[See also: Brainwashing in Academe: The Resident Assistant’s Tale, by Athena Kerry]
The late, great paleoconservative columnist Sam Francis called conservatism “the movement that doesn’t move.” He was wrong. The Establishment conservative movement moves backwards—shamelessly, unrepentantly, and proclaiming each new defeat a glorious victory.
And, perhaps uniquely in the history of political movements, this Conservatism Inc. has created a youth movement that is less militant, less dedicated, and less idealistic than its elderly apparatchiks. Rather than wanting to change the world, these young “rightists” are more interested in clambering to the top of already existing movement that has utterly failed in any of its stated intentions, careful to dissent from the zeitgeist only with the leave of their masters.
The house-training of American youth in general, and of its self-described “conservative” element in particular, was reflected in the latest report on “The American Freshman” from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI). [National Norms 2011, PDF]
This report led to predictable MSM headlines gloating about the increasing liberalism of American college students. But it did also show that students see college primarily as a means to achieving better jobs. Despite a slight increase in activism, reflecting the rise of the Occupy Movement, there is no return to 1960s Leftist student radicalism.
This survey question was poorly worded, making no distinctions between types of “disadvantage” (e.g., race vs. class). Still, it’s reasonable to conclude that most of the increase in support refers to race-based affirmative action. The response represents an all time high since the question was first asked in 1981.
The HERI survey does find that there is no dramatic change in the proportions of students defining themselves as liberal or conservative. But the definition of a student “conservative” is shifting the Left. Self-identified conservatives were weak on all kinds of cultural issues:
On each of these core issues for conservatives, well over a third of self-described student “Rightists” are in fact Left—a fact that even the Left has noticed. [CPAC 2012: The ‘Surprisingly Progressive’ Edition By Tara Kutz, Campusprogress.org, February 13, 2012]
It is critical to note that much of this can be attributed to relentless social pressure. The campus Left may not believe in immersion when it comes to teaching students the English language, but they enthusiastically practice it when it comes to plunging students into intensive training, starting on day one, about what they are and are not allowed to talk about.
This training includes forcing whites to admit they are racist, separating and shaming students who oppose progressive sexual values, or outright banning discussion on certain topics. No dissent or exceptions are permissible. Accept the entire package—or be labeled a sexist, homophobe, racist, or all of the above.
Campus conservatives are literally frightened—very understandably—of what will descend on them if they dissent. Retaliation has included expulsions, [Teaching Student Expelled, FoxNews.com, May 11, 2005] bricks [At UNC, student protesters crash Tom Tancredo's party] and death threats at anti-illegal immigration events, or an outright push to eliminate religious or conservative groups on campuses altogether.
Conversely, of course, radicalized ethnic and sexual minorities are supported by an ever-growing number of “resource centers,” special programs, grade inflation, and entire departments that essentially function as set asides for unskilled minorities.
Young conservatives internalize this propaganda. They know instinctively when to duck.
Thus, Mark Luluan, a College Republican leader at Cal State East Bay asserts smugly, “My time is spent more on fiscal issues. Over the past four years, we haven’t really dealt with traditional socially conservative issues. Students are more concerned about getting a job after graduation.” At San Jose University, CR head Mark Williams [Email him] notes, “I think the conservatives in our club are not as focused on social issues. We’re not really for or against same-sex marriage.” [Liberalism spreading among college freshmen, survey finds, by Matt Krupnick, Inside Bay Area January 25, 2012]
Generally, the national conservative youth groups eschew controversy by limiting themselves to economic wonkery. Groups like the CRNC and Young America’s Foundation encourage students to talk about the debt and wax nostalgic about a President who died before today’s freshmen even entered high school.
There is of course, one notable exception to the trend of milquetoast conservatives: the dramatic rise of the libertarian movement on campus. The largest and most active campus organization in the country is Young Americans for Liberty, which claims hundreds of chapters performing activism such as “Visualize the Debt” and hosts well attended venues for Dr. Ron Paul, Dr. Tom Woods, and other libertarian speakers.
Unfortunately, YAL barely touches immigration issues, and when it does, it is on the other side. There are immigration patriots in this group, but they are silent.
Worse, another libertarian group, Students for Liberty, forthrightly supports exterminating the American identity. It defends capitalism precisely on the grounds that it undermines conservatism and traditional values. Its campus coordinators enthusiastically champion the usual “civil rights” causes and are particularly obsessed with championing gay groups. They invite immigrants like Reason Magazine columnist Shikha Dalmia (email her) to punish us for letting her come here by lecturing their mostly white audiences on why their ideology requires more immigrants.
Needless to say, Students For Liberty avoids Politically Incorrect causes that may technically fall under the cause of “liberty.” A column posted on its website about an affirmative action bake sale by the College Republicans says the real root of racism is “statism.” [Don’t Just Bake, Strike the Root!, by James Padilioni, Jr., September 27, 2011] There’s even a defense of critical race theory, and needless to say, no mention of official multiculturalism and its reliance on state support. [The Law Perverted: A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month, February 1, 2012 by James Padilioni, Jr.]
Nonwhites, with the possible exception of Asians, have nothing to gain from limited government. If “liberty” is defined as cutting welfare and lowering taxes, it would objectively hurt most minorities. A return to “constitutional government” would lead to the wholesale destruction of the black middle class created by government employment and racial preferences that are a result of deliberate government intervention. It would devastate minority employment in universities. It would mean a reversal of the systematic government transfer of income. It would lead to a stratified society that would predictably divide along the usual racial lines.
Furthermore, leftists are, in some sense, correct when they point out that limited government and Constitutional order are products of a white society and “white privilege” that emphasizes private action more than egalitarian outcome. True conservatives might even accept this, but draw different policy conclusions.
As a lonely Youth for Ron Paul supporter of Indian descent commented, after she proclaimed herself a libertarian, people asked her “You’re a woman and you’re not white and you’re not a racist or a bigot, so why are you a libertarian?”
Libertarians like Rothbard recognized this problem, which is why he wrote a free society requires an ideological defense of inequality in order to stay that away. In Rothbard’s words describing “Big Government Libertarians,” "scratch an egalitarian, and you find a statist”. But the student libertarian movements remain deliberately ignorant about these consequences of their proposed policies.
If, as a college student, you knew about Ron Paul before 2006, you were probably the Right of the Right. A student just now learning about Ron Paul is probably because of a noninterventionist foreign policy, civil liberties, and the Drug War. These are good reasons. (Even Congressman Tom Tancredo has come out in favor of marijuana legalization.) But on campus, this does not mean actually confronting any of the Left wing establishment that controls university resources, funding, and curriculum.
“Liberty” is increasingly defined as activist social progressivism mixed with quiet and ineffective advocacy for tax cuts. There is no danger in championing any of these positions. It is the illusion of dissent and the reality of conformity
The Cultural Marxist Left that controls the campus has no illusions about its dependence on government coercion. They are brazenly frank about their ends. And, absent opposition, they will achieve them, regardless of libertarians trying to make friends at Occupy protests or antiwar rallies.
Of course, the Establishment Conservative movement is worried about even illusory libertarian dissent—it might leads people to stop voting for such titans of liberty as Newt Gingrich. So it engages with libertarians and tries to keep them on the plantation. (This courtesy is not extended to the actual Right, which is hunted down relentlessly.)
As a result, much of the growth of the libertarian movement can be laid at the door of the Establishment Conservative movement—as no one, including conservatives themselves, knows what they stand for anymore. After all, if “conservatism” consists merely of rhetoric of limited government and economism, because no other issues are tolerated, why shouldn’t the more idealistic and intelligent students just become libertarians? Such remnants of social conservatism that do exist among the young conservatives are dependent on the petty celebrities that the Establishment movement promotes.
The ultimate irony: even as the entire right of center movement has gambled everything on limited government abstractions and economism, college students have, according to the HERI survey, become even more economically socialist than they are culturally liberal:
(Note that, even with the full might of university indoctrination behind the multicultural Left and the serious consequences faced by students who dissent on “racist” subjects, opposition to public education for illegals and opposition to affirmative action are both stronger than opposition to Obamacare. VDARE.com’s Kevin Carter noted exactly the same pattern in a 2007 poll of students).
Cultural conservatism may have been repressed in academe— but free market fundamentalism is also doomed to fail. Mass immigration—the Viagra of the State—will kill it as ever-increasing numbers of minorities are unable to compete at a group level in a capitalist system and turn to racial solidarity to extract more wealth transfers.
It’s sobering to realize how easily the Establishment Right has internalized what their enemies said about them and surrendered in battles they hadn’t even begun to fight . The Establishment movement will fundraise off the occasional right wing outbreak, but as a whole it remains focused spreading the message of tax cuts for millionaires. And Libertarians prefer to believe that the problem does not even exist and that the enemy is to the Right.
Unofficially, there is a real campus Right. Its host environment is so hostile, however, that it’s practically invisible to an untrained eye. It is detectable only in innumerable acts of quiet dissent. Laughing at parody-defying multicultural silliness, and avoiding infected departments and professors are but three of the real Right’s survival skills.
Immigration patriots can take heart that this real Right is stronger than it appears. But its members need protection from economic and social punishment if they step forward. Unfortunately, that protection must come from beyond the college campus. It will require a political champion emerging from the wreckage of the American conservative movement.
The Beltway games of the official movement may be amusing, but the future does not belong to them. It belongs to unrestrained Cultural Marxist Left—or to a Right Opposition with real resources that will no longer play by anyone’s rules.