Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Vast left-wing conspiracy?

Those interested in the burgeoning intellectual and policy infrastructure on the Left will likely be interested in this Hudson Institute transcript, featuring NR’s Byron York and a couple of prominent players in the VLWC, as well as in a couple of Open Society Institute events they mention, one featuring former Olin Foundation head James Piereson and the other addressing the question of "how do progressives connect ideas to action". There’s a transcript for the former, but the latter consists at the moment of two MP3 files totaling over three hours. Perhaps Peter S. can listen to them while walking his dog; my son won’t let me anywhere near his iPod, unless it’s to download Weird Al for him.

In the meantime, content yourself with this, from the Hudson transcript, characterizing the OSI meeting:

I had a forum at the Open Society Institute yesterday, actually, with fifteen or twenty progressive leaders – Bill Moyers moderated.... One of the discussions
we got into among ourselves was the tensions on the progressive side between critique and celebration, as it were. And I think a problem for the left has been that very often we’re both caricatured as being only about critique, and also there’s some truth in that just as there is in almost any critique. And so our relationship with the Founders and the history of the country is somewhat different and more complex because it’s about the perfectibility of the American experiment. There is an understandable emphasis on our side with the shortcomings of the United States, and that’s a tough thing.

I don’t know that I would say that the progressives aren’t grounded enough in Founders. I think it is that they’re not, in recent years, grounded in any big ideas. I don’t know that that’s the dividing line I would choose. I think that there has been, for a variety of reasons, a kind of smallbore quality to a lot of thinking, and very few progressives – some are in this room, colleagues of mine – if you asked them about their historical or hilosophical influences or books that they are
reading or have read that had some influence on them, would have as much interesting to say as people on the right. Is that going to be an impediment to becoming the party of government again? I don’t know. But it’s something that bothers me a bit – and it’s a little bit of what I say with the audacity thing. I guess I should correct myself slightly to say that we have plenty of audacity. You can – and Horowitz has done this – find a million crazy ideas that left wing professors are touting. There isn’t a lack of audacious, crazy ideas. There has been quite a
disconnection, however, between the academy and the actual world of policy and politics on the progressive side, despite the fact that right thinks that the left controls the academy.

Why is there an apparent or alleged disconnect between the political left and the academic left? This joke doesn’t fully explain it:

But if you just take as a kind of device the Horowitz list of the
hundred most dangerous professors – or whatever it is, these people are supposed to be undermining America – if you look through that, if there is one of them in there who has ever had a contact with a Democratic officeholder other than standing outside in their driveway with a no-blood-for-oil sign, I’d be very surprised.

After all, there’s evidence that most professorial campaign contributions go to Democrats. Why don’t the ideas follow the money? Is the academic left too far out, too adversarial? Or is there a portion of the academic left (law professors, for example) whose ideas are so "mainstream" that they’re no longer regarded as "academic"?

Discussions - 4 Comments

The crazy lefty profs are there to brainwash and mobilize the ignorant college students...who VOTE. Later on, these children wake up and become far more moderate, but most remain staunchly Democrat (at least, I think so). Being ’progressive’ is a sentimental, romantic connection with their pasts (e.g., The Big Chill).

Their birthrates are down, but the universities are the incubators of the Left...they don’t need the womb...they have ours!

I don’t know how you guys can believe in an organized left-wing movement... if we’ve proved anything over the years, it’s that we can’t agree with each other about ANYthing.

Well since the left doesn’t control 100% of the academy, it won’t concede the right’s accusation of control, and as to the disconnect between the academy and policy/policy makers, certainly the central tendency of the political landscape is further to the right than the academy would prefer. This left wing response redounds to the comment regarding the perfectability of the American experiment and the left’s emphasis on crtiquing shortcomings--the left is not about to give credit where credit is due until all the stars have lined up to their benefit. To explain the joke of Horowitz’s 100 professors is to point out that the left believes that the 100 are just a bunch of crazy, audacious professors--not worth a moment of thought--and to metaphorically reject any "tip of the iceberg" assertions.

Because there is no money in basic virtuousity, and American politics runs on money.

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