When college students wailed in anguish over the Trump election, many of us took note. What were they thinking? Unless they believed that regression was the road to mental health, they were looking like utter fools.
I have offered my own views of this phenomenon. Today, I pass the baton to Nicholas Kristof. To say the least, he finds it all disconcerting. He, like most of us, believes that the problem derives from the fact that these students inhabit a bubble.
In his words:
After Donald Trump’s election, some universities echoed with primal howls. Faculty members canceled classes for weeping, terrified students who asked: How could this possibly be happening?
I share apprehensions about President-elect Trump, but I also fear the reaction was evidence of how insular universities have become. When students inhabit liberal bubbles, they’re not learning much about their own country. To be fully educated, students should encounter not only Plato, but also Republicans.
True enough, students today do not learn anything about their own country. They are force-fed the radical narrative about a corrupt criminal enterprise that calls itself a nation. They are told that patriotism is a false front disguising a nation built on corruption, oppression, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and transphobia. They never encounter a Republican and never engage with anyone who thinks differently. University hiring processes do a good job of ensuring that no such animals exist.
As for reading Plato, I would be happy if it were true, but I suspect that the philosopher has been tossed in the dustbin of authors who were merely profiting from their white male privilege.
Of course, universities are hotbeds of bigotry. They discriminate against anyone who does not hold to politically correct beliefs and have been trained to police the thought of everyone on and off campus. If it all sounds like the Holy Inquisition and witch hunts, it’s because that’s what it is.
We liberals are adept at pointing out the hypocrisies of Trump, but we should also address our own hypocrisy in terrain we govern, such as most universities: Too often, we embrace diversity of all kinds except for ideological. Repeated studies have found that about 10 percent of professors in the social sciences or the humanities are Republicans.
We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us — so long as they think like us.
Kristof is right here. Universities—like America’s largest cities—are governed by liberals. And by intolerant liberal hypocrites, at that. If something is wrong on campus, if students suffer a collective nervous breakdown upon discovering that their world is not real, then those who are in charge ought to ask themselves what they have been doing wrong. Why is it that their students cannot deal with reality without melting into a puddle of emotion?
Like New York City, America’s universities are full of free thinkers, all of whom think exactly the same thing. Kristof is rightly alarmed at the prospect that these liberal bubbles are now likely to double down on intolerance and to stifle intellectual diversity:
I fear that liberal outrage at Trump’s presidency will exacerbate the problem of liberal echo chambers, by creating a more hostile environment for conservatives and evangelicals. Already, the lack of ideological diversity on campuses is a disservice to the students and to liberalism itself, with liberalism collapsing on some campuses into self-parody.
He is also correct to point out that the spectacle of whining students on college campuses has severely damaged the reputation of liberalism and progressive thought. That once proud movement has dissolve into self-parody, losing credibility and discrediting itself.
These culture warriors have fallen into the trap that they accuse others of being in: stereotyping people:
Some of you are saying that it’s O.K. to be intolerant of intolerance, to discriminate against bigots who acquiesce in Trump’s record of racism and misogyny. By all means, stand up to the bigots. But do we really want to caricature half of Americans, some of whom voted for President Obama twice, as racist bigots? Maybe if we knew more Trump voters we’d be less inclined to stereotype them.
True enough. To some extent Hillary lost because she called Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables.” Those who believe that they should keep up the attack on local bakeries are pushing more Americans into the Republican column. While the night riders of the thought police were attacking bigots, the American people voted the Democratic Party into near irrelevance. Liberals are screaming and shouting because they no longer have any political power. It’s called impotent rage.
It makes universities into more of a bubble.
Kristof quickly dismisses the notion that conservatives, even evangelicals, have nothing to add to the conversation. Were one to believe such a thing one might argue that one ought to shut them up and to shut them down. What happened to first amendment protections of offensive speech?
He quotes Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, formerly an Obama university czar:
The weakest argument against intellectual diversity is that conservatives or evangelicals have nothing to add to the conversation. “The idea that conservative ideas are dumb is so preposterous that you have to live in an echo chamber to think of it,” Sunstein told me.
Of course, we shouldn’t empower racists and misogynists on campuses. But whatever some liberals think, “conservative” and “bigot” are not synonyms.
Of course, campuses have been expanding the definitions of racism and misogyny. Uses the wrong pronouns—even at Oxford University—and you will be branded a bigot.
American intellectuals, academic and otherwise, have rendered the Democratic Party powerless. Its members need to ask themselves, yet again, how it happened that they were so completely out of touch with America. Surely, the answer resides in the fact that they were not promoting a political agenda.
They were fighting a cultural revolution. They wanted to transform the culture by performing a radical pogrom against all of those who represented Western Judeo-Christian values, the better to create a new nation where everyone thought the same thoughts, felt the same feelings and believed the same beliefs:
I fear the damage a Trump administration will do, from health care to foreign policy. But this election also underscores that we were out of touch with much of America, and we will fight back more effectively if we are less isolated.
When universities are echo chambers, they become conservative punch lines, and liberal hand-wringing may be one reason Trump’s popularity has jumped since his election.
It’s ineffably sad that today “that’s academic” often means “that’s irrelevant.” One step to correcting that is for us liberals to embrace the diversity we supposedly champion.
As for the students, I believe that they ought to reflect on one thing. As they are regaling the nation with infantile regressions, they should put themselves in the minds of those who will be interviewing them for prospective jobs.
They should take a cold hard look at themselves and ask: Why would anyone ever hire you?