weekly Standard)

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 14, 2005 10:41 AM

The biggest shock for the academics on campus -- for whom rebelling against their parents and The Establishment 35 years ago was among the high points in human civilization -- is to discover that many of their students, when given the option of rebelling against their parents or rebelling against the current on-campus Establishment, have chosen the latter. If the trend grows any more, many faculty will no doubt start penning tomes about the brainwashed teen facists that Red State American parents are sending onto their campuses.

(As for South Park, if the liberals out there can't figure out where Parker and Stone are coming from after "Team America: World Police" and think they're just trying to upset conservatives with a lot of four-letter words, they really are too self-absorbed to be believed.)

Posted by: John at January 14, 2005 11:41 AM