How do we explain the increasing radicalization of our country? How do we explain the decided shift left?
Writing in the year 2000, Roger Kimball noted that,
“The Age of Aquarius did not end when the last electric guitar was unplugged at Woodstock. It lives on in our values and habits, in our tastes, pleasures, and aspirations. It lives on especially in our educational and cultural institutions, and in the degraded pop culture that permeates our lives like a corrosive fog. . . . Although sometimes tempted to ignore it, we are living in the aftermath of a momentous social and moral assault.”
Kimball’s book was aptly titled The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America. Eight years later, in 2008, Kimball wrote Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education. How far has this corruptive process gone?
Writing for the Washington Post in 2016, Christopher Ingraham noted that,
“If you’ve spent time in a college or university any time in the past quarter-century you probably aren’t surprised to hear that professors have become strikingly more liberal. In 1990, according to survey data by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, 42 percent of professors identified as ‘liberal’ or ‘far-left.’ By 2014, that number had jumped to 60 percent.”
“In the academy, liberals now outnumber conservatives by roughly 5 to 1. Among the general public, on the other hand, conservatives are considerably more prevalent than liberals and have been for some time.”
That’s why Jon A. Shields penned an article for National Affairs in 2018 titled, “The Disappearing Conservative Professor.” Shockingly, he wrote,
“According to a recent  study on faculty party affiliation by the National Association of Scholars, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans at Williams College is 132:1; at Swarthmore it is 120:1; and at Bryn Mawr it is 72:0. At many of America’s best research universities, the ratios are only moderately better.”
As I noted in my 2022 book The Silencing of the Lambs, “A recent  survey by the Harvard Crimson found that conservatives make up just over 1% of the school’s faculty” (see here for more details.) The handwriting has been on the wall and this radical shift has long been predicted.
But not everyone saw things this coming.
Russell Jacoby, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, UCLA, admits that in the late 1980s,
“I argued that the conservatives should awake from their nightmare of radical scholars destroying America and relax; academic revolutionaries preoccupied themselves with their careers and perks. If they made waves, they were confined to the campus pool.”
Today he writes, “Only now do I see I got something wrong—as did my critics. . . . I missed something, the dawning takeover of the public sphere by campus denizens and lingo.”
Indeed, Jacoby’s December 19, 2022 article in The Tablet is titled, “The Takeover. Self-righteous professors have spawned self-righteous students and unleashed them into the public square.”
That is exactly what has happened and exactly what conservative intellectuals had feared.
Jacoby taught for years in one of the hotbeds of leftist radicalization, UCLA. And he says this of his generation, the generation of the 1960s:
“In pose we were much more radical than previous American intellectuals. We were the leftists, Maoists, Marxists, Third Worldists, anarchists, and protesters who regularly shut down the university in the name of the war in Vietnam or free speech or racial equality. Yet for all our university bashing, unlike earlier intellectuals, we never exited the campus. We settled in. We became graduate students, assistant professors and finally—a few of us—leading figures in academic disciplines.”
“Within 30 years, the timber and tone of faculties were refashioned. In the 1950s the number of public leftists teaching in American universities could be counted on two hands. By the 1980s, they filled airplanes and hotel conference rooms. In the 1980s a three-volume survey of the new Marxist scholarship appeared (The Left Academy: Marxist Scholarship on American Campuses, vol. 1-3). Endless new journals, each with their own followings, popped up, such as Studies on the Left, Radical Teacher, Radical America, Insurgent Sociologist, Radical Economists. In the coming years leaders of the main scholarly organizations like the Modern Language Association or American Sociological Association elected self-professed leftists.”
Now, go back to Kimball’s quote, cited at the beginning of this article.
Things unfolded just as he said.
But, Jacoby adds, the story becomes a bit more entangled, since universities were unable to place these graduating radicals into meaningful academic posts.
As a result,
“It is the exodus from the universities that explains what is happening in the larger culture. The leftists who would have vanished as assistant professors in conferences on narratology and gender fluidity or disappeared as law professors with unreadable essays on misogynist hegemony and intersectionality have been pushed out into the larger culture.”
“They staff the ballooning diversity and inclusion commissariats that assault us with vapid statements and inane programs couched in the language they learned in school. We are witnessing the invasion of the public square by the campus, an intrusion of academic terms and sensibilities that has leaped the ivy-covered walls aided by social media. The buzz words of the campus—diversity, inclusion, microaggression, power differential, white privilege, group safety—have become the buzz words in public life. Already confusing on campus, they become noxious off campus. ‘The slovenliness of our language,’ declared Orwell in his classic 1946 essay, ‘Politics and the English Language,’ makes it ‘easier for us to have foolish thoughts.’”
Now foolish thoughts rule the culture, exhibited most prominently in transgender ideology, resulting in phrases like “her penis” and “birthing persons” and “menstruating males.”
As Jacoby writes,
“When women are dropped from Planned Parenthood literature with the explanation, ‘It’s time to retire the terms ‘women’s health care’ and ‘a woman’s right to choose’ … these phrases erase the trans and non-binary people who have abortions.’ Or when the NARL (National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) announces it is replacing the phrase pregnant women with ‘birthing people’ and declares, ‘We use gender neutral language when talking about pregnancy, because it is not just cis-gender women who get pregnant’; we know those who authored these changes majored in gender studies and critical blather.”
Blather is a good way to describe this.
Worse still, as many of us have warned for years, those most loudly championing “diversity” and “inclusion” have become the leading opponents of free speech.
And so, Jacoby concludes, the students of these radical professors
“constitute an unmitigated disaster, intellectually and politically, as they enter the workforce. They might be the American version of the old Soviet apparatchiks, functionaries who carry out party policies. Intellectually, they fetishize buzz words (diversity, marginality, power differential, white privilege, group safety, hegemony, gender fluidity and the rest) that they plaster over everything.”
The results have been catastrophic, to say the least.
Jacoby’s article should be read in full, as my quotes here provide only a sampling of his insights.
But my hope for those who have mocked our concerns over the decades is very simple: Please listen to us now. We said these days were coming, the fruit of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, empowered especially by LGBTQ+ radicalism.
And we have said that things will only get worse unless we make a radical course correction.
Will you listen to us now?