How to Lose: Conservatives’ Campus Persecution Complex

What do people usually do when they win? They celebrate. Just ask Virginia. So why is this conservative campus group turning its victory into a loss? And why is this conservative strategy a long-term losing bet?

Here’s what we know: You might think Turning Point USA would be cutting down nets and passing out collectible hats to celebrate its victory. After all, when the student government at Texas State voted to ban TPUSA, the university instead declared its support for the organization. As the Dean of Students wrote in a press release,

While Student Government exercised its right to act on a resolution put forth on April 1 to bar a recognized student organization from Texas State campuses, established University policy states that student organizations can only be barred if they are under disciplinary sanctions. . . .  the organization will not be barred from Texas State campuses. Texas State supports the constitutional rights of all of our students, faculty, staff and visitors.

From the noise coming out of TPUSA, though, you wouldn’t think they had been vindicated. As TPUSA front man Charlie Kirk lamented,

Last night @txst officially voted to BAN our @TPUSA chapter which advocates for free markets and free speech. The intolerant left can‘t tolerate the idea there are other ideas.  This is exactly why @realDonaldTrump signed free speech executive order. Pull their funding!

What gives? Why would a conservative student group call a victory a loss?

To this reporter, it looks like another example of a self-defeating conservative campus strategy. By turning themselves into “punchbait,” campus conservatives can generate more attention than they could ever hope to get merely by discussing issues.

charlie kirk texas state

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory…

In the long run, though, these strategies will be counterproductive. If conservative activists hope to turn campuses into more welcoming environments for an ideologically diverse array of ideas—including conservative ideas—they will be wiser to follow a different path.

Instead of proclaiming themselves hapless victims, conservative intellectuals should double down on their intellectual and academic superiority. The Charlie Kirks of the world will come and go, but academic heavyweights such as Robert P. George of Princeton and Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame will prove to be far more influential in the long run.

So what should TPUSA do? Instead of lamenting its victimhood, it should celebrate its status as a legitimate academic enterprise. It should tell young conservatives that they should never feel victimized on campuses, but rather that they own it. They should make sure every conversation includes Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek, instead of Donald Trump and Charlie Kirk.

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