Our Conservative Folks

Back in the days of Jim Crow, many whites defended racial discrimination by trotting out stereotypes about “Our Black Folks,” who they maintained were satisfied with the status quo. Oh, they are quite happy with being maids, bootblacks, and sharecroppers, said the apologists. They like living on their “side of the fence,” as a character in a Flannery O’Connor story said.

African-Americans were said to be in the childhood of civilization and not suited intellectually to work in the professions, arts, business, or education—unless it was within their own segregated communities. The stereotype described by James Weldon Johnson in his essay, “The Dilemma of the Negro Author,” was of the African-American as a banjo-playing “simple, indolent, docile, improvident peasant . . .” or the “impulsive, irrational, passionate savage.”

Of course, the apologists for discrimination did not note that opportunities in education and employment were denied to African-Americans.

Similar arguments are being made by Leftists about conservatives on college campuses. The diminishing numbers of conservatives are attributed to conservatives’ own temperaments and abilities. The studies promoting these stereotypes are cited each time an attack on conservatives is too hard to ignore or someone makes a legitimate complaint about their treatment.

This happened last month when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, during a speech at CPAC, accused liberal faculty members of trying to force their views on students. Inside Higher Ed responded with a lengthy article which briefly reported on her comments but then used most of the space to argue with the help of “studies” that conservatives really are not discriminated against.

The headline was predictable: “Professors and Politics: What the Research Says,” as was the sub-headline, “DeVos accusation that faculty members seek to tell students what to think renews debate, on which research is plentiful. Studies say professors lean left but challenge idea that this results in indoctrination or harms conservatives.” The article reported on a 2016 study of 40 leading American universities that found a ratio of 11.5 liberals to one conservative in the social sciences and history. In history departments, it was 33.5 to one!

The disparity is attributed not to discrimination, but “self-selection.” One of the most cited “experts” is sociology professor Neil Gross, who was once again sought out to provide comment. “The [Republican] party has long been losing support among the highly educated,” he said, adding, “My impression is that the election of [Trump] has greatly exacerbated those losses.” In refuting DeVos’s contention, Inside Higher Ed referred to a study Gross had conducted in 2010, which became the basis of his 2013 book, Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care? His conclusions about the attributes of conservatives were presented in the article: 1) Liberals have higher levels of education (read: conservatives don’t value education); 2) Liberals experience a disparity between their educational levels and income (read: conservatives are greedy) 3) Liberals are not members of a conservative Protestant faith (read: conservatives are unsophisticated fundamentalists) 4) Liberals have “a high tolerance for controversial ideas” (read: conservatives are close-minded).

All these confuse cause with effect; point one is most obviously circular. The overall picture that Gross and others want to present is that conservatives are not suited to the academic life. Another study, Left Pipeline: Why Conservatives Don’t Get Doctorates, is cited to confirm the self-selection theory. (I analyzed Gross’s flawed methodology in more detail in my own book, Exiled.)

This false picture is buttressed by other books, such as Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University, based on interviews of 153 conservative professors. Inside Higher Ed concluded: “The book’s bottom line is that conservative professors are succeeding and happy in academe—and that there is not a wall of liberal academics blocking their way.” No irony is noted by this Leftist site that “passing”—denying one’s identity—was done out of necessity by light-skinned African Americans or that these “happy” conservatives had to remain anonymous. (Also noted in the book is the fact that a number of these conservatives became so after they attained tenure.)

The point about “happy” but closeted conservatives implies that those of us drummed out of academe have only ourselves to blame. We should just keep quiet, and be happy with our place.

Right-Shaming is Spreading

But what about those of us who have been denied scholarships, fellowships, or letters of recommendation, or who have scoured ads for teaching positions outside the categories of race, class, and gender? I was quite happy to keep my political views to myself in English departments where I taught, but found myself being stared at suspiciously when I did not join in hearty condemnations of Republicans or enthuse over the latest missive from MoveOn.org. When I dared to express my views in an op-ed in the local newspaper, I was greeted with an insulting email from a former professor and another time was insulted in a dissertation committee member’s university-connected blog.

Academics are getting bolder in publicly shaming conservative colleagues and students. Recently, Trinity Washington University President Patricia McGuire  on the university website attacked one of Trinity’s alums, Trump campaign manager, and now counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway. She accused Conway of playing, as she put it, “a large role in facilitating the manipulation of facts and encouraging the grave injustice being perpetrated by the Trump Administration’s war on immigrants.” (McGuire’s disapproving comments about DeVos were also quoted in the Inside Higher Ed article.)

The public shaming is extending farther down the academic chain, to undergraduates.

During my 20-year-tenure of teaching college (until 2013) I would hear students complain about politically inflected class discussions. But more recently I have been hearing about undergraduates being personally attacked and ridiculed in class by their professors.

In 2011 during my research fellowship at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) near Hamilton College I heard stories from undergraduate fellows about professors targeting conservatives. I described the case of a brilliant young man, a math and classics major, who was dissuaded from an academic career by a professor who required that students attack President George W. Bush in their translations, and refused to return papers and explain his low grade. That student has gone on to graduate school, but in a field that will prepare him for a career in the corporate world. Thousands of students in future decades will miss his talents in the classroom. But Gross and others, no doubt, will put him into the category of a conservative who chose business over academe for greed and lack of intellectual suitability.

Today, as a resident fellow at the AHI, I continue to hear stories about professors who ridicule students who do not toe their party line. These professors and administrators also give implicit consent to other students to bully conservative students.

The Middlebury Meltdown Revisited

This happened also at Middlebury College recently when college president Laurie Patton introduced speaker Charles Murray with a virtual wink and a nod to protesters who forced Murray off the stage and into an undisclosed location to conduct the discussion and live stream it. As Peter Wood pointed out, the reminders about campus free speech policies were little more than pro forma; they were undercut by other, contradictory remarks.

Patton signaled the OK to disruptive protesters by saying, “Allow me to state the obvious. We are a left-leaning campus” and by expressing her opinion about the “repugnance” of Murray’s views. This gave tacit permission to protesters to jeer student Alexander Khan, co-president of the AEI campus organization which had sponsored Murray, during his introduction. Ironically, the moderator, professor Allison Stanger, also signaled her out-of-hand disapproval of Murray. Afterwards, as she was leaving with Murray, she was attacked by protestors so badly that she had to go to the emergency room and get a neck brace. Her mere proximity to Murray made her a target.

Things are getting worse for conservatives. In the 1990s, as someone returning to school in my 30s, I was able to withstand the snide comments in graduate seminars and learned to navigate away from leftist professors (unfortunately, these professors were old already then). The student I met in 2011 was dissuaded even before applying to graduate school. Today, undergraduates find themselves bullied by fellow students and professors. I know an accomplished young woman, with an outstanding intellect and poise, who has been pilloried by her professors as well as her peers simply because she is an outspoken campus conservative. Even if she were so inclined, she would have little reason to enter into a field as hostile and discriminatory as academe.

The left-wing apologists in future studies, though, will no doubt say that the diminishing number of conservatives teaching classics is evidence of their lack of suitability to the life of the mind.

About Mary Grabar

Mary Grabar, Ph.D., author of Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation Against America, is a resident fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. Her next book, Debunking “The 1619 Project,” will be released on September 7, 2021.

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26 responses to “Our Conservative Folks”

  1. The whole enterprise of modern culture’s takeover by the Left is closed-circuit.

    If you apply for a job in a college or a mainstream media entity, whispering one single non-‘liberal’ thought ends at once your chance of gaining it. If once appointed, it means no tenure, still less promotion. This is true in business also; look at what happened to the Mozilla CEO who quietly backed traditional marriage – ousted.

    It began with the campaigns for the acceptance of homosexuality and the abolition of capital punishment: they were the thin end of an endless wedge. It was clever of the Left to start its modern imposition of totalitarian nihilism with those two themes. Most people were unhappy with the idea of homosexuals actually being persecuted; and many flinched from the imposition of the death penalty. So it was at once grimly unfashionable to question the consequences of legalising, accepting and generally accommodating such opinion. When a point of view is unfashionable, holding it means career-damage; so thoughtful considerate responsible citizens kept their reservations on those scores to themselves.

    Then one issue after another was taken up in like manner with like results, till finally no-one could state the obvious about a whole raft of themes: e.g. that the historic American nation and its best traditions have not been built by Hispanic or Muslim culture (to breathe that idea meant being denounced as ‘racist’).

    Most genuine conservatives have spent the past 60 years being too polite and cowardly. We now have to fight back – or watch western civilization simply disappear.

  2. Oh bs to the liberal professor that says they do not discriminate. My father warned me about this before I left for college. He was a student from the early 50’s. I was a student in the 80’s.

    Here is my real live story about a liberal professor. I had many. I can’t image how bad it is know. He was teaching ethics. My first paper I researched my points but I am a true conservative from a small farm and ranch community. So my paper had many conservative points of view. I got a D on that paper. I was very upset. He did say it was poorly written. He disagreed with my well researched and documented points.

    My second paper was 100% pure bs. Not one point of view was researched. Why should I spend endless hours in the library for another D? I completely made up everything but this paper was far left leaning. Gee guess what? I got an A.

    • I was lucky going to the college I went to back in the 80s; I majored in Political Science and although the 4 profs in the department were very liberal, they were actually quite accepting of right-leaning ideas. That’s not the case anymore. Two of my old teachers are still at my college and from their written and verbal output, they’ve become intolerant loons. The new hires are at least as nutty.

      One in particular is an expert in polling and the state’s political landscape. He has helped guide a couple aspiring Democrat politicians and even worked on their campaigns. On the department website he claims he does somewhat of the same for student conservatives (at least as to getting them into the Republican system). I have my doubts on this claim. Even if he does, I wonder how effective he is given he participates in a talk radio show where he scorches conservative thought and refers to his Republican co-host as a “nice Nazi”.

  3. As run-of-the mill “higher” education becomes saturated with majors in LGBT dance for a price tag of $60K/yr, I envision two consequences:

    (1) those interested in serious education will gravitate to schools with serious academic programs in the sciences that do not subsidize LGBT dance majors and other such drivel; they are, indeed, very hard to find;

    (2) those conservatives who gravitate towards history, political science, philosophy shall have to get away from the “progressiversities” towards the few schools that do teach traditional subjects by traditional methodologies (such as Hillsdale). Those with the $$$ to do so should sponsor/fund branches of Hillsdale and Hillsdale-like schools across the country: establishing new institutions that embody such values would probably encounter insuperable barriers from state boards of regents, so best to go with colleges already chartered.

  4. Those of us who have gone to college know full well that most faculty, particularly those in the social sciences and many in the politically charged “real” sciences, fully embrace the left/progressive religion ahead of their own learning. You see, they actually believe they are smarter than everyone else. What a joke. Of course many end up in the social sciences for reasons even they will never admit (they are not that bright). Much of this will change when the federal government reduces grants to colleges, and the colleges are forced to reduce their tuition. Along with that comes the end to the free ride. The time will come that colleges will have to did into their reserves and endowments. Then they will have to compete, a foreign concept to these left/progressive totalitarians.

  5. Thank you for this essay, it is clear, concise and illuminating. I just had a prolonged argument on Facebook with a group of well meaning liberals who posted on the DeVos remarks and said that they loved their college experience and felt like it was a place for dialogue and learning and challenge. “Only if you’re on the left,” I responded, and was barraged with the same “House Negro” comments as you’ve explained above. We conservatives are happy to be excluded from academia, I was told, because we don’t really want those jobs anyway. Sure. Even back in my college days I had to hide my conservative values from my professors if I wanted to graduate. Now college campuses seem like a totalitarian nightmare of liberal groupthink. Reforms are needed badly, and I hope they happen soon.

    • There are no “well-meaning liberals.” None. Anywhere. David Horowitz speaks the truth when he says, “Inside every progressive there is a totalitarian screaming to get out.” You are deluding yourself and placing yourself in danger to believe that there is anything good, or well-meaning about Democrat, Socialist, Leftist, Progressive, Communist thought. All of it is pure evil and none of it has any place in normal human society, let alone the polite company of academe. The mask is off, the shroud has been ripped away. Leftism of all kinds is exposed for precisely what it is: totalitarian oppression & mind control that punishes those who refuse to conform with death. Yes, it really is that simple. There are no good Leftists. None.

      • I am inclined to believe and agree there are no decent leftists. Which calls to mind an article I read several years that was published not long after 9/11 and I believe it to be an assessment of the histrionics of the left as they protested the WOT. It gives you some insight into the mid of the left and I think the author of the piece was trying to bring their radicalized and unhinged response into something that might be consdiered rational thinking on the left. The title of the particle is “Can there be a decent Left?” Here’s the link is you are so inclined: http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Fac/Adler/Politics/Waltzer.htm

        It didn’t change my mind about the left (or their odious twin the “Progressives”), but it did provide some food for thought in further molding my sense about the left’s mind set and why they are what’s wrong with the Democratic Party.

  6. Also of concern, is that fearing that the now required studies classes might not be sufficient for indoctrination, the progressive agenda has been inculcated into apparently all university courses such as art history, literature, statistics, history, geography, etc. Every course is presented through the grievance lens. If a student doesn’t arrive with an unusual ability to detect what is a deliberate indoctrination, he or she will compliantly learn to interpret life through this lens.

  7. Thanks for this article, Ms Grabar. In the midEighties I had the chance to go to any school I chose in the US for a master’s degree, including the Ivies. It never entered my mind to go to any of them because already they were known as Left wing hothouses. I chose a respected land grant college and would do so again.

  8. An aside. Murray was a NeverTrumper. He wrote a very snotty article in NRO saying public policy professionals like him need a better reason to vote for Trump than “Hillary is worse.” He knows what progressives stand for, what they have been doing, including turning universities into incubators for snowflakes and violent thugs. He was perfectly willing to inflict at least 4 more years of progressivism on America, and with Hillary’s immigration policies, probably a forever future of progressivism. Well, now he may understand a better reason for voting for Trump than “Hillary is worse.” In my opinion he was hoist on his own petard. No sympathy from me.

    • We ALL needed a better reason to vote for Trump instead of “Hillary is worse.”

      • I liked his platform. I liked it better than that of any candidate I can remember. From immigration, to trade (especially, killing the TPP and stopping the piracy of intellectual property), to a revision and updating of NATO’s mission and making others pay their fair share, to eschewing nation building, to eradicating ISIS, to making government smaller by reducing budgets of agencies and # of regulations, to reducing U.S. contribution to UN, to calling alarmism over climate change the scam it is, to appointing a literalist to the Supreme Court, to reducing tax rates, to rebuilding the military, to eliminating common core, to embracing Bothell and coal, to approving the pipelines,to rebuilding our infrastructure, to stopping refugees to you name it. Is that a good enough reason?

        What I think stopping Hillary in any of itself was sufficient.

  9. Mary Grabar is absolutely right and if we keep this racial parallel going, we must conclude that conservatives are bound to rebel against the “house righties,” those step-and-fetch-it conservatives who report to work at their little colleges and love to smile with joy, distancing themselves, as they inevitably do, from the field righties like us who are banished out of doors for being crass enough to believe in God, to speak boldly about racial disparities, to defend the rule of law, or to trumpet freedom from leftist utopian strictures as freedom just as sweet as emancipation from tyrants. I can attest that the authors of the book involving interviews of 153 happy, smiling, grinning and dancing conservatives who proved that all is well in academe–they contacted me to see if they might interview me, and then, upon seeing that my story didn’t fit whatever narrative they were hoping to peddle in WaPo, they avoided me for 18 months and never interviewed me at all. Twenty years of work in academia went down the drain and I decided to devote myself to holiness by abandoning tenure for a teaching post in a seminary. My last hurrah pretending to care about the soul of our colleges was this book about the hopeless fate of academia, which I named WACKOS THUGS & PERVERTS, knowing full well such a title was much too crass for conservatives in the Ivy League: http://englishmanif.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-book-you-must-read-if-you-care.html

  10. As a professor in business I keep my mouth shut for two reasons: I’ve yet to achieve tenure, and being in business I’m anonymously despised by other departments because I “make too much money”, even though I’m paid market value.

    I leave politics out of my discussion for the sake of the closet conservatives who would be pilloried at our university. There’s been a couple of Trump anti-demonstrations on campus. Our university is big in “sustainability” and I made the stupid comment about we can be sustainable and support trillion dollar deficits.

    The “we’re tolerant of other opinions” is dubious. The caveat of that statement is “as long as they agree with us”. There will be a breaking of this some day, but it will be long after I’m gone.

  11. Grabar, who is a European immigrant from upstate New York, pissed me off so much with her opening paragraph that I couldn’t concentrate on the article. Grabar knows nothing about the “Jim Crow” South because she wasn’t even in this country in those days. If she was, she’d know that it wasn’t just blacks who were “deprived” of higher education and just about everything else. Higher education was out of reach of most Southerners until the Federal government got involved in the LBJ years and started offering Pell Grants and student loans (that remain unpaid in many cases.) The WW II GI Bill had offered education to many but it had expired and wasn’t renewed until 1965. Prior to that, only the children of the wealthy were able to go to college unless they were able to obtain a National Defense Student Loan or an ROTC scholarship.

    “Jim Crow” was actually a comedian from the early 1800s and his name wasn’t attached to the segregationist policies of the South – and much of the rest of the country – until the early Twentieth Century and mostly after that. Yes, blacks were in jobs that were considered menial – so were many whites – and many still are for a lot of reasons. I don’t disagree with the main premise of her article and it is definitely true that people with degrees think they are better than everyone else but she needs to be very careful about using lead-ins based on something she knows nothing about,

    • “– Grabar knows nothing about the “Jim Crow” South because she wasn’t even in this country in those days. If she was Grabar knows nothing about the “Jim Crow” South because she wasn’t even in this country in those days. –”

      Was Gibbon in Rome “in those days”?
      No doubt poor whites had it bad, but your seeming disinclination to acknowledge that blacks were on balance poorer AND bore the extra burden of segregation and racism invalidates whatever point it is you’re trying to make. Your latter qualifications notwithstanding, the bulk of your comment seems to imply whites had it just as bad as blacks.
      And your approval of the Feds nosing into the problem is a major portion of why the task before us is making America great again and why there is a swamp that needs draining.

      • SOME whites DID have it just as bad as SOME blacks, even during Jim Crow and, believe it or not, during slavery. And SOME blacks had it just as good as SOME whites.

        The refusal to recognize nuance often characterizes all sides of these spats. One can make generalizations but still recognize that our view today is always colored by the dominant themes OF today.

        IMO Grabar’s article is close enough and your comments re Sam McGowan are not.

    • “Jump Jim Crow,” was originally a characterization used on an 1832 minstrel show song sheet which gained wide popularity for its mockery of Black cultural characteristics.

      So, Mary’s use of the term is quite appropriate for a window of well over 130 years.

  12. I’m wondering when college became partisan politics all-the-time. The ’70s were plenty wacky, but I have no recollection of politics being any part of my college experience. Perhaps I was too busy working–or it didn’t garner my attention. But it does seem today that faculty and students are overly concerned with current politics, to the exclusion of their academic studies. How does one master their field of study (or merely complete their degree) while constantly invoking and consumed by politics of the current moment?

    In my experience, a professor who veered off the subject matter onto an unrelated tangent–say, current politics–would get rebuked by any number of Smart-Alec students uninterested in such classroom time wasting. Yes, the professoriate was left-liberal, but partisanship didn’t enter into the classroom calculus.

  13. I can understand that. I majored in history, mastered in history, and am writing a dissertation on medieval history for a PhD…but I’ve moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to do it. The University of Edinburgh’s student body is quite progressive and has its fair share of anti-American students, but it’s not filled with self-loathing Americans trying to shut every other voice up, America and how horrible we are isn’t a pressing concern, and the university itself usually stays out of those things. And so especially when you get to the doctoral range, you’re left alone.

  14. My question to the Middlebury group would be focused on how they collectively
    managed to make it to the 13th+ grade level without having even a minor
    trace of a clue about the 1st Amendment right of free speech and why it
    should be considered to be among the most valued of freedoms within any
    civilized society.

    If they feel so empowered by taking free speech away from someone else, how would they ever deal with someone taking free speech away from them? Perhaps a field trip to a bridge near Selma, Alabama might provide them with an opening object lesson.

  15. Back in the day I really didn’t encounter discrimination based on my far-right political beliefs. I went to a fairly conservative school and most of my friends were of the same political persuasion. There was one exception, and that was an English prof I had sophomore year.

    She HATED Reagan with a passion. I took exception to that. I even told her that I wasn’t paying to hear her political beliefs. I remember her snidely remarking something to the effect of, “You, eh? I’ll bet your Daddy pays for your school, your car, your rent, and your credit cards.” I remember replying with as much condescension in my voice as I could, “Maybe that was your world, but my parents couldn’t afford to send me to school so I’m working my way through. Every dime is MINE.” Basically, I bullied her back. I had to work twice as hard for a three credit English course, but I got that A.