Friday, October 11, 2013

The making of wacko birds

A lot of people think of the time since the late 1970s as a conservative era.  But Ross Douthat observes that many conservatives don't see it that way.  In their view, they've been able to hold the line against the welfare state (aka "Leviathan"), but not to roll it back, and if they relax their vigilance for a moment, it will start advancing again.  This helps to explain the vigor with which they've resisted health care reform:  they figure that if it gets established, there will be no going back (Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann have said something like that).  

The New York Times recently gave a list of twenty "Republicans Standing Their Ground":  House members who pushed for delay or defunding of the health care law as a condition for passing a budget resolution.  I looked up their biographies on the website of the US Congress.  They're a well-educated group:  nineteen have college degrees and sixteen have graduate degrees.  The quality of the institutions is high, too.  Twelve have undergraduate degrees from colleges or universities ranked as "most competitive," "highly competitive plus," or "highly competitive" by Barron's, and most of the rest are from places I would characterize as pretty good.  

I think that there may be a connection between these two points.    A large majority of college faculty and administrators are liberal, and this is especially true at "elite" institutions.  In that kind of environment, it's understandable that conservatives will come to think of themselves as resisting a powerful "establishment."
Universities have not always been dominated by liberals.  Before the 1960s, the political atmosphere at most of them was moderate to conservative.  So older generations of conservative leaders would not develop the sense of being embattled.

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