conservative groupthink in government

Erin O’Connor points to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Liberal Groupthink Is Anti-Intellectual,” by Mark Bauerlein, who writes

The public has now picked up the message that “campuses are havens for left-leaning activists,” according to a Chronicle poll of 1,000 adult Americans this year. Half of those surveyed — 68 percent who call themselves “conservative” and even 30 percent who say they are “liberal” — agreed that colleges improperly introduce a liberal bias into what they teach. The matter, however, is clearly not just one of perception. Indeed, in another recent survey, this one conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute of the University of California at Los Angeles, faculty members themselves chose as their commitment “far left” or “liberal” more than two and a half times as often as “far right” or “conservative.” As a Chronicle article last month put it: “On left-leaning campuses around the country, professors on the right feel disenfranchised.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Davies of Crooked Timber takes note of all the commentary on what’s wrong with the Left in America, given their dismal performance at putting candidates in office last week:

The idea is that, it seems, you can connect almost anything to the phrase ìthis is a serious problem for The Leftî in much less than six steps of argument. So the name of the game is to start with a googlewhack from the site and end via a chain of fairly close reasoning with an argument that the Democrats need to consider your googlewhack in depth.

Can you see where I’m going with this? If there aren’t enough conservatives on college campuses, it’s the fault of the liberals. If there are too many conservatives in government, it’s the fault of the liberals. Do you think if we switched things around, the argument would still work? There are too many conservatives on college campuses, and it’s the fault of the liberals. There are too many liberals in government, and it’s the fault of the liberals. Yup, it works that way, too. It’s the universal causality argument!

I think there’s a lesson here for the Democratic party: observe how those on the Right react when they are under-represented. They do not wring their hands and worry about what they’re doing wrong. They do not sit and listen patiently while those from the other side point out their failings. They simply express indignation that they have not been given their fair share. They say, in effect, “We’re right. You’re wrong. Back off and give us some space.”

Listen up, you guys.

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2 thoughts on “conservative groupthink in government

  1. One of the interesting rhetorical strategies Bauerlein’s piece uses, which ties in with your subsequent post about “How Journalists Distort Science,” is an axiomatic belief in he said/she said arguments: presenting a perspective shared by liberals is “one-sided” regardless of whether the evidence, or the facts, point exclusively in its direction. Is it true that “conservatives of Horowitz’s ilk want to unleash the most ignorant forces of the right in hounding liberal academics”? Does Bauerlein indeed belong to a racist, sexist, and homophobic organization, or rather, did the job candidate have defensible grounds for thinking so? Is it indeed the case that “”White Americans pay too little attention to the benefits their skin color gives them”? Do governments tend, in wartime, to misrepresent policies and stigmatize dissent? We learn that such positions sound extreme to many (with no evidence presented of that claim), but no attention is given to whether they’re true (the idea that “ignorant forces of the Right” are unleashed by Horowitz reminds me of his journal’s Derrida obit, discussed in the comments here a few weeks back –that was a pretty ignorant and Rightist and unleashed piece).
    Plus, the surveys Bauerlein cites to prove campus bias (and why doesn’t he see them as evidence that smart people are indeed liberals?) are far from honest. Geoff Nunberg gives a nice account of how the surveys in question have often been discredited.

  2. One productive way of thinking about arguments like Bauerlein’s is this: progressives have won. The right has essentially admitted that the things progressives have long said are valuable (diversity of thought, tolerance for a wide variety of opinions) are indeed valuable.

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