Category: Richard Winchester

The Media’s Trump Derangement Syndrome


Barely a week goes by without more evidence of the war between the MSM and Trump. Watch, for example, Trump’s comments at CPAC’s 2017 conference, in which he stated that “fake news” is “the enemy-of-the-people,” and then contrast that with how the MSM reported that facet of his speech. In MSM reports, “fake news” became “the media.” Another recent example of MSM hyperventilation about Trump is how the replacement of assistant U.S. attorneys is being treated — as a scandal — compared to the way the same action by the Clinton and Obama administrations was covered.

To understand what’s going on between Trump, the MSM, and the American public, we must look at how the MSM and its audience have changed over the years. First, let’s focus on the MSM.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the prevailing pattern of press coverage of politics was through the lens of partisanship. The Richmond (VA) Junto, which flourished in the early 19th century, and facilitated the elections of Thomas Jefferson (1800, 1804), James Madison (1808, 1812), and James Monroe (1816, 1820), sponsored — under Jefferson — its own newspaper: Philip Freneau’s Gazette of the United States. Somewhat earlier (1791), while George Washington was president, John Fenno’s National Gazette was established in Philadelphia, and was generally friendly to the Federalist Party. The two papers seldom agreed on how to report political news. Throughout the 19th century, there were Republican news outlets and Democrat ones; one could still find such papers in the early 20th century. Frank Luther Mott’s American Journalism (1941), describes this style of news reportage.

During the first half of the 20th century, the norm of objectivity shaped how most print, and later electronic, reporters tried to cover the news. “Just the facts” is a phrase associated with Jack Webb’s “Dragnet,” but the same principle underpinned the way most journalists believed how they should cover the news.

To get a sense of what happened after the objectivity norm receded, read two books by former reporter Bernard Goldberg, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News (2001), and Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite (2004).

Changing fashions in how the MSM have covered the news have been accompanied by changes in American journalists, especially in their politics. Today, most in the MSM lean decisively to the left.

In 2014, Mollie Hemingway, for example, presented evidence on American journalists’ turn to the left since the early 1970s, by juxtaposing findings on the American public from a Gallup poll in 2014 with data on American journalists compiled the year before by Indiana University journalism professors David H. Weaver and Lars Willnat. In 2014, according to Gallup, 43% of the American public called themselves Democrats or independents who lean Democrat, while 41% said they were Republicans or independents who lean to the GOP. One-sixth (16%) remained in the Independent category. By contrast, in 2013, 28.1% of journalists identified with the Democrat Party, 7.1% admitted they were Republicans, 50.2% said they were Independents, and 14.6% identified with some other party. Compare the 2013 data on journalists with the results of a 1971 poll, which found that 35.5% said they were Democrats, 25.7% identified with the GOP, 32.5% claimed to be Independents, and 6.3% identified with another party. In other words, in 42 years, the percentage of American journalists identifying with the Democrats sagged 7.4 percentage points, the percentage admitting to GOP inclinations dropped 18.6 points, while the percentage claiming to be Independents surged 17.7 points, and the percentage identifying with some other party increased 8.3 points. (This says nothing about how the MSM vote, which is almost always overwhelmingly for Democrats.)

Journalists’ left-wing proclivities might not be so bad if the norm of objectivity still shaped the way they report the news. Sadly, many journalists, especially the younger ones, believe that objective journalism “is a myth.” Goldberg’s books provide insights into this style of reporting. To see how MSM bias influenced coverage of Barack Obama, read Goldberg’s A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (and Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media (2009). I have already mentioned the bitter struggle between Trump and the MSM.

We must also look at how the media’s audience’s habits and opinions have changed.

The Pew Research Center for The People & The Press’s most recent report of Americans’ news habits was The Modern News Consumer (2016).

That report found that 57% of Americans said they often got their news from TV, including cable telecasts, local outlets, and the networks’ nightly programs, 38% said they often turned to social media (websites, apps, etc.), 25% said radio, and 20% reported reading print newspapers.

Those figures, however, masked an age-related disparity in news consumption. Among Americans aged 18-29, for example, only about a quarter said they often got their news from TV, but 50% often went online. Just about one-fifth of the young turned to either radio or newspapers. Among Americans over 50, on the other hand, over 70% often relied on TV, roughly a quarter turned to online sources, and about a third relied on either newspapers or radio.

More important are changes in Americans’ confidence in news outlets. The Gallup Poll has asked the same question tapping confidence in news outlets on several occasions. In early May 1973, for example, 39% of the public had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers, compared to 18% who expressed “very little” or “none.” By early June 2016, on the other hand, only 20% of the public had either a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers, while 36% had either very little or none. Early May 1973 found that 46% of the public had either a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in TV news, compared with 18% who had either very little or none. By early June 2016, only 21% of the public said they had either a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in TV news, compared with 40% who said they had either very little or none. In short, Americans have lost confidence in the two major sources of political news.

Perhaps it’s because large portions of the public perceive the media as biased to the left. Although leftists, such as Eric Alterman, try to deny the MSM’s liberal bias, the academic Tim Groseclose’s Left Turn not only documents the MSM’s left-wing bias, but how that bias distorts American public opinion.

The MSM have lost connection with sizable portions of the American public and have declared war on the new Trump administration. The MSM will not voluntarily change course. The time has come for more Americans to tune them out. 

James Boswell wrote that Samuel Johnson said, “[p]atriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” When mainstream media (MSM) denizens wrap themselves in the First Amendment, one wonders if Johnson’s assertion needs to be broadened.

No sooner had Trump won the 2016 election than some MSM types began claiming his criticisms of the media threatened First Amendment freedoms, a drumbeat that continues.

Barely a week goes by without more evidence of the war between the MSM and Trump. Watch, for example, Trump’s comments at CPAC’s 2017 conference, in which he stated that “fake news” is “the enemy-of-the-people,” and then contrast that with how the MSM reported that facet of his speech. In MSM reports, “fake news” became “the media.” Another recent example of MSM hyperventilation about Trump is how the replacement of assistant U.S. attorneys is being treated — as a scandal — compared to the way the same action by the Clinton and Obama administrations was covered.

To understand what’s going on between Trump, the MSM, and the American public, we must look at how the MSM and its audience have changed over the years. First, let’s focus on the MSM.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the prevailing pattern of press coverage of politics was through the lens of partisanship. The Richmond (VA) Junto, which flourished in the early 19th century, and facilitated the elections of Thomas Jefferson (1800, 1804), James Madison (1808, 1812), and James Monroe (1816, 1820), sponsored — under Jefferson — its own newspaper: Philip Freneau’s Gazette of the United States. Somewhat earlier (1791), while George Washington was president, John Fenno’s National Gazette was established in Philadelphia, and was generally friendly to the Federalist Party. The two papers seldom agreed on how to report political news. Throughout the 19th century, there were Republican news outlets and Democrat ones; one could still find such papers in the early 20th century. Frank Luther Mott’s American Journalism (1941), describes this style of news reportage.

During the first half of the 20th century, the norm of objectivity shaped how most print, and later electronic, reporters tried to cover the news. “Just the facts” is a phrase associated with Jack Webb’s “Dragnet,” but the same principle underpinned the way most journalists believed how they should cover the news.

To get a sense of what happened after the objectivity norm receded, read two books by former reporter Bernard Goldberg, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News (2001), and Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite (2004).

Changing fashions in how the MSM have covered the news have been accompanied by changes in American journalists, especially in their politics. Today, most in the MSM lean decisively to the left.

In 2014, Mollie Hemingway, for example, presented evidence on American journalists’ turn to the left since the early 1970s, by juxtaposing findings on the American public from a Gallup poll in 2014 with data on American journalists compiled the year before by Indiana University journalism professors David H. Weaver and Lars Willnat. In 2014, according to Gallup, 43% of the American public called themselves Democrats or independents who lean Democrat, while 41% said they were Republicans or independents who lean to the GOP. One-sixth (16%) remained in the Independent category. By contrast, in 2013, 28.1% of journalists identified with the Democrat Party, 7.1% admitted they were Republicans, 50.2% said they were Independents, and 14.6% identified with some other party. Compare the 2013 data on journalists with the results of a 1971 poll, which found that 35.5% said they were Democrats, 25.7% identified with the GOP, 32.5% claimed to be Independents, and 6.3% identified with another party. In other words, in 42 years, the percentage of American journalists identifying with the Democrats sagged 7.4 percentage points, the percentage admitting to GOP inclinations dropped 18.6 points, while the percentage claiming to be Independents surged 17.7 points, and the percentage identifying with some other party increased 8.3 points. (This says nothing about how the MSM vote, which is almost always overwhelmingly for Democrats.)

Journalists’ left-wing proclivities might not be so bad if the norm of objectivity still shaped the way they report the news. Sadly, many journalists, especially the younger ones, believe that objective journalism “is a myth.” Goldberg’s books provide insights into this style of reporting. To see how MSM bias influenced coverage of Barack Obama, read Goldberg’s A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (and Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media (2009). I have already mentioned the bitter struggle between Trump and the MSM.

We must also look at how the media’s audience’s habits and opinions have changed.

The Pew Research Center for The People & The Press’s most recent report of Americans’ news habits was The Modern News Consumer (2016).

That report found that 57% of Americans said they often got their news from TV, including cable telecasts, local outlets, and the networks’ nightly programs, 38% said they often turned to social media (websites, apps, etc.), 25% said radio, and 20% reported reading print newspapers.

Those figures, however, masked an age-related disparity in news consumption. Among Americans aged 18-29, for example, only about a quarter said they often got their news from TV, but 50% often went online. Just about one-fifth of the young turned to either radio or newspapers. Among Americans over 50, on the other hand, over 70% often relied on TV, roughly a quarter turned to online sources, and about a third relied on either newspapers or radio.

More important are changes in Americans’ confidence in news outlets. The Gallup Poll has asked the same question tapping confidence in news outlets on several occasions. In early May 1973, for example, 39% of the public had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers, compared to 18% who expressed “very little” or “none.” By early June 2016, on the other hand, only 20% of the public had either a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers, while 36% had either very little or none. Early May 1973 found that 46% of the public had either a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in TV news, compared with 18% who had either very little or none. By early June 2016, only 21% of the public said they had either a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in TV news, compared with 40% who said they had either very little or none. In short, Americans have lost confidence in the two major sources of political news.

Perhaps it’s because large portions of the public perceive the media as biased to the left. Although leftists, such as Eric Alterman, try to deny the MSM’s liberal bias, the academic Tim Groseclose’s Left Turn not only documents the MSM’s left-wing bias, but how that bias distorts American public opinion.

The MSM have lost connection with sizable portions of the American public and have declared war on the new Trump administration. The MSM will not voluntarily change course. The time has come for more Americans to tune them out. 



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America’s New Political World


Let’s start with Trump’s successes in capturing the GOP’s presidential nomination and then emerging victorious on November 8th, 2016. Since both represent changes of degree, and not of kind, Trump’s emergence as GOP presidential nominee and especially as America’s chief executive, do not represent change as profound as the American Left’s transmogrifrication, especially since Trump declared as a candidate for the GOP nomination in mid-2015.

Since at least the end of the Reagan presidency, Republican politics at the top has been controlled by inside-the-Washington-beltway elites who denigrate conservatism in any form. GOP insiders never cottoned to Reagan and the Reaganites, but had to tolerate them because, when it came to the things elites really care about — power, status, insider-influence, etc. — Reagan and his backers brought home the bacon.

Beginning in 1988, however, and with every presidential nomination through 2012, the Republican inside-the-beltway establishment dominated the party’s machinery sufficiently to deny the GOP’s top spot to someone who appealed especially to ordinary people outside the Washington Beltway. Bush #41, Dole, Bush #43, McCain, and Romney were more moderate and therefore attractive to GOP insiders than were others who sought the party’s nomination, but fell by the wayside: Patrick J. Buchanan, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, et al. (I list these men without necessarily endorsing them.)

The race for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016, however, broke new ground. For whatever the reason — the final story hasn’t been written — the candidate or candidates who might have had the Republican insiders’ support, such as Jeb Bush, were beaten, and Donald J. Trump, who is anathema to GOP elites, emerged victorious.

Although some among the GOP elite announced they would vote for Hillary Clinton, and others, even those who claimed conservative credentials, joined the #Never Trump crowd, the Donald won the 2016 presidential election. In the process, he might have brought about at least a temporary voting realignment. Time will tell if Trump can hold, for example, working-class whites, and/or if some well-educated suburban women will continue to distance themselves from the GOP.

By now, it should be obvious that Trump’s successes in garnering the GOP’s presidential nomination, and even more so in winning the presidency, has the potential to rearrange the Republican Party’s power structure as well as its basis of electoral support.

Now let’s consider how Trump’s successes have affected leftists, which may be the most profound transformation of the American political world.

Can anyone deny that what we have witnessed since Trump announced his presidential candidacy is one illustration after the next of Trump Derangement Syndrome?

Never mind how the denizens of the mainstream media (MSM) have comported themselves since Trump won the GOP’s presidential nomination, and especially since the 2016 election. An analysis of how low the MSM have sunk must await another essay.

Let’s focus on the Democrat Party’s elites and their acolytes inside and outside of government. Their collective shenanigans are tearing holes in the American body politic that will be a long time in closing, if ever.

To set the context for what has become of Democrat elites and their supporters, let’s harken back to how American politics at the top fared from 1800, the first election in which the in-party — the Federalists — lost the White House to the out-party — the Jeffersonian Republicans — until 2008, when Barack Obama won the presidency, and the Republicans were out at the White House after eight years in power. A few, including Trump, focusing on Obama’s birth certificate, worried about whether he was constitutionally entitled to be president, but most Republicans practiced politics-as-usual.

Even though historians tell us that John Adams’s loss to Thomas Jefferson in 1800 was a bitter pill to swallow, come Mr. Jefferson’s inauguration day, Adams peaceably, albeit not necessarily happily, left Washington, thereby setting a precedent for over 200 years. Defeated at the polls, the in-party — whether Federalist, Democrat-Republican, Whig, Democrat, or Republican — peacefully surrendered the levers of presidential power to the opposition party’s winning candidate. Other than southerners after 1860, a defeated party accepted the victorious candidate’s legitimate right to the presidency, licked its wounds, and tried to figure out how to win the next time around.

Not so in 2016. Virtually from the moment the MSM was compelled to announce Trump’s victory, Democrat elites and their über-left allies have denounced Trump as illegitimate, “not my president.” Protests, many of them violent, broke out, followed by Democrat elites’ boycotting Trump’s inauguration, along with a seemingly never-ending stream of unsubstantiated charges that Trump won because of hanky-panky by Vladimir Putin and the Russians.  (Since November 8th 2016, the Democrats have demonized Russia. Shades of Joe McCarthy!)

Although Mrs. Clinton and Obama initially acknowledged Trump’s victory, that recognition did not last.

Obama did leave the presidency on January 20th 2017, but that won’t be the end of him and/or his minions. Not only is Obama staying in Washington, DC, just a couple miles from the White House, media reports indicate that he is seeking to undermine Trump’s presidency. Obama’s Eminence Grise, Valerie Jarrett, is moving in at the Obamas’ new residence to help in the campaign against Trump. In addition, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch has delivered a message encouraging anti-Trump protesters to continue. So has Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps the “icing-on-the-cake” is Tom Perez — Obama’s Secretary of Labor and a man of the far, far left– being tapped as the new chairman of the Democrat National Committee, and immediately picking Keith Ellison — a black Muslim member of the House of Representatives from Minnesota with a record of virulent anti-Semitism — as a chief lieutenant. Perez’s and Ellison’s victories indicate that Democrats have learned nothing from 2016, and will continue pursuing a course of leftwing extremism.

Hillary has congratulated Perez and Ellison, suggesting she supports far-left tendencies in the Democrat Party.

When it comes to politics, the U.S. is clearly in a new world, one in which the usual give and take of popular government has given way to one organized faction’s refusal to accept the results of a presidential election and willingness to tear the country apart to regain power.

What are Trump and the Republicans going to do? Practicing politics-as-usual won’t work so long as the Democrats and their loyalists refuse to play that game. Democrats are waging war, not playing tiddlywinks.

Tit-for-tat-violence will be destructive of popular government. As satisfying as it might be to some — many? — rightists, matching the Democrats blow for blow will, sooner or later, end America’s experiment with “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Trump and his supporters will have to walk a narrow line, but they must adjust to America’s new political world. Trump seems to know this. Do the Republicans?

America is in a new political world. Combine Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 with the über-left’s attempts to delegitimize his presidency, and a significant underpinning of popular government is seriously imperiled.

New times call for new strategies and tactics. Sadly, the Left already knows this, and it’s time those of us on the political Right to catch up.

Let’s start with Trump’s successes in capturing the GOP’s presidential nomination and then emerging victorious on November 8th, 2016. Since both represent changes of degree, and not of kind, Trump’s emergence as GOP presidential nominee and especially as America’s chief executive, do not represent change as profound as the American Left’s transmogrifrication, especially since Trump declared as a candidate for the GOP nomination in mid-2015.

Since at least the end of the Reagan presidency, Republican politics at the top has been controlled by inside-the-Washington-beltway elites who denigrate conservatism in any form. GOP insiders never cottoned to Reagan and the Reaganites, but had to tolerate them because, when it came to the things elites really care about — power, status, insider-influence, etc. — Reagan and his backers brought home the bacon.

Beginning in 1988, however, and with every presidential nomination through 2012, the Republican inside-the-beltway establishment dominated the party’s machinery sufficiently to deny the GOP’s top spot to someone who appealed especially to ordinary people outside the Washington Beltway. Bush #41, Dole, Bush #43, McCain, and Romney were more moderate and therefore attractive to GOP insiders than were others who sought the party’s nomination, but fell by the wayside: Patrick J. Buchanan, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, et al. (I list these men without necessarily endorsing them.)

The race for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016, however, broke new ground. For whatever the reason — the final story hasn’t been written — the candidate or candidates who might have had the Republican insiders’ support, such as Jeb Bush, were beaten, and Donald J. Trump, who is anathema to GOP elites, emerged victorious.

Although some among the GOP elite announced they would vote for Hillary Clinton, and others, even those who claimed conservative credentials, joined the #Never Trump crowd, the Donald won the 2016 presidential election. In the process, he might have brought about at least a temporary voting realignment. Time will tell if Trump can hold, for example, working-class whites, and/or if some well-educated suburban women will continue to distance themselves from the GOP.

By now, it should be obvious that Trump’s successes in garnering the GOP’s presidential nomination, and even more so in winning the presidency, has the potential to rearrange the Republican Party’s power structure as well as its basis of electoral support.

Now let’s consider how Trump’s successes have affected leftists, which may be the most profound transformation of the American political world.

Can anyone deny that what we have witnessed since Trump announced his presidential candidacy is one illustration after the next of Trump Derangement Syndrome?

Never mind how the denizens of the mainstream media (MSM) have comported themselves since Trump won the GOP’s presidential nomination, and especially since the 2016 election. An analysis of how low the MSM have sunk must await another essay.

Let’s focus on the Democrat Party’s elites and their acolytes inside and outside of government. Their collective shenanigans are tearing holes in the American body politic that will be a long time in closing, if ever.

To set the context for what has become of Democrat elites and their supporters, let’s harken back to how American politics at the top fared from 1800, the first election in which the in-party — the Federalists — lost the White House to the out-party — the Jeffersonian Republicans — until 2008, when Barack Obama won the presidency, and the Republicans were out at the White House after eight years in power. A few, including Trump, focusing on Obama’s birth certificate, worried about whether he was constitutionally entitled to be president, but most Republicans practiced politics-as-usual.

Even though historians tell us that John Adams’s loss to Thomas Jefferson in 1800 was a bitter pill to swallow, come Mr. Jefferson’s inauguration day, Adams peaceably, albeit not necessarily happily, left Washington, thereby setting a precedent for over 200 years. Defeated at the polls, the in-party — whether Federalist, Democrat-Republican, Whig, Democrat, or Republican — peacefully surrendered the levers of presidential power to the opposition party’s winning candidate. Other than southerners after 1860, a defeated party accepted the victorious candidate’s legitimate right to the presidency, licked its wounds, and tried to figure out how to win the next time around.

Not so in 2016. Virtually from the moment the MSM was compelled to announce Trump’s victory, Democrat elites and their über-left allies have denounced Trump as illegitimate, “not my president.” Protests, many of them violent, broke out, followed by Democrat elites’ boycotting Trump’s inauguration, along with a seemingly never-ending stream of unsubstantiated charges that Trump won because of hanky-panky by Vladimir Putin and the Russians.  (Since November 8th 2016, the Democrats have demonized Russia. Shades of Joe McCarthy!)

Although Mrs. Clinton and Obama initially acknowledged Trump’s victory, that recognition did not last.

Obama did leave the presidency on January 20th 2017, but that won’t be the end of him and/or his minions. Not only is Obama staying in Washington, DC, just a couple miles from the White House, media reports indicate that he is seeking to undermine Trump’s presidency. Obama’s Eminence Grise, Valerie Jarrett, is moving in at the Obamas’ new residence to help in the campaign against Trump. In addition, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch has delivered a message encouraging anti-Trump protesters to continue. So has Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps the “icing-on-the-cake” is Tom Perez — Obama’s Secretary of Labor and a man of the far, far left– being tapped as the new chairman of the Democrat National Committee, and immediately picking Keith Ellison — a black Muslim member of the House of Representatives from Minnesota with a record of virulent anti-Semitism — as a chief lieutenant. Perez’s and Ellison’s victories indicate that Democrats have learned nothing from 2016, and will continue pursuing a course of leftwing extremism.

Hillary has congratulated Perez and Ellison, suggesting she supports far-left tendencies in the Democrat Party.

When it comes to politics, the U.S. is clearly in a new world, one in which the usual give and take of popular government has given way to one organized faction’s refusal to accept the results of a presidential election and willingness to tear the country apart to regain power.

What are Trump and the Republicans going to do? Practicing politics-as-usual won’t work so long as the Democrats and their loyalists refuse to play that game. Democrats are waging war, not playing tiddlywinks.

Tit-for-tat-violence will be destructive of popular government. As satisfying as it might be to some — many? — rightists, matching the Democrats blow for blow will, sooner or later, end America’s experiment with “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Trump and his supporters will have to walk a narrow line, but they must adjust to America’s new political world. Trump seems to know this. Do the Republicans?



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A Pervasive Failure of Nerve in Higher Education


The condition of American universities is well known to any astute observer:  they are centers of left-wing, anti-American, indoctrination.  Once-upon-a-time, universities enabled many students to broaden their perspectives on themselves and the world.  Today, they all-too-often allow students to revel in their tribal identities, and try to ensure that the snowflakes have access to safe spaces, coloring books, and puppies, so they can ignore unpleasant information. 

Universities give political correctness an entirely new, and dangerous, meaning.  Many administrators, faculty, and students can abide no criticism.  They say that they value diversity above all, but they are so intolerant of differing viewpoints that they are hot-houses of authoritarianism.   Some universities have been havens for violent left-wing extremists such as Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Kathy Boudin, and Angela Davis.  Almost every year an academic says or writes something that leaves one feeling he or she is from another planet. 

A key question is: how did American colleges and universities get this way?   Decades ago, they were the envy of the world.

As someone who labored in Academe’s vineyards for over fifty years, I hanker for an answer to what happened.  Pardon any hubris, but my sojourn from under-graduate to graduate student to professor at a major research university (R1) may provide some of the insight needed for an answer.  Some reasons for Academe’s contemporary plight have begun to emerge.

A sidebar sets the context for what will follow.  One discipline’s recent history provides useful insights into the experience of higher education generally over the last half-century or more.  That discipline, of which I’ve been a member since the mid-1960s, is Political Science.

Just before 2000, a new movement emerged in Political Science that objected to the discipline’s dominant theoretical, and especially methodological, frameworks.  The specifics are unimportant, since the same pattern has happened in most disciplines.  This movement also sought significant organizational changes, especially in the discipline’s flagship publications.  Although there was initial resistance, one wag correctly predicted that the new “revolution” – as it called itself – would prosper because, as he put it, the discipline’s leading figures were “squishy liberals,” who would be unable to withstand challenges from the downtrodden.

Within a decade, the new movement had succeeded, almost precisely for the reason(s) the wag mentioned.

Many of the dynamics responsible for change in Political Science also were at work in higher education generally over the last half-century or so.  The “revolution” did not entirely supplant Political Science’s pre-existing paradigm, and that may provide another lesson we must heed if we are to ease Academe’s current travails. 

First, a few facts, most of which are already known.  Over the years, researchers have demonstrated that academicians decisively lean to the left.  Moreover, probably because of the entry of more women – who are overwhelmingly feminists – and minorities into Academe, the academy has shifted leftward since the 1970s and 1980s.  Some disciplines, especially in the humanities and the social sciences, are more inhabited by leftists than others, but even the STEM disciplines have shifted leftward recently.

Many administrators are also on the Left, as the recent statements by Middlebury College’s president just before a claque of screaming thugs refused to let Charles Murray speak, illustrate.

Remember that Janet Napolitano is president of California’s major institution of higher education.  Fortunately, not every college and university administrator is a far leftist.  We don’t see or hear of them in the media, and there’s the pity.

Delve more deeply into the data on higher education, and the figures become slightly more nuanced.  Leftists, for example, are more concentrated in small liberal arts colleges, not so much in major research institutions.  Still, there are enough left-leaning faculty in the R1s to be worrisome.  Those who toil in two-year community colleges are least likely to be leftists, but even there one finds enough far leftists to go around.   Faculty who identify themselves as “radical” or “far left” are out-numbered by those who identify as “liberal” or “middle-of-the-road,”  but there are very few who say they are “conservative” or “far right.”  Moreover, the most noticeable recent trends are toward the left.  Finally, if anyone thinks that as the generation of the late 1960s who infiltrated colleges and universities thereafter retires, things in Academe will improve, the latest figures on younger faculty’s political leanings don’t offer much hope.

We should be suspicious of self-identifications – given the tendency for poll and survey respondents to fudge what they tell strangers – but, based on personal observations over 50 years, I’m reasonably satisfied the data above are close to the mark.

Again, based on personal observation, I doubt many faculty or administrators would approve of the storm-trooper-type tactics displayed on university campuses, but those outbursts keep happening.  Why?

There are many explanations for Academe’s left-leaning proclivities, such as the one that claims academics are sensitive types who naturally favor progressive change, or it’s self-selection on the part of those young folks already inclined to the left, and therefore attracted to careers in the groves of Academe.   Young conservatives, on the other hand, are allegedly either put off by Academe’s already existing leftism or drawn by the quest for riches into the world of business and industry.

If academics are prone toward sensitivity and everything that allegedly entails, why were faculty likely to lean rightward prior to the Progressive Era or the New Deal?  One should not generalize from personal experience, but as I think back to my youth – aw, let me dream! – I don’t recall knowing what my political orientation was, let alone what I wanted to do when I grew up.  Ask the average teenager today, and see if he/she knows these things.

There is a simpler, but ultimately more apt, explanation for the kind of fanaticism displayed by a minority of college and university students, faculty, and administrators these days.  It builds on Edmund Burke’s adage that “[t]he only thing that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] do nothing.”

Just as “squishy liberals” stood by while Political Science’s squeaky wheel got greased, “squishy” moderates and liberals in Academe have all-too-often allowed evil to triumph.

This explanation needs elaboration.  There is a well-known tendency for centrists, and even moderate-leftists, to be relatively docile while extremists – on both ends – are inclined toward vocal expression of their complaints.  Since there are so few far rightists in Academe, anything they might do tends to “stay in the closet.”  Since those on the far left in Academe don’t have far to look for “birds of a feather,” they feel safe in acting out their discontents.

Voila!  Along come the media to publicize these outrages, and very soon, more-or-less in copy-cat fashion, we’re off-and-running.  One Gestapo- or KGB-type outburst on and/or around a campus is followed by another, and so on.

Until the moderates and moderate-liberals get some sand in their craw, don’t expect things to change.

Richard Winchester is the pen name of a political scientist.

The condition of American universities is well known to any astute observer:  they are centers of left-wing, anti-American, indoctrination.  Once-upon-a-time, universities enabled many students to broaden their perspectives on themselves and the world.  Today, they all-too-often allow students to revel in their tribal identities, and try to ensure that the snowflakes have access to safe spaces, coloring books, and puppies, so they can ignore unpleasant information. 

Universities give political correctness an entirely new, and dangerous, meaning.  Many administrators, faculty, and students can abide no criticism.  They say that they value diversity above all, but they are so intolerant of differing viewpoints that they are hot-houses of authoritarianism.   Some universities have been havens for violent left-wing extremists such as Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Kathy Boudin, and Angela Davis.  Almost every year an academic says or writes something that leaves one feeling he or she is from another planet. 

A key question is: how did American colleges and universities get this way?   Decades ago, they were the envy of the world.

As someone who labored in Academe’s vineyards for over fifty years, I hanker for an answer to what happened.  Pardon any hubris, but my sojourn from under-graduate to graduate student to professor at a major research university (R1) may provide some of the insight needed for an answer.  Some reasons for Academe’s contemporary plight have begun to emerge.

A sidebar sets the context for what will follow.  One discipline’s recent history provides useful insights into the experience of higher education generally over the last half-century or more.  That discipline, of which I’ve been a member since the mid-1960s, is Political Science.

Just before 2000, a new movement emerged in Political Science that objected to the discipline’s dominant theoretical, and especially methodological, frameworks.  The specifics are unimportant, since the same pattern has happened in most disciplines.  This movement also sought significant organizational changes, especially in the discipline’s flagship publications.  Although there was initial resistance, one wag correctly predicted that the new “revolution” – as it called itself – would prosper because, as he put it, the discipline’s leading figures were “squishy liberals,” who would be unable to withstand challenges from the downtrodden.

Within a decade, the new movement had succeeded, almost precisely for the reason(s) the wag mentioned.

Many of the dynamics responsible for change in Political Science also were at work in higher education generally over the last half-century or so.  The “revolution” did not entirely supplant Political Science’s pre-existing paradigm, and that may provide another lesson we must heed if we are to ease Academe’s current travails. 

First, a few facts, most of which are already known.  Over the years, researchers have demonstrated that academicians decisively lean to the left.  Moreover, probably because of the entry of more women – who are overwhelmingly feminists – and minorities into Academe, the academy has shifted leftward since the 1970s and 1980s.  Some disciplines, especially in the humanities and the social sciences, are more inhabited by leftists than others, but even the STEM disciplines have shifted leftward recently.

Many administrators are also on the Left, as the recent statements by Middlebury College’s president just before a claque of screaming thugs refused to let Charles Murray speak, illustrate.

Remember that Janet Napolitano is president of California’s major institution of higher education.  Fortunately, not every college and university administrator is a far leftist.  We don’t see or hear of them in the media, and there’s the pity.

Delve more deeply into the data on higher education, and the figures become slightly more nuanced.  Leftists, for example, are more concentrated in small liberal arts colleges, not so much in major research institutions.  Still, there are enough left-leaning faculty in the R1s to be worrisome.  Those who toil in two-year community colleges are least likely to be leftists, but even there one finds enough far leftists to go around.   Faculty who identify themselves as “radical” or “far left” are out-numbered by those who identify as “liberal” or “middle-of-the-road,”  but there are very few who say they are “conservative” or “far right.”  Moreover, the most noticeable recent trends are toward the left.  Finally, if anyone thinks that as the generation of the late 1960s who infiltrated colleges and universities thereafter retires, things in Academe will improve, the latest figures on younger faculty’s political leanings don’t offer much hope.

We should be suspicious of self-identifications – given the tendency for poll and survey respondents to fudge what they tell strangers – but, based on personal observations over 50 years, I’m reasonably satisfied the data above are close to the mark.

Again, based on personal observation, I doubt many faculty or administrators would approve of the storm-trooper-type tactics displayed on university campuses, but those outbursts keep happening.  Why?

There are many explanations for Academe’s left-leaning proclivities, such as the one that claims academics are sensitive types who naturally favor progressive change, or it’s self-selection on the part of those young folks already inclined to the left, and therefore attracted to careers in the groves of Academe.   Young conservatives, on the other hand, are allegedly either put off by Academe’s already existing leftism or drawn by the quest for riches into the world of business and industry.

If academics are prone toward sensitivity and everything that allegedly entails, why were faculty likely to lean rightward prior to the Progressive Era or the New Deal?  One should not generalize from personal experience, but as I think back to my youth – aw, let me dream! – I don’t recall knowing what my political orientation was, let alone what I wanted to do when I grew up.  Ask the average teenager today, and see if he/she knows these things.

There is a simpler, but ultimately more apt, explanation for the kind of fanaticism displayed by a minority of college and university students, faculty, and administrators these days.  It builds on Edmund Burke’s adage that “[t]he only thing that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] do nothing.”

Just as “squishy liberals” stood by while Political Science’s squeaky wheel got greased, “squishy” moderates and liberals in Academe have all-too-often allowed evil to triumph.

This explanation needs elaboration.  There is a well-known tendency for centrists, and even moderate-leftists, to be relatively docile while extremists – on both ends – are inclined toward vocal expression of their complaints.  Since there are so few far rightists in Academe, anything they might do tends to “stay in the closet.”  Since those on the far left in Academe don’t have far to look for “birds of a feather,” they feel safe in acting out their discontents.

Voila!  Along come the media to publicize these outrages, and very soon, more-or-less in copy-cat fashion, we’re off-and-running.  One Gestapo- or KGB-type outburst on and/or around a campus is followed by another, and so on.

Until the moderates and moderate-liberals get some sand in their craw, don’t expect things to change.

Richard Winchester is the pen name of a political scientist.



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