Why, O Why, Won't Liberal Professors Please Save Republican Party From Itself?
In one of the strangest calls for bipartisan — or maybe transpartisan? — unity we've ever seen, the New York Times (gift link) yesterday offered an op-ed by Jon Shields, a history prof at the very very conservative Claremont McKenna College, arguing that if liberals in academe would like to help save America, then liberal professors should "rescue the GOP" — by becoming mentors to bright young conservative students and by teaching courses on conservative thought. This, Shields argues, would be good not only for the students and for conservatism, but also for universities and American politics.
Honestly, it's such a naive argument, and so utterly divorced from modern political reality, that I kind of want to pat the essay on the head and say "goodness, you mean well, don't you? Have you looked outside, though?" It's as if David Brooks were huffing the concentrated vapors of uncut Kumbayah juice.
The are you kidding me? You've got to be kidding me! vibes start with the first sentence and continue throughout the whole mess:
When conservative undergraduates look around for mentors these days, who do they find? Not conservative professors, at least not very often. Our ranks have been slowly vanishing since the 1980s. Instead, those students find organizers from the MAGA-verse who teach them how to own the libs. That’s who is instructing the next generation of Republican leaders, modeling how to act and think like good conservatives. It’s a squalid education, one that deepens their alienation from the university and guarantees that the next generation of elected officials will make Ron DeSantis’s war against higher education look tame.
Who will mentor these poor wandering conservatives? All they have is the poisonous MAGA people, and they aren't conservatives, they're wild people!
Shields doesn't exactly say why conservative professors are so hard to find in universities these days, although there's certainly an implication that liberals drove them out because that's how progressives just do things. Nor does Shields give even a moment's discussion to how it is that conservative intellectuals have become so rare, much less why the MAGA folks have driven all the sensible smart conservatives from the GOP. (The abbreviation "RINO" appears nowhere in the essay, even though it's key to understanding how the wild-eyed crazies have ejected whatever intellectuals were still in the party.)
Still, Shields thinks it would really be a great thing if all the liberals who now make up the bulk of academe could help out and nurture conservative thought on campus, like a captive breeding program would help restore a species that's on the verge of extinction. Liberal professors can fix this sorry situation and teach conservative students
how to become thoughtful and knowledgeable partisans — by exposing them to a rich conservative intellectual tradition that stretches back to Enlightenment thinkers like Edmund Burke, David Hume and Adam Smith. They could mentor their conservative students, set up reading groups, help vet speakers and create courses on the conservative intellectual tradition.
Conservative academics are apparently now so rare in the wild that they can't do any of that themselves, so perhaps liberal profs can hand-feed the fragile conservative nestlings, like how the San Diego Zoo fed California Condor chicks by using puppets that looked like adult condors — you wouldn't want the young conservatives imprinting on a liberal prof who might infect them with postmodernism.
On and on it goes, with suggestions for how liberal profs could be trained in summer seminars on how to teach the great conservative thinkers, and a recommendation for "the uninformed and skeptical alike" to read at least the intro to Jerry Z. Muller's Conservatism: An Anthology of Social and Political Thought From David Hume to the Present, just to understand why conservative ideas are important for liberals to understand, because shouldn't we conserve the best things of our culture and institutions?
These systems of social control are complex, easy to dismantle and difficult to rebuild. For these reasons, conservatives are leery of campaigns that promise to liberate us from a host of norms and institutions that the left sometimes sees as unjust, like marriage, religion, gender roles, the police and sexual repression.
Mmm-hmmm, sure. Liberals want to completely throw all that away, don't we? By way of further example, Shields says he always has his students, "most of whom are quite liberal" (and they chose Claremont McKenna?), read books by conservative thinkers with companion books by liberals, so they can appreciate the value of the Old Ways. Like marriage, for instance, which in its traditional form
builds wealth, softens men and creates an ideal environment for privileged children to flourish, while for most everyone else, the expansion of sexual and romantic freedom has undermined family life, deepening inequality in its wake.
Look, you knew we were going to get to the "unmarried commitment-free fucking leaves you empty and unfulfilled" part eventually, right?
In any case, we liberals need to promote thoughtful conservatism for the good of America, and to call attention to "the wisdom it still has to offer us in an age in which the G.O.P. has descended into madness." Why, one student who read a book on marriage even told Shields, "I think I need to rethink my life."
Powerful. Then, no doubt the student went home and stopped selling death sticks.
Shields really wants liberal profs to help him, though, as if they were his only hope. Just look how terrible the role models for tender young conservatives have become!
The people now teaching them to think and act like conservatives mostly belong to Trumpist outfits like Turning Point USA, which recruits and trains young conservatives to be campus activists. (Turning Point has taken to hosting deliberate provocations like affirmative action bake sales, in which students are charged different prices, depending on their race.)
The point of these stunts isn’t just to provoke liberal outrage on campus; it’s to alienate conservative kids from their surroundings. Turning Point’s bombastic founder, Charlie Kirk, a college dropout, wants his young protégés to feel every bit as contemptuous of higher education as he does. As he told Fox News, “Anything but college.”
Conservative students, though, might start saying “Anything but Trumpism” if they learn about a more enlightened alternative.
Hmm. We do hope Professor Shields is aware that rightwing students started getting hilarious mocking larffs with "affirmative action bake sales" as far back as 2003, a decade and a half before Charlie Kirk was in diapers (at least the second time), yes? And that rightwing contempt for higher education is probably older than William F. Buckley's attempts to bring some erudition to segregation?
Even if Shields comes off as a daffy naif in his essay, his idea does have at least this much to recommend it: If liberal profs actually did start teaching today's young conservative students about the beauties of the conservative intellectual tradition, the young righties might decide to reject conservatism altogether, since clearly Burke and Hume are nothing more than commie indoctrination.
[NYT (gift link) / Wonkette photoshoop made using DreamStudio v1.5 AI]
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. You know some people give us their New York Times subscription money, we are just saying.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.