A New Generation of Conservatives

There are many Conservatives like David Horowitz who rail ceaselessly about the Liberal bias on campus and the consequent lack of a diversity of ideas. William F. Buckley, by contrast, has generally been unafraid of the fact that much of academia leans to the Left. He once observed that good students drive out, or at least ignore, bad teaching. Teachers who are too ideological will likely turn off as many students as they persuade.

Much of politics in the US winds up being a contest between Democrats and Republicans. Despite many rhetorical differences, in practice they govern more similarly than either would care to admit. As a consequence, most Americans and most students are too busy with their daily interests to pay much more than passing attention to politics. Political apathy is perhaps the sign of a mature society that has largely already reached a consensus on large political questions.

Although campuses across the country lean to the Left, the strongest, contingent of Left wing professors inhabit pseudo-intellectual departments like Women’s Studies. The dominant purpose of these departments is not research and honest pedagogy, but ideological proselytization. Students who gravitate to these disciplines largely already have a suitable ideological predilection. Few new converts are secured. The remaining student body will ignore these courses unless they view them as an easy way to pad their grade point averages.

Nonetheless, the Left-ward tilt on campuses has the salutary effect of toughening Conservative-minded students. While Left-leaning students can safely roam like sheep through campus with their ideas unchallenged and unmolested, Conservatives must either learn how to argue their cases in an unfriendly and unsympathetic environment or remain silent. Those who speak up grow in self confidence as they learn to critique their professors and fellow students. In short, the Left on campus has nurtured a new generation of lively and irreverent Conservatives.

Perhaps this is nowhere more apparent that at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire. In the 1980’s, the Dartmouth Review, a Conservative magazine, emerged. The pages of the publication served as a voice for Conservative students frustrated by the uniformity of ideas enforced by political correctness on campus. The Dartmouth Review was been a constant thorn in the side of the Dartmouth Administration and Liberal professors across campus. Many of the stunts the Dartmouth Review staff embarked upon to generate good copy were in bad taste and sophomoric, but remember many of the culprits were sophomores. This crucible has formed a number of Conservative pundits including talk show host Laura Ingraham and writer Dinesh D’Souza.

In his recent book, Letters to a Young Conservative, D’Souza attempts to instruct a new generation of Conservatives. The book is structured as a series of letters to Chris, a fictitious campus Conservative. D’Souza spends much of his time speaking on college campuses. He is thus intimately familiar with the usual arguments of college professors and offers Chris guidance on how to respond.

Though many of the notions D’Souza explains are plain vanilla Conservative ideas, he explains them in a cheerful, straightforward, and lucid way. The book is an excellent primer and source of moral support for the emerging Conservative undergraduate.

Many Conservatives are Conservative by temperament and grow into political Conservatives later. Ingraham and D’Souza represent a new breed on energetic Conservatives who have learned to use the rhetorical methods of the 1960’s radicals on campus to frustrate many of the same radicals who have managed to acquire tenure. For this we have Liberal college campuses to thank.

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