Conservative is the new black

This is the first of what will be several posts devoted to issues raised by Mark Bauerlein’s Chronicle piece. See Part II.
An earlier post looked at George Will’s “The Left's Last Paradise” (see also the longer version “Academia is diverse in all ways but thought”at the Arizona Star), criticizing his use of statistics. Now for more substantive points (). Will concludes that
Many campuses are intellectual versions of one-party nations—except such nations usually have the merit, such as it is, of candor about their ideological monopolies. In contrast, American campuses have more insistently proclaimed their commitment to diversity as they have become more intellectually monochrome.
When I was growing up, one-party states were a very bad thing. The Free World was a world of multiparty democracies; behind the Iron Curtain there was only the Communist Party, which is to say, the League of Satan. But now we see that Harvard and other paradises of the Left are worse than Ceausescu’s Romania. Romania, bless its heart, at least had the decency to forego any lip-service to diversity. Or Somoza’s Nicaragua. No dissembling there either, just straight-out greed and violence.
Something has gone seriously wrong when an intelligent person like Will, who is not a flack, resorts to absurd comparisons like this. Will draws on what he calls “a dazzling essay” in The Chronicle of Higher Education (12 Nov 2004), by Mark Bauerlein. The essay, entitled “Liberal Groupthink Is Anti-Intellectual” (also at Michael C. Munger’s website), argues that if there were more conservatives on college campuses, intellectual life would improve. Not only that, but we might even become more influential (a point picked up by Will). Here’s how it starts:
Conservatives on college campuses scored a tactical hit when the American Enterprise Institute’s magazine published a survey of voter registration among humanities and social-science faculty members several years ago.
I don’t need my sunglasses yet. In fact I think I’ve seen this before: a tired military metaphor, reference to a survey from a right-wing think tank… We’re in Op-Ed Land.
Let’s go on.
More than nine out of 10 professors belonged to the Democratic or Green party, an imbalance that contradicted many liberal academics' protestations that diversity and pluralism abound in higher education. Further investigations by people like David Horowitz, president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, coupled with well-publicized cases of discrimination against conservative professors, reinforced the findings and set "intellectual diversity" on the agenda of state legislators and members of Congress.
The American Enterprise Institute, David Horowitz… I wonder who they are. Start with the studies and investigations:
  • A 1995 study that, according to a recent article at the Institute, was “the first systematic study documenting imbalances in the political choices of American professors”. The study totted up the party affiliations given by faculty at Cornell and Stanford registered to vote in Santa Clara and Tompkins Counties. The result: “Our Cornell sample showed 171 Democrats, 7 Republicans, and 21 professors registered as independents or in other (mostly left-wing) parties. The Stanford professors broke out this way: 163 Democrats, 17 Republicans, and 6 independent/other.” The conclusion:
    Perhaps universities should recruit intellectually conservative professors with the same zeal they display for balancing flesh tones. Political lopsidedness does not bode well for the educational process. While today's students are taught by professors of diverse skin colors, they are not exposed to a diversity of ideas. The university, once dubbed the free marketplace of ideas, has been transformed into a gray one-party state where only one set of views thrive.
    Zinsmeister goes on to tout a more recent study by David Klein and Andrew Western (). Its conclusions?
    College campuses today, the authors conclude forcefully, are way out of whack politically. The dominant orthodoxy “amounts to a one-party system. That is no longer a matter of conjecture. It is established fact.”
    […] Klein and Western observe that since “university departments operate on the basis of majoritarianism…a ratio of even 2:1 is deadly to the minority. A ratio of 5:1 means marginalization. Someone of a minority viewpoint is frequently dependent on the cooperation of her departmental colleagues for many small considerations. Lopsidedness means that dissenters are avoided or expelled, and that any who survive are very unlikely to be vocal critics of the dominant viewpoints” [see “How many Democrats per Republican at UC-Berkeley and Stanford?”, to appear in Academic Questions, the house organ of the National Association of Scholars, about which more later].
  • The other study is a report from the Center for the Study of Popular Culture by David Horowitz and Eli Lehrer. They compiled voter registrations for the faculties in “32 elite universities”.
    We selected party registration for our study because other indices of bias would be highly subjective. The meanings of “liberal” and “conservative” are notoriously indeterminate, reflecting as much the prejudices of the cataloguer as they would the preferences of those being studied. Although the terms “Republican” and “Democrat” may seem inappropriate in the context of academic pursuits, they have the advantage of reflecting the self-identifications of the individuals under scrutiny and they are clearly identifiable.
    Moreover the terms “Republican” and “Democrat” can reasonably be said to reflect a predictable spectrum of assumptions, views and values that affect the outlooks of Americans who finance, attend, administer and teach at these educational institutions.  This is why we chose them. It is not our intention to suggest that there should be quotas based on party affiliation in the hiring process at universities. Rather it is our purpose to discover whether there is a grossly unbalanced, politically shaped selection process in the hiring of college faculty. While recognizing the limitations imposed on our study, we believe the figures recorded in this report make a prima facie case that there is.
AEI: Klein & Stern
The American Enterprise Institute, which has been around since 1943, is at the top of the complicated network of institutes, forums, conferences, societies, and so forth that since Reagan’s election in 1980 have come to dominate policy discussions in DC. The AEI is what you might now call the Middle-Aged Right, more Bush I than Bush II (but strongly in favor of the Iraq war). The usual conservative foundations have funded them generously over the years (see the Media Transparency report). The 1995 “study” was a quickie about which many questions could be raised, some of them noted by Zinsmeister himself. Those questions are supposed to be answered by the more recent study of Klein and Stern, which does indeed gather more data and include more departments from Berkeley and Stanford. Zinsmeister says the investigators “fastidiously followed all the conventions of blind, controlled academic research”, which is silly, because there was nothing to control for (). Nevertheless the numbers are unsurprising:
On the Berkeley faculty, Klein and Western uncovered 445 Democrats and 45 Republicans, a ratio of 10:1. At Stanford, they located 275 Democrats and 36 Republicans; that comes to 8:1. The most extreme mono-mindedness exists among female faculty. At Berkeley and Stanford, female professors break out this way: 172 Democrats versus a total of 7 Republicans. That's 25:1.
I’ll leave it to women faculty to explain that last bit. (I like the rhetoric here of “uncovering” and “locating”, as if the people in question were concealing their identities: a nice little tinge of fifth-columnism. But maybe it’s just adspeak.) You might wonder if generalizing from Berkeley and Stanford to college campuses generally isn’t a little hasty. The authors have an answer for that:
Some might suggest that Berkeley and Stanford are non-representative, because the San Francisco Bay Area is significantly more Democratic that the national average. We suspect that this point deserves some weight. However, we doubt that geography has very much to do with the intellectual character of academics and researchers. By self-sorting, training, and professional immersion, they identify (intellectually) primarily with their discipline, not their institution or their locale, and the “invisible college” of their respective disciplines cuts laterally across geography. The Klein & Stern survey evidence helps to mount a general case that all academic disciplines, including economics, range from predominately to rock-solidly Democratic ()
We conjecture that if Berkeley and Stanford are non-representative, it has less to do with geography than with the elite character of those institutions. That is, we would conjecture that the more elite institutions tend to be more rock-solidly Democratic and statist (Klein & Stern, 24).
I note that Klein & Stern cite studies by Seymour Lipset from which it is clear that the predominance of Democrats goes back at least to the early 1970s, which is to say, that people trained mostly in the 40s and 50s were already strongly Democratic. This should give pause to anyone who thinks that the sixties, or “theory”, or queer studies have anything much to do with the distribution of political attitudes.
The Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA has surveyed college and university faculty every three years since 1989. The sample size in the 2001–2002 survey was 32,840, much larger even than the professional society survey of Klein and Stern, and a much better indicator then either their or Horowitz’s study of political attitudes among faculty generally. The conclusions are that about a third (34%) identify themselves as middle-of-the-road, one-fifth as conservative or far-right, and half as liberal or far-left. Depending on how the terms are interpreted, I would guess that those numbers aren’t grossly at variance with those for the voting population as a whole. (). In any case they don’t lend much credence to the claim that college faculties generally, and as a whole, are “grossly unbalanced”. (Addendum 6 feb 2005: For a response by Horowitz to the UCLA data, see the Addendum in Part II.)
We may suppose, all the same, that the ratio of liberal to conservative faculty (I don’t like those labels much, but they’re the common currency of this debate) is higher in the humanities, and a great deal higher in “elite” institutions (a term Horowitz & Lehrer don’t define)(). The question, then, is how to explain the proportion. Or rather, since any proportion is possible a priori, what may need explaining is why the proportion differs from the proportion in some population regarded as normal, or from a proportion regarded as correct (or should I say “politically” correct?). The underlying assumption of Klein and his colleagues, and of Horowitz, is that the correct proportion is one that mirrors the proportion in the population as a whole (this could be something like the null hypothesis in a genuinely statistical treatment of the matter). Otherwise there’s no issue.
David Horowitz used to be a dogmatic leftist. Now he’s a dogmatic rightist (). Here’s what he said about the universities in 1997:
Chuck Baldwin: It seems to me that the great heritage and history of our country is being rewritten, revised, and ignored, and that it is intentional. Yes or no?
David Horowitz: Oh, it’s very intentional.
Chuck Baldwin: Why?
David Horowitz: Well, because whoever controls history, the past, controls the future. And the “left” that tried to burn down the universities in the ‘60s went back in the ‘70s to take it over. And our liberal arts faculty, particularly history are controlled by radicals, Marxists and other leftists. They have systemically set out to rewrite the textbooks and will continue to do so until they are stopped.
Chuck Baldwin: So it’s safe to say that liberals, generally speaking, have no affinity for the heritage and history of the United States and want to change it?
David Horowitz: They hate America and that’s the bottom line.
Chuck Baldwin: Why do they hate America?
David Horowitz: Yea, it seems unreal doesn’t it? They hate America because America stands in the way of their dream. They see a world in which there is no private property, in which they are the commissars and they get to make everybody equal. They have this vision and they blame everything that is wrong on society.
Here, in friendly surroundings, we get the whole line: liberal arts faculties have been taken over by “radicals, Marxists, and other leftists”, who in good Stalinist manner rewrite history. They hate America, plain and simple, because they want to be the commissars of a Communist state. Just in case it occurs to you that you haven’t seen anyone like that in your department lately: all it takes to hate America is to be a liberal, because that’s just being an ignorant Communist:
Chuck Baldwin: […] David, many times I will refer to liberalism as the “first cousin” of communism. Is that a fair statement?
David Horowitz: Let me give you a more amusing formulation. James Burnham once said, “The difference between the Communists and the liberals is that the Communist know what they’re doing.” Of course liberalism is on a continuum with Marxism, there’s no question of it, particularly in the post-sixties world.
Hence all that liberal talk of “diversity” is just a cover for the project of impelling America toward a radiant socialist future.
Chuck Baldwin: Yet, they use words like pluralism, tolerance, diversity.
David Horowitz: Oh yea they’re very tolerant toward Christians and Christian conservatives.
Chuck Baldwin: Just the opposite, they’re tolerant of everything EXCEPT Christianity.
David Horowitz: They’re not tolerant. They’re vicious and they’re intolerant. With few exceptions, let me say, the liberals that I meet are vicious and intolerant. I think conservatives sometimes forget that. I guess liberals aren’t hitting them with quite enough so that they can forget that. I’m thinking of Jack Kemp, thanking Al Gore in the debate for singling him out as the only Republican who wasn’t a racist. Well, thank you too Jack ().
Chuck Baldwin: Yeah, that was an incredible thing. But we’ve noticed it here at the local level in our area that in the name of tolerance everything is tolerated except true American history and Judeo-Christian ideology.
David Horowitz: Of course and you’ve got to hold them to account. Peter Collier and I have written a pamphlet called It’s a War Stupid. I’ll send you a copy Chuck. You know, we’re trying to point out that conservatives are too damn decent and too forgiving and too tolerant of this kind of stuff. It’s the liberals who are the racists and the liberals who are the bigots and you need to call them that first.
The thought of Tom Delay and Karl Rove being too decent and forgiving is too darkly ironic to be humorous. As for tolerance, Horowitz has elsewhere called Al Franken, Jesse Jackson, and the Democratic Party racist (see Media Matters for the details); Jared Taylor, on the other hand, is only a “racialist”. So I guess he is tolerant in a way ().
That is what lies behind the scholarly prose of “Political Bias”. Horowitz supplies his own gloss:
“Political Bias in America’s Universities” details not just what’s wrong in academics today, but also the steps you and I can take to restore sanity to our colleges and universities.
And when you read comments like that above you quickly realize that something is terribly wrong at our institutions of higher learning.
You see, beginning in the mid-1960s, the left made a concerted effort to take over our colleges and universities.  The turmoil surrounding the Viet Nam war made our schools ripe for leftist pickings, and they did — they methodically took over our campuses …
… now, four decades later, they have a stranglehold on hiring, teaching, and administering most of our schools in all 50 states!
As they’ve taken control, they’ve trampled free speech, virtually banished conservative professors, and turned our schools into little more than huge megaphones for anti-American rhetoric from coast to coast.
Today you can do or say anything you want on our campuses — provided it’s laced with negative sentiment about our nation, our Bill of Rights, our Constitution, our culture … you get the idea.
I believe it’s time to take our schools back.   But I cannot do it alone, I need your help.  A contribution gift of $25, $35, $50, $100 or more will enable us to build upon our success and fully fund the NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO TAKE BACK OUR CAMPUSES.
This must be news to the people at Oral Roberts or SMU. It’s news to me. Washington University just dedicated a statue of our first President erected outside the library in the center of campus. Several speakers expressed positive sentiments about our nation, unmixed with anything negative. No one protested. On the contrary, everyone seemed pleased to celebrate Washington and his deeds. This was the man, after all, who warned his fellow citizens against the Spirit of Party, which
unfortunately, is inseperable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human Mind. It exists under different shapes in all Governments, more or less stifled, controuled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.
The Spirit of Party, or more generally of “faction”, can be found, of course, anywhere on the political spectrum. Were Horowitz urging only that universities and the departments within them should model themselves after Washington’s ideal of public administration, which ought to be “the Organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common councils and modefied by mutual interests” and not “the Mirror of the ill concerted and incongruous projects of faction”, I wouldn’t disagree. Washington’s ideal is not, I should note, inconsistent with advocacy: having a point of view is not the issue; the issue is in which venues and in what manner it is put forward.
But Horowitz’s remarks to Baldwin, and the inflammatory rhetoric of his fund-raising message, indicate a less benign aim. To hold that liberals “hate America”, that (like the Communists of yore) they are a fifth column poisoning the minds of American youth, is to regard them not merely as voices in debate but as traitors or enemies, “vicious and intolerant”. A priori one knows that argument is of no use: and if argument is precluded, only force remains. Thus does an ostensible concern for democratic values—in this case, open-mindedness and tolerance—lead, once you have decided that the other party has no regard for them, and has therefore forfeited its title to your open-mindedness and tolerance, with little ado to Ann Coulter’s baseball bat ().
Continued in Part II.
() Brian Leiter, who has been tracking issues of academic freedom, takes on Will’s piece in “Black is white”. Juan Cole comments thoughtfully (more thoughtfully than Will deserves) and at length in “Shock of the Week: Liberals in Liberal Arts”.
() The survey sent out by Klein and Stern, and the data collected by them, are at the Voter Registration Study Homepage. The study was funded by the Robert Finocchio Fund. Finocchio is chair of Informix, a part-time faculty member at Santa Clara, and a member of the Civil Society Institute of which Klein is the director. The general outlook of the Institute seems to be Hayekian free-market libertarianism. A look at Klein’s Periodicals page shows that he places himself near the “anti-statist” end zone. I like this (the periodicals page, not the metaphor): I’m sure that a similar page would locate most of us very precisely, politically & culturally. Bourdieu showed as much twenty years ago. —It’s not clear whether Academic Questions, which is publishing this and the other Klein & Stern paper, has sent them out for blind peer review.
() The authors consider, but fortunately they reject, a measure arrived at by first computing Democrat-to-Republican ratios in each department, and then averaging those ratios (p3). Since departments may vary in size by up to ten to one (history or English, say, as opposed to art history or classics), this would be like averaging the per capita incomes of Liechtenstein and Poland—a meaningless statistic.
() The Klein and Stern survey is discussed in another paper, “How politically diverse are the social sciences and humanities?”. After some fiddling with data from surveys of professional organizations (the American Anthropology Association, the American Economics Association, the American Historical Association, the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, the American Political Science Association, and the American Sociological Association), the authors arrive at the conclusion that in the social sciences and humanities surveyed the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 7 or 8 to 1. Addendum (6 Feb 2005): See an analysis by a commenter at Daily Kos.
() The survey bears out the contention of Klein & Western that women are more likely to be liberal than men. The growth since 1989 in the proportion of faculty identifying themselves as left or far-left has been at the expense not of the right but of the middle, which has shrunk from 40 to 34 per cent.
() The list of schools surveyed is: Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Brandeis, Brown, Bryn Mawr, Cal Tech, Carnegie Mellon, Chicago, Colgate, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Davidson, Duke, Harvard, Haverford, MIT, Northwestern, Oberlin, Pennsylvania, Princeton, Smith, Stanford, Swarthmore, Tufts, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Wellesley, Wesleyan, Williams, Yale.
() Horowitz’s publicity bio can be found at Salon, where he had a column, and also at the beginning of the Baldwin interview cited above.
() A look at the transcript of the 1996 debate doesn’t turn up anything fitting Horowitz’s description. Kemp thanks Gore (and the people of St. Petersburg) at the end, as is customary. But I don’t see Gore singling out Kemp for not being racist. What Gore said was: “We are seeking to have vigorous enforcement of the laws that bar discrimination. Now, I want to congratulate Mr. Kemp for being a lonely voice in the Republican party over the years on this question.” Kemp was indeed one of the few Republicans who did not oppose affirmative action; in 1996, running with Dole, he had to alter his position to fit with Dole’s. I have found only one occurrence of this talking point, four years later in a column by Brent Bozell.
() Those of his opponents who aren’t racist are often defenders of terrorism:
During the interview [Fox & Friends, 28 Sep 2004], the “lifelong civil rights activist” [according to the onscreen text] rejected concerns raised by “the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the ACLU” regarding the USA PATRIOT Act, saying those groups “are in bed with the terrorists. They are defending them. Their own members … are indicted for terrorism [Timothy McVeigh was a registered Republican]. We’re taking a much too complacent attitude towards the enemy at home.” (Media Matters, “Fox’s Friend”, 28 Sep 2004
All that lovely talk about promoting diversity rings hollow in the face of comments like these.
() For understanding current talk of liberals as traitors, takeovers by the left, baseball bats, and so on, David Neiwert’s series on “pseudo-fascism” is essential reading.

LinkJanuary 22, 2005 in Academic Affairs · Current Affairs · Society