January 28, 2006

The New Face of the Campus Left

Um, they just realized this?
Sam Graham-Felsen
Thu Jan 26, 2:20 PM ET

The Nation-- When a group called Campus Progress launched its effort to promote progressive values on college campuses in the fall of 2004, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz wondered: "Isn't that a bit like pumping sand into the Mojave Desert?"

The assumption that America's campuses are impenetrable bastions of liberalism--where left-leaning faculty predominate, progressive student activism flourishes and conservatism is fiercely marginalized--still rules the day. But in reality, since the 1970s the conservative movement has become the dominant political force on many American campuses. This sea change is not simply a reflection of some students' increasingly right-wing views. Each year, conservative groups pour more than $35 million into hundreds of college campuses. They pay for right-wing speakers, underwrite scores of student papers, provide free leadership training and cushy internships, and equip thousands of new activists with talking points, discipline and missionary zeal.

Groups such as Young America's Foundation.

The Nation continues:
Today's campus right is unified, on-message and passionate--in other words, part of a genuine movement. By contrast, the campus left is disparate, undisciplined and segmented along ideological and issue-based lines. Student progressives have struggled for decades with not only a lack of cohesion but a dearth of resources. "We didn't have our act together," says Joshua Holland, a fair-trade and antiwar activist who graduated from the University of Southern California this past spring. "We tried to keep things nonhierarchical and loosely structured, but at the end of the day, there was a lot of running around in circles, and we weren't getting anything done."

Of course, any further objective treatment of the issue devolves quickly into typical liberal hand-wringing and proverbial gnashing of teeth. Liberals lament the fall from idealism to efficacy, from radical and revolutionary social change to the death-by-a-thousand-cuts incrementalism that now seems to characterize the campus left. Perhaps it is the inconsistency and incoherence of the current leftist ideology that most greatly damages any cohesive leftist presence, at least at the campus level. Conservative students (leaving the "activism" to their liberal opponents) have countered with bake sales and other "performance" activities, much to the chagrin of their lefty professors and the sycophantic students who follow them, who once cornered the market in taking "action" to highlight their political views.

CU College Republicans Affirmative Action Bake Sale, Spring 2004.

CU College Republicans Conservative Coming Out Day, Spring 2004. Conservatives at the University of Colorado at Boulder were featured not only in local media circles, but nationally as well, including the Washington Times and Rush Limbaugh's radio program.

Only so many "spontaneous" rallies, banging of drums, posters with some variation of the McBusHitler theme, chanting "Hey Hey, Ho Ho", etc. can be tolerated by the campus population at large before most students become completely disinterested in the political process.

Stop The ACLU Free on the Range


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