In case you haven’t noticed, Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much these days. Donald Trump could call a news conference to declare that the sun rises in the east and Democrats would try to find a link to Vladimir Putin. And if Democrats somehow ever find a real, actionable, nefarious connection between the president and the Kremlin, Trump supporters almost certainly will echo their messiah and call it “fake news.”
So it’s no surprise that a new poll by the Pew Research Center shows that the right and the left can’t even agree on whether colleges are good or bad for America.
According to Pew, only 36 percent of Republicans view colleges in a positive light, compared to 72 percent of Democrats.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D to figure this one out. Progressives obviously aren’t troubled by illiberal liberals on campus who worship at the altar of diversity but don’t think intellectual diversity – diversity of opinion on campus – is that big a deal. Conservatives, on the other hand, are deeply troubled by this kind of thing.
Republicans may be split over what they’d like to see replace ObamaCare or what they think tax reform should look like, but when it comes to colleges, they know exactly what and whom they don’t like.
“Radical professors, race-obsessed provocateurs, gender-studies grifters, anti-Israel fanatics, weak-kneed administrators, disgusting libertines, angry feminists, and illiberal student protesters” — according to a short list from Elliot Kaufman in National Review.
And if I hear one more dumb remark from a left-wing campus clown about “dead white males” I’m going to get sick, hopefully on the head of the aforementioned left-wing campus clown.
Shakespeare is a dead white male. So are Hemmingway and Faulkner and Steinbeck. So are Newton and Einstein. Rembrandt and Monet are dead white males. So are Beethoven and Bach.
Progressives on campus may find the values and accomplishments of Western Civilization racist and repulsive, but regular folks, even if they never set foot on campus, implicitly embrace those values and accomplishments.
And it’s mainly Republicans who have figured out that the education a lot of kids are getting on campus these days isn’t worth the cost of it. There’s a joke going around that asks, “What does a liberal arts major say after he or she graduates from college? You want fries with that?”
Okay, that’s not totally fair. The joke doesn’t apply to all liberal arts graduates – just the ones who majored in French Poetry of the Middle Ages and the History of Feminist Art Circa a Thursday in 1912 and intellectual pursuits like that.
Liberals who ignore conservative concerns about academia do so at their own risk. Let’s not forget that the left also ignored criticism of the media, dismissing it as a conservative delusion, the result of right-wing paranoia. This was a big mistake.
“By refusing to own up to their own bias and weaknesses, the media didn’t make their critics disappear; they only angered and empowered them, making themselves more vulnerable to attack,” as Kaufman puts it in National Review.
And the same thing may very well happen with academia. By refusing to own up to their biases, the progressives who run America’s colleges won’t make their critics disappear, either. And they’ll also become more vulnerable to attack – which may very well have important political implications.
The same Pew survey shows that “Republicans, by about eight-to-one (85% to 10%), say the news media has a negative effect” on the country. And only 44% of Democrats say the news media have a positive effect while 46% say its influence on the country is negative. So even a plurality of Democrats are no longer fans of the media.
There’s a lesson in all of this for Republicans. Just as attacks on the media worked for Donald Trump — because the media refused to take serious criticism seriously — attacks on the unapologetic left-wing nonsense that goes on at our universities can be a rich target for Republicans in coming elections.
Here’s the headline over the National Review piece: “The academy is primed to be a punching bag for the GOP’s next standard-bearer, just as the media were in 2016.”
The media didn’t listen when critics pointed out their biases — and the academy doesn’t listen when critics point out their biases either. Instead those supposedly smart progressives on campus remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that there are a lot of disaffected Americans out there who are viscerally outraged when they hear about pampered liberal kiddies shouting down conservative speakers. And they resent the snooty campus elitism that views regular folks as the “unwashed masses” who live in “flyover country,” people not worthy of serious consideration because they’re just a bunch of right-wing yahoos – or so the nasty stereotype goes.
Putting liberal media bias in the crosshairs worked in 2016. Why wouldn’t putting the illiberal liberals on campus in the crosshairs work in 2020?