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May 13, 2005

Liberal Academia

How can it be that I was just accepted as a writer at one of the most staunchly, proudly, progressive magazines in the country, and yet my natural opinions routinely place me on the rightmost edge of my classes? It's really quite strange.

May 13, 2005 | Permalink

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I occasionally had to wonder that myself, not necessarily because I am always on the rightward edge of my classes but because I'm often smack dab in the center. Part of this has to do, I think, with the focus many college students have on world affairs. People more interested in foreign policy than domestic policy tend to quickly fall into either the neoconservative line-of-thought and end up far-right or head down the "screw-the-neocons-and-the-neoliberals" path and protest the Iraq War, the World Bank, and the IMF. There's more of the latter on campuses. And really, that's pretty much inevitable. If I decided tomorrow that I was more concerned about farmers in Guatemala than I am about workers in Toledo, I'd probably end up a lot more liberal.

Posted by: Matt Singer | May 13, 2005 3:22:01 PM

I just hope you don't help steer the American Prospect into the path to the dark side, as chosen by the New Republic.

Posted by: Mimir | May 13, 2005 4:19:53 PM

you go to school in california?

Posted by: praktike | May 13, 2005 4:37:10 PM

You're pretty righty for a lefty, Ezra. At least thats the sense over time. Whatever, it doesn't matter.

Posted by: Sandals | May 13, 2005 4:50:40 PM

Yeah, it was the whole going to school in Cally thing. I am pretty sure that at oh, say, Texas A&M you would have been the pinko commie.

Posted by: Grotesqueticle | May 13, 2005 5:08:43 PM

uh...maybe it's because you're a white guy with access to a great college education and are already set for a good job after graduation? All those privileges do WONDERS for one's view of powerful institutions and the status quo...

Posted by: anonymous | May 13, 2005 5:14:00 PM

oh, also, it's not exactly like the Prospect is the People's Weekly World or something -- it's not even the Nation, after all, much less In These Times or Z magazine. It's very, very mainstream electoral politics. The craziness of the rightwing makes for a real 'popular front' on the left, but there's plenty of things more 'progressive' than a magazine which bashes Noam Chomsky on its cover.

Posted by: anonymous again | May 13, 2005 5:22:15 PM

I keep seeing statements that your gen. is the most conservative since WWII.

Anybody have good studies/polls on the political attitudes of the under 30 (or under 25) folks, both college educated and not?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 13, 2005 5:24:41 PM

i have to agree with Sandals upstream. personally, i think its your very policy-wonkishness that places you where you are. the lefties(or at least the ones i know and am part of) are usually idealists, with not too much concern for the feasibility of solutions, much less the long term repurcussions thereof. i too am prone to flights of fantasy wrt leftism, such as it exists anyway but this is what makes me a chronically depressed lefty.

Posted by: almostinfamous | May 13, 2005 6:12:48 PM

Ezra, from the other side of the political science classroom, let me offer the following speculation--you're not the "right edge" of the political spectrum of your classes. There are a host of students to your right, but if they're not young Republican activists, they're a lot more likely to be quiet in class.

Posted by: djw | May 13, 2005 7:19:25 PM

I do believe that the single-issue dopes on the liberal side are a lot more vocal than the more moderate people on campus anyways. If Berkeley has learned to settle down from its, ahem, glory days, I'm sure the left-wing presence on campus isn't that bad.

Posted by: ItAintEazy | May 13, 2005 9:48:47 PM

anonymous: true enough, but I'm dealing with other affluent white kids attending the same school, so that doesn't work here.

Posted by: Ezra | May 13, 2005 9:53:30 PM

a) You're at college. This almost always implies a heavy skew to the left.
b) There are a lot of loud, foolish people in the world.

Combine a and b to get what you see.

Posted by: Padraic | May 14, 2005 1:04:51 AM

Ezra--

UCLA worse than UCSC? Unlikely.

Posted by: Evan Branigan | May 14, 2005 2:03:29 AM

My two cents:

Jim Portland - thats purely anecdotal, right wing media creation. In fact, the youth vote this election was the best demographic for Kerry. You might assume that this is always true and that kids get more conservative as they age, but this isn't true in the US at least. Reagan, Bush sr won the under 30, and Bush jr. came fairly close in 2000 (not in 2004). Also, according to the Pew Poll's extensive break down of the 2004 election, liberals (one of the 9 categories of voters Pew identifies) is not only the largest of the 9 groups (at 19%), but has actually doubled in size since 1999.

I think the perception of the youth being conservative is largely a media-driven phenomenon: the result of the desperation of conservatives to seem hip with this whole "South Park Republican" thing, and also the media savvy of campus conservatives (who are often small minorities, in terms of their actual representativeness), but because they are committed, well-funded, and savvy, get more attention than the largely silent (liberal-leaning) majority.

I can tell you from experience - teaching undergraduates at Ohio State University and the University of Washington over the last 4 plus years - that the undergraduates at both of these institutions have surprised me with the degree to which they lean left. Not surprisingly, the University of Washington strikes me as much more liberal - last fall, I'd say the ratio of kids wearing Kerry stuff to those wearing Bush stuff was at least 10 to 1. At Ohio State, conservatives and conservative views were definetly more prominent (and I would assume more numerous), but nevertheless, the voting returns for the precincts with the dorms, fraternities, and off campus apartments - analyzed by the school paper right after the 2000 election - showed Gore won 60%+ of the vote, Bush about 30%, and Nader close to 10%.

Posted by: Ben P | May 14, 2005 2:48:26 AM

To make my point about the Pew survey more clearly, that doubling of the number of liberals has to - in large measure - come from people tuning into the political process for the first time, not from people changing their views at 40 or 50 (which very rarely happens, and usually only because of a major event like the Great Depression), suggesting that most of these new liberals are younger folks.

I think this is especially because of two reasons: first, because, of social and cultural issues, but also because young folks tend to me much more cynical and more media savvy than older folks, and thus much more likely to see through the kind of Rovian media show, Fox/CNN BS that older folks are more inclined to trust. Hence the Daily Show's popularity, for example. Bush's whole "strong leader" act - and politics and political spin more generally -is viewed with a much more jaundiced, cynical eye.

In general, this generation's youth tend to be libertarian and irreverent, which is not a good match for the kind of traditionalistic, authoritarian, moralistic brand of conservativism the GOP currently espouses. This is most definetly not a top-down generation, while the current GOP most definetly is. The only young people who strongly back the GOP tend to be evangelical Christians.

Posted by: Ben P | May 14, 2005 3:00:54 AM

I should add that there are two other groups who also tend to back the GOP amongst under 30s: the kind of know-nothing, Maxim-reading "American kick ass" types, who tend to not be heavily represented on university campuses or be especially politically engaged, but if they are, lean GOP. Also, there's a smattering of the obnoxious, head of the college GOP types, but they are very few in number.

Posted by: Ben P | May 14, 2005 3:07:35 AM

Ezra, it just shows you still have things to learn.

But, come down to LSU. You won't be anywhere near the rightmost edge.

Seriously, tt would be interesting to know more specifics: on which issues are you at odds with your classmates?

Posted by: Michael | May 14, 2005 4:05:53 AM

Ezra -- it's because you actually know something. The thing about liberals is, they're right. The socialists are wrong, and so are the conservatives.

Posted by: Kimmitt | May 14, 2005 7:24:45 PM

kimmitt, tell that to the europeans...

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