I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Another week in the archives–1818 feels closer than 2018 these days. But 2018 went on without me. Here are some of the stories that came across our desk this week:

Fear and the evangelical Trumpists: John Fea in The Atlantic.

No AP for these fancy prep schools, at WaPo.

Would the real campus conservative please stand up? Turning Point USA rebuts criticism from Young America’s Foundation, at CHE.

turning point USA

Turning Point USA appeals to campus conservatives…

The high cost of campus free-speech protests:

Christian in America: Eric Miller interviews Matthew Bowman at R&P.

Pokin’ the academic bear: National Association of Scholars republishes pro-colonialism article, at IHE.christian politics of a word

Trump’s latest: Merging the Ed and Labor departments into DEW.

George Will: Vote Democratic to end GOP “misrule,” at WaPo.

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Why The Donald?

There’s not much that conservative and progressive intellectuals can agree on. But one thing unites thinkers across the culture-war divide these days: Why do so many people like Donald Trump? Fred Barnes at the conservative Weekly Standard visited a focus group of Trump fans to find out. Maybe the answer lies deep in the heart of American culture and history.

What's to like?

What’s to like?

For those of you who are just emerging from under your summer rocks, Trump has grabbed everyone’s attention with his successes in recent presidential polls. He has uttered outlandish statements, calling Mexicans rapists, implying that women reporters can’t handle the job, and ridiculing John McCain’s war record.

Conservative pundits have scrambled to distance themselves—and conservatism itself—from Trump’s brand of schlock.  Erick Erickson disinvited The Donald from a GOP debate.  George Will has denounced “[e]very sulfurous belch from the molten interior of the volcanic Trump phenomenon.”  Crunchy conservative Rod Dreher has scratched his head in bemusement as he’s watched the emergence of “Trumpenstein Monster.”  As Barnes asks, what is it about Trump that attracts people?

The twenty-nine assembled fans like more than Trump’s policies. They like Trump. As Barnes puts it,

Their tie to him is almost mystical. He’s a kind of political savior, someone who says what they think.

Will such Trumpies stick with the Donald all the way? Of the assembled group, most said they’d stick with Trump if he ran for president as head of a third party. They viewed Trump as a non-politician, someone who tells it like it is regardless of the consequences.

Maybe it isn’t so difficult to understand Trump’s attraction. People on both sides of the political spectrum have always rooted for brash, in-your-face candidates. Those who know their history can’t help but think of Huey Long, the governor, senator, and sometime presidential candidate from Louisiana. Long’s antics put The Donald’s to shame. Has Trump ever gotten beat-up in the bathroom of a bar for attempting to urinate between the legs of another gentleman? Has Trump ever greeted a foreign ambassador wearing nothing but silk pajamas?

Trumping Trump

Trumping Trump

The more outlandish the behavior, the more people like it. The more offensive the ideas, the more people respect them.

Does Trump stand a chance at becoming president? I’ll say it: No. This sort of behavior plays well in primaries, but in the end, Americans still prefer boring presidents.

Conservatives and Campus Rape

No one defends rape.  But these days conservative intellectuals often defend students accused of rape.  Why?  What is “conservative” about defending accused rapists?  And what does it have to with higher education?

This is a different question than a similar one we’ve asked lately.  At some conservative religious colleges, we’ve seen a debate over the relationship between theology and sexual assault.  I’ve asked if religion might deter some students from booze-fueled assault.  I’ve also wondered if the top-down authoritarian culture of many fundamentalist schools might encourage assault.

In this discussion, however, we see secular conservatives complaining about the process by which colleges handle accusations of assault.

For instance, columnist George Will attracted a firestorm of controversy when he suggested that assault victims win extra privileges on college campuses.  Liberal-dominated campuses, Will accused, were learning that “when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.”

Other commentators also take the system to task.  Legal scholar David Bernstein worried that the bar for proving guilt had been lowered to dangerous levels.  At some universities, Bernstein commented, any touching that did not have explicit approval could count as rape or assault.  By that measure, Bernstein argued provocatively, only prostitutes and their clients were safe from accusations of rape.

Peter Berkowitz, too, demanded a revision of campus assault rules.  In a case from Swarthmore College that attracted a great deal of attention, Berkowitz insisted that the accused rapist did not get a fair hearing.  Too many “elite” schools, Berkowitz argued,

convene kangaroo courts to adjudicate accusations of grave crimes that should properly be left to the police and government prosecutors. Although they cannot sentence students to jail time — the cavalier manner in which these proceedings treat evidence would never pass muster in the criminal justice system — the campus bureaucracies nevertheless impose penalties capable of upending students’ lives.

None of these writers condones sexual assault. Their gripe is with the process by which those assaults are handled. Too often, being accused equals being condemned. Too often, campus committees do not respect the American traditions of being innocent until proven guilty. Each of these writers warns that a rush to convict—even with the best intentions of protecting the innocent—risks trampling the rights of the accused.

But there’s also a deeper rumbling in these essays that points to an important element of conservative thinking. In each case, by attacking campus procedures, these conservative writers condemn the leftist-dominated culture of higher education as a whole.

Peter Berkowitz, for example, located this discussion within a broader problem. Elite schools, Berkowitz wrote, have struggled with

the hollowing out of the curriculum, the aggressive transmission of a uniformly progressive ideology, the promulgation of speech codes, and the violation of due process in campus disciplinary procedures.

And George Will blamed “academia’s progressivism” for its current sorry state. “Academia,” Will concluded, “is making itself ludicrous.” But left-leaning professors and administrators brought it on themselves, Will believes. Colleges have asked for ridiculous rules and short-sighted policies, Will said, “by asking for progressivism.”

There is something more going on here than just procedural complaints. Conservatives are not only complaining about the rights of accused students. Rather, these arguments about sexual assault are part of a longer conservative tradition of fretting about university leftism. For these conservative writers, recent cases of sexual assault serve as yet another example of college radicals gone wrong.