Where did intellectual conservatism go?

Shideh Ghandeharizadeh | Daily Trojan

It’s no secret that the classroom, our nation’s academic journals and university research initiatives are notorious for leaning left. To have liberal stances in the worlds of academia and research is one thing, but to be bordering a liberal monopoly is another. The problem, however, lies not with ivory tower academic elites alone. Rather, conservatives and liberals share equal blame for our biased intellectual institutions. Though the fringes of the conservative movement have recently jeopardized the credibility of conservative voices, it is time for the true intellectual conservative movement to bring the message back into our academic environments. This movement must make a resurgence in academia, not only to guarantee that the Republican Party does not disappear down the rabbit hole, but also for the good of the entire country.

Yes, the Republican Party has become quite a spectacle, and not in a positive way — but there is still credibility in the core of conservative ideology. Economics departments, business schools and a myriad of other select fields have proven to be the last bastions of conservative intellectual thought in academia. The tenets of individuality and reason have lost ground in an increasingly postmodern world, but the theories and practicalities of conservatism remain clear.

The conservative movement has a strong past of credibility and influence in academic environments. A principled, albeit controversial, champion of the conservative movement, Bill Buckley was perhaps the foremost intellectual conservative. It was Buckley who was able to transform the conservative message into a testable, quantifiable and, most of all, an intellectual movement. Buckley founded a conservative editorial publication, the National Review, and helped create Young Americans for Freedom, a student group which champions conservative causes on college campuses from the turbulent 1960s to the present day. In addition, conservative professors have made great contributions to society. Milton Friedman, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, was a Nobel Prize winner. George Mason University professor Walter Williams and economist Thomas Sowell continue to be active and prominent names in academia. Writer Ayn Rand, another contentious figure who was resolute in her beliefs, brought a sense of legitimacy to the conservative movement through her novels and essays. 

It is easy to say that former President Ronald Reagan would not recognize his party anymore if he were alive today. The same could be said for Buckley, who jokingly reflected on President-elect Donald Trump’s self-promotion by stating that “if Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America.” The conservative movement, which has been hijacked by neo-conservatives — hawkish Republicans with socially conservative tendencies — is too busy pushing an unsustainable and altogether wacky social agenda which cannot be taken seriously amongst the American people, let alone our academic institutions. Buckley’s original editorial content has given way to inflammatory talk radio and the Rush Limbaughs of the world. Rand’s novels, consistently filled with solid tact, have given way to Ann Coulter’s grandiose publications which pander to the emotions of socially conservative Republicans.

The Republican Party has done a good job of turning its back on the value of intellectual thought. As it stands, this isolated relationship between conservatives and academia will send the movement on a quick path towards irrelevance. The helm of the Republican Party needs to return to its lifeblood. Conservatives must embrace the movement’s most useful role: teaching practical ideals to students and academics — our future leaders and policymakers. It will be up to what is left of the true conservative movement to ensure that the conservative voice continues to be an influence on the nation’s intellectual pursuits. 

The intellectual conservative movement has no room for the alt-right or neo-conservatives. The intellectual conservative movement similarly has no room to fall behind in our current academic environment. What we teach in our universities, cover in our academic journals and identify as our topics of research have a large potential to become accepted elements of our society. In this way, what we teach in our academic environments does not stay academic for long. For every Marxist sympathizer, college students should hear from a free market champion, and for every collectivist call for safe spaces, there should be equal support of individualism and Rand’s Objectivism on campus. The political views of our student body and our country are incredibly varied, and the views of our faculty and academic institutions should be just as diverse.

6 replies
  1. Stark Zwillig
    Stark Zwillig says:

    The author can write well but he doesn’t know anything about American political movements. Neo-Conservatism is anti-intellectual? Do you even know what Neo-Conservatism is? They are intellectual snobs. Do you know who Irving Kristol is? Do you know who Leo Strauss is, the father of Neo-Conservatism? You shouldn’t write on things about which you are ignorant. The problem with Neo-Conservatives is that they are not pure Conservatives, not that they are anti intellectual.

  2. Benjamin Roberts
    Benjamin Roberts says:

    What is this writer talking about, asking where the intellectual conservatives are? It’s the alt-Left that has brought us the transgender lie, trashing science by suggesting gender is “fluid” or a state of mind!! …and then having the audacity to tell conservatives to just deal with it? The alt-Left brought us gay marriage, a warm and cuddly idea rooted in “inclusion”, obliterating the English language by changing gender-specific terms and demonizing gender-specific pronouns. The alt-Left has brought us in-state tuition, driver’s licenses and so-called sanctuary city policies for people in the country illegally… literally doubling down on their efforts to protect and shield illegal immigrants.

    The writer thinks Republicans are the ones busy “pushing an unsustainable and altogether wacky social agenda” ?? WOW!!!! Time for a total reality check folks. The alt-Left has been peddling wacky, emotionally based ideas and agenda for decades. I understand that Donald Trump is being painted as the face of the Republican party, having just been elected President on a Republican ticket… But everyone knows Trump is as much an “Independent” as anything. One need only remember how he was uniformly rebuffed by fellow Republicans during the campaign (and even now). I suspect he will please and frustrate BOTH Democrats and Republicans as he unrolls his policy agenda. The reality is that mainstream conservativism if far “intellectual” and in touch with reality than mainstream liberalism which has led to the total rubbish described above. The one place Republicans and conservatives should not have to defend truth, science and sensibility is a university campus, yet that is exactly where liberal nonsense has taken hold. Re-read paragraph 1 above, and think about it.

  3. Rob Vance
    Rob Vance says:

    Apparently you have never listened to Rush Limbaugh. Suggest you actually try it before you criticize. And your reverence for National Review leaves you suspect as not being a conservative. They went over the line in this election. Conservative policy is NOT the same as liberal policy (e.g. open borders, national defense as vehicle for social policy [transgenderism], government mandated health insurance [the grossly misnamed ACA]), therefore “conservatives” who cooperate with the liberals (aka the Uniparty or GOPe) are not our friends. We don’t want the s__t sandwich. Never did. Want it off the menu. #MAGA

  4. GeorgeCurious
    GeorgeCurious says:

    I bet there are plenty of conservative students at USC and other universities. The problem is, should they voice their opinion that goes against popular culture, they know they will be castigated by their professors and peers. Thus, they remain silent. That’s too bad.

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