The recent unpleasantness at Princeton brought to mind Villanova professor Robert Maranto’s musing about the ideological tilt of academia, “As A Republican, I’m on the Fringe.” It’s a familiar story. There are far more liberals and Marxists in the professoriate than conservatives and libertarians, and the numbers get dramatic — reaching 20 to 1 — when you start to focus on the folks who study and teach about culture: sociology, anthropology, literature, and history.
This extraordinary Leftward tilt leads to a hiring bias evident to anyone who has participated in the high seriousness of the academic appointment process. Everybody wants to find somebody really smart to hire, and since only an idiot would vote for a Republican…. Well, you know how it ends. As Aristotle pointed out, like seeks like. It takes an great deal of intellectual and moral integrity to resist this tendency, and few professors possess enough of either.
But more interesting to me are the surprising consequences of the ideological bias of our universities. The bias has done a great deal to help staff the think tanks of the Right. Sinecures of academia unavailable, a conservative intellectual is practically forced to find a public voice. The same holds for students. A liberal student is on ideological welfare. The entire university is set up to support his or her causes. The conservatively-minded students must be entrepreneurial. If they don’t start their own organizations, then their positions go unheard.
Thus the law of unintended consequences. It seems rather obvious to me that the vibrant organizational and intellectual potency of contemporary conservatism is largely due to the transparent and relentless Leftism of the academy. Deny a podium to smart, motivated folks who hold positions consistently preferred by more than 50% of American voters, and they will find other outlets. And furthermore, removed from the relative insularity and softening wealth of the contemporary university, those same conservative intellectuals will need to be nimble, articulate, and energetic in order to survive.