"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Planting Conservatism on Campuses

Conservatives and their foundations invested large amounts of money building a conservative constituency on the college campuses. William Buckley played a key role in founding the Intercollegiate Institute, the first and best of the organizations devoted to encouraging conservatism on campus. It developed an impressive array of publications and seminars and encourages a scholarly approach to conservatism. Among other campus programs were the Leadership Institute, Young Americans for Freedom, the Collegiate Network, and Young America’s Foundation. They subsidized conservative student newspapers and provided funding of speakers’ series. In the eighties, their efforts nurtured activists Denish D’ Souza, Ann Coulter, and David Brock. These and other campus conservatives thought it necessary to breach decorum or what they thought was the “etiquette of liberalism” to subvert liberal campus culture by gay-baiting and very aggressive attacks upon affirmative action that liberals considered racist attacks. By the nineties, their tone became somewhat more polite, and they were more open to gay marriage and members who supported abortion rights. They sharply denounced political correctness and their claims that professors were set upon liberal indoctrination may result in closing some minds to new or different ideas.

Long before the term “political correctness” was coined, there were complaints about there being too many liberal professors. In God and Man at Yale (1951), a young William F. Buckley Jr. suggested that no freedom would be violated if socialist professors were given their walking papers as they would remain free to “seek employment at a college that was interested in propagating socialism.” In the McCarty era, there were many cries to fire communist and socialist professors. By the late 1990s, the unreliable professors were Democrats. Among the groups monitoring professors and sending observers into certain classes were Academic Bias and Students for Academic Freedom and Campus Watch. Students for Academic Freedom was founded by David Horowitz, a former leftist and brilliant sociologist, who has played a central role in designing the cultural assault on liberals. In the mid-nineties, conservatives founded the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, an organization designed to exert pressure upon liberal professors whose views stray significantly from mainstream American opinion. It was founded by Lynne Cheney, but was also supported by New Democrat Joseph Lieberman. There were other conservative organizations dedicated to monitoring what was said on campus and harassing those who were critical of Israeli policies: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Campus Watch, the David Project, Stand With US, and the Israel on Campus Coalition.

As the Republicans took control of both houses of Congress, most state governments, and the presidency, it became necessary to find new arguments to recharge their followers’ fear and sense of persecution, both functioning as catnip for their political instincts. Attacks on the alleged abuses of liberal academics filled this gap. Although conservative groups turned out numerous studies showing that there were many more registered Democrats than Republicans on college faculties, they were unable to demonstrate that the professors used their positions to unfairly proselytize. Often the “abuses” and “controversial material” they complained about were facts or alternate points of view that the conservatives believed should have been omitted. The attacks of 9-11 gave ACTA the excuse to go after professors who did not embrace Bush’s approach to dealing with terrorism. ACTA complained that some professors thought that respect for diversity and tolerance would be useful in combating terrorism. It singled out 115 unpatriotic comments that it deplored. University of New Mexico history professor Richard Berthold was forced to retire because of eleven words in which he joked about blowing up the Pentagon. At UCLA, a librarian was suspended for writing an e-mail note criticizing the invasion of Iraq; while at Johns Hopkins, a director was demoted after criticizing administration policy on Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. The list of this rich harvest of censorship cases is too long to provide here.

These successes set the scene for 17 state legislatures to consider enacting an Academic Bill of Rights, essentially a program that would mandate hiring conservative professors and justifying continual probes to identify and punish the expression of liberal opinion on campuses. In 2002, Daniel Pipes of Middle East Forum formed Campus Watch and immediately targeted campuses and professors who had the “wrong” views on Israel, and in 2003 Senator Richard Santorum introduced legislation to defund universities who permitted professors or students to criticize Israel. In 2003, when Drake University held a conference on the roots of terrorism, the federal government subpoenaed the records of the conference, and a judge issued a gag order forbidding Drake officials from discussing the subpoena.

The hysteria fanned by groups like ACTA created an atmosphere that encouraged witch-hunts. In 2005, there was a concerted effort to suppress “anti-American” dissent among Middle East scholars at Columbia University, where three professors were accused of mistreating Jewish students. An official inquiry found that one of the professors was testy when an Israeli student reminded him that the government of Israel sometimes gave warning before bombing residential areas and that he was also was discourteous to another Israeli in an off-campus situation. The professors received death threats and hate mail, and hecklers and surreptitious monitors infiltrated their classes. By the early Twenty-First Century, conservatives borrowed a page from the civil rights movement in demanding that colleges hire more conservative professors to insure that their viewpoint received equal representation.

The campus conservatives who emerged in the nineties and after had the advantage of dealing with student bodies that were becoming more conservative. They revered Ronald Reagan as a serious thinker and a shining symbol of better times. Their sponsors were making serious efforts to reach female students by sponsoring speeches by Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Katherine Harris, Phyllis Schlafley, Ann Coulter, and Christiana Hoff Sommers, who wrote The War Against Boys and Who Stole Feminism.

Conservative foundations have also financed many right-wing campus newspapers, the well-known being the Dartmouth Review. The Collegiate Network, one of the organizations that fund and coordinate these journalistic ventures, spent $1,000,000 in 2002 alone. There are no comparable efforts on the other side partly because there is so little money for progressive causes. One of the Dartmouth Review’s accomplishments was outing a number of campus homosexuals without their permission.

Over more than two decades, the conservative think tanks have sponsored many important books and have honed “very big Republican ideas and many small one’s--school choice, welfare reform, enterprise zone’s, Social Security privatization.” A number of conservative foundations have aided that cause through litigation. The Washington Legal Foundation has played a leading role in defending George W. Bush’s rights to curtail civil liberties in times of crisis.

Conservative foundations funded a network of small journals, newsletters, and influential books. In addition, they provided start-up money for radio broadcasts that strongly influenced the opinions of millions of listeners. The Olin Foundation and Smith Richardson Foundation funded Charles Murray’s Losing Ground. Other non-profit foundations that fund conservative publications were Scaife Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, Bradley Foundation Other influential books produced by the conservative foundations were Milton Freidman, Free to Choose, Richard John Neuhaus, , The Naked Public Square, and Myron Magnet, The Dream and the Nightmare., Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations, Dinesh D’Souza, , John E. Chubb aid Terry M. Moe, Politics, Markets, and American Schools, and Marvin Olasky, The Tragedy of American Compassion

The Federalist Society
Some of the most important conservative ideas have been developed and promulgated by the Federalist Society, an organization founded in 1982 for right-wing lawyers dedicated to filling the bench with conservatives. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and Federalist Society lawyers accepted the theory of Gary Lawson of Northwestern University that the “the post-New Deal administrative state is unconstitutional.” In placing their people on the bench, they were not seeking to simply create a “balance” between liberals and conservatives or appoint “strict constructionists.” They sought to sharply reduce the power of the federal government, particularly in interventions in the economy and efforts to redress injustices or provide social services. Many members believed that the constitution had been bent out of shape after the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and they were determined to restore the “constitution in exile” to its rightful place. Above all, they reject the idea that the constitution is an instrument for promoting democratic self-government.

When in 2002 the Federalist Society held a four-day conference after an election victory, there was far less rejoicing than rehashing old battles and venting anger against liberals. The 2002 election victory should have been particularly important to the Federalists, because it meant that President Bush would have little difficulty in appointing many conservative judges. Bush had already used the society to recommend candidates for the bench and had demonstrated intent to appoint their choices. Delegates were treated to the satirical song “Brennan, Marx, and Lenin” about a Supreme Court justice who had been dead five years. Young members were instructed in the details of “Travelgate” as though it represented a serious abuse of power and Bill Clinton were still in the White House. Federal appeals Judge Lawrence Silberman spoke about a Supreme Court plot to end the death penalty even though the high court had just upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty, even when a 16 year old was the one condemned. Speakers ranted against James Jeffords, Bill Clinton, Barbara Streisand, James Carville, and Lanny Davis. It was as though they fed on anger and needed powerful enemies to sustain their political commitments. They did not seem to notice that most of their enemies had been vanquished, and that they were now firmly in the driver’s seat.

Its long-term strategy of shifting the courts to the right finally triumphed with the seating of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito in George W. Bush’s second term. Ronald Reagan had begun the process of appointing conservatives to the lower courts, and the Federalist Society, through branches in law schools, educational activities, and conferences had built up a substantial network of right-wing judges. It also developed means to steer young conservatives to prestigious clerkships. In February 2005, the Society began organizing to support the confirmation of conservative justices by briefing a network of lawyers on talking points, marshaling support --especially among Christian groups, preparing to put pressure on Democratic senators in the Bush states, and developing materials to flood the media with conservative arguments in favor of the nominees.

These efforts have led to many legislative hearings into the influence of liberals in colleges and universities. The hearings have produced no new legislation but have contributed to an atmosphere of fear on campuses. This is particularly true in respect to discussion of the Middle East and Israel. Critics of Israel have been fired in several leading universities, and the head of one institute has been removed.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!