Really Unimpressed

Earlier we wrote that we were unimpressed by Ron Kind’s vote against Nancy Pelosi as he called for new leadership for House Democrats.  We hadn’t seen who he voted for.  Several members voted present but Kind voted for John Lewis.  As far as new leadership it is a poor signal since John is a month (and a bit) older than Nancy.  Both John and Nancy have been members of Congress since 1987.

Ron’s call for new leadership falls flat.  We hope he takes it seriously because both parties could use it.  We are really unimpressed but still hopeful.

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Unimpressed

Our local Democrat Congress Critter, Ron Kind, voted against Nancy Pelosi in the Speaker of the House race.  Of course, Nancy won.  Ron’s office said:

“My first priority has always been standing up for Wisconsin, and the values that Wisconsinites hold. I thank Nancy Pelosi for her years of service to the House of Representatives and the Democratic Party, but I believe it is time for new leadership that moves Wisconsin — and America — forward,”

Ron might be trying to signal that he is not with Nancy and the Democrats as they lurch leftward.  There are two problems with his signal.  First, it is a meaningless vote because Nancy was going to win anyways.  Second, he offers no alternative other than to quote the Wisconsin Motto, forward.  It looks like signals without meaning.  We await the serious stuff to see what Ron will do.

Sober Democrats

George Will is looking for a sober Democrat.  We think it would be somebody he could disagree on most policy issues but still vote for in 2020.  Showing the difficulty of George’s search, the 44th President was in the news recently:

The former U.S. President said during a talk at the Obama Foundation summit in Chicago that world leaders must solve problems around climate change, education, agriculture, among others, which according to him are not as hard to deal with as they may seem. As reported by the Daily Mail, [the 44th President] didn’t mention [The Donald] by name, but he did say that the world “badly needs remaking” and that “the reason we don’t do it is because we are still confused, blind, shrouded with hate, anger, racism, mommy issues.”

The joy of being a progressive is that you can attack The Donald and the press will say perhaps it was an attack on … well, it might be somebody else.  So the immediate past president would have a hard time making the list of sober Democrats.  George has identified John Delany, an entrepreneur and a Congressman from Maryland, as a reasonable choice for the Democrat presidential nomination in 2020.  He is, as George demonstrates, a progressive:

He checks various boxes that might mollify all but the most fastidious progressives: He likes early-childhood education, a carbon tax, a $15 minimum wage, and extending the Social Security tax to higher incomes. He dislikes the NRA, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, high interest rates on student loans, and “outrageous” drug prices. He would achieve “universal” health care by offering Medicaid for all, and for those who choose to opt for private programs, as he thinks most people would, there would be federal subsidies for those who need them.

The only point of possible agreement for us in that list is the carbon tax.  We are willing to support a carbon tax at a reasonable level that replaces the gas tax.  It is not much to keep a conservative interested but, according to George, he is pleasingly adult compared to the candidates from the Senate.  George is right but it is an exceeding low bar to clear to be declared adult compared to Cory and Kamala.  George says the Democrats could do much worse and probably will.  We agree with him that it helps The Donald.  We would like to see a sober Democrat leader again in our lifetime but it doesn’t look good.  It is too bad because there is an opening for sober leaders.

Culture Trying To Change Reality

The press, media, writers, and video makers of all kinds try to distort our reality.  There are two problems with this.  First, the majority runs left and it is a distraction if not an influence on all of us.  Two, if you choose to do so in this fractured world, you can limit your exposure to a very limited area.  We were reminded of this as we started Sue Grafton’s novel W Is For Wasted.  Here is Sue on page three:

This was October 7, 1988 ,and it looked like things were as bad as they were ever going to get.

So we are thinking it is tough times for Sue’s anti-hero Kinsey because this is about as good as things have ever been at the end of Reagan’s second term.  We looked it up to check.  Real economic growth in each of the last four quarters was over four percent.  The Cold War wasn’t over but Reagan had made his Tear Down This Wall speech.  Sure the price of stamps had gone up but otherwise it was as close as we will ever see to perfect on the national level.  Instead, Sue was worried about the deficit, unemployment, and stamp prices.  We’re not sure why Sue mentioned unemployment of 5.5% as an item indicating it was as bad as it gets.  It had come down from double digits in the beginning of the decade (here are annual rates) so unemployment reduction was another positive part of the Reagan Revolution.

For a conservative it is hard, but not impossible, to avoid the left because they are numerous, outspoken, and love to generalize.  We are not starting our novel: It was December 2012 and it looked like things were as bad as they were ever going to get.  It does remind us that we should work on that novel and to try to be a little more subtle than Sue was.

The problem is finding a solution.  Our novel won’t do it.  Posting political stuff on FaceBook does more harm than good.  A check to the National Review might help and don’t be afraid of the left in print, film, or in person.

 

That Strange Tribe

Mark Sherman of the Associated Press was on the front page of the local paper with an unmarked opinion piece on the outcome of Brett on the Supreme Court.  As we and many others have noticed progressives like Mark approach conservatives like they have never met one.  Whatever the reason, Mark’s discussion seems very odd to a conservative because it is not how we think.

Sidebar: Deciding who is a “true” conservative is a difficult task.  Yes, we are aware of the no true Scotsman problem and that conservative are a small part of the big Republican tent.  We think the critical demarcation for conservatives is process.  To oversimplify, conservatives think about process while progressives think about outcomes.  End Sidebar.

We know it is a long quote but here are Mark’s first three paragraphs:

The moment conservatives have dreamed about for decades has arrived with Brett Kavanaugh joining the Supreme Court. But with it comes the shadow of a bitter confirmation fight that is likely to hang over the court as it takes on divisive issues, especially those dealing with politics and women’s rights.

With Kavanaugh taking the place of the more moderate Anthony Kennedy, conservatives should have a working majority of five justices to restrict abortion rights, limit the use of race in college admissions and rein in federal regulators.

The newly constituted court also might broaden gun rights, further relax campaign finance laws and halt the expansion of the rights of LGBT people, who three years ago won the right to marry nationwide with Kennedy in the majority.

Mark has a whole list of outcomes that he is concerned about.  For most of the rest of the article he tries to convince the majority that to use the majority would erode the court’s legitimacy.  We read that part so you don’t need to.

Conservatives are happy because there appears to be an originalist Supreme Court majority.  That majority may lead to some outcomes that conservatives prefer as well as some they don’t.  It will be interesting to see if the progressives continue to vote as a block or will  try to influences outcomes by being part of the majority.  Legal scholarship is not our area but we expect less predictable patterns from the new court.  Perhaps when we have an unhappy outcome we can commiserate with a progressive like Mark.

Research Basics

After we commented on Cass Sunstein’s article about The Problem Of All Those Liberal Professors we recognized that we failed one of the standards of archival research.  You should aways check the original document(s).  The original document that Cass referred to is: Homogenous: The Political Affiliation of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty by Mitchell Langbert.  It was posted on the National Association of Scholars (NAS) website.  NAS is:

[A] network of scholars and citizens united by our commitment to academic freedom, disinterested scholarship, and excellence in American higher education. Membership in NAS is open to all who share our commitment to these broad principles. We publish a journal and have state and regional affiliates.

Yup, that basically makes them conservatives. It is not a surprise that Mitchell’s article showed up at NAS.  Other outlets might not be interested.

We were concerned that Cass understated the impact of the lack of conservatives on faculty because the faculty run the place.  They set the curriculum and the related courses.  They determine the research standards.  They hire (sometimes with a little help) administrators.  Most administrators were former faculty.  These administrators set accreditation standards.  In short, faculty run the place although not all faculty are equally involved in such activities.

So let’s see what Mitchell said about the impact of the lack of ideological balance in colleges and universities:

So pervasive is the lack of balance in academia that more than 1,000 professors and graduate students have started Heterodox Academy, an organization committed to increasing “viewpoint diversity” in higher education.4The end result is that objective science becomes problematic, and where research is problematic, teaching is more so. [Site added]

To an academic it is reasonable to include curriculum development in teaching but we don’t think that the general public does.  We think it is important to understand that faculty have somewhere between an extensive to exclusive say about what classes are taught and how, what research is acceptable, what outside speakers come to campus, and almost everything else that happens on campus.

Mitchell notes that West Point and Annapolis are two outliers in that they are more balanced that almost all the other schools.  We took a look at the history curriculum for Annapolis (US Naval Academy) and a local school that we have access to.  It should give you a feel for the differences between a school with balance (Annapolis) and one without balance.

Examples of history themes from the US Naval Academy:

Examples of topics include piracy, the development of national identities and the growth of capitalism.

Sidebar: We really, really want to take the course on the history of pirates.  Especially on International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  End Sidebar

Here are some selected history course titles from a regional state school (yes we are aware that Mitchell was surveying Liberal Arts schools):

Women in the Modern United States: 1890-Present

History of Motherhood in the United States

U.S. Reform Movements

You can check the sites and see if you agree with us that the curriculums are very different.  Even when the titles are similar, Peace and War versus History of The Technology of Peace And War, we are willing to wager that the courses are very different.  Mitchell recognizes the connection of balance to research.  Without approved research a faculty member is highly unlikely to earn tenure.  If Military History is not part of the curriculum then military historians need not apply.  Too bad Victor Davis Hanson.  But the impact of the lack of balance is even more.  It is what happens in the classroom.  But it is also the classes that get taught, the speakers that come to campus, and the other services offered by the university.

Cass and Mitchell are right to identify the problem.  It is just bigger than they think.  It has an impact on every student in every major in every way.

 

 

Academia And Politics

We know that the the vast majority of college professors are on the left.  Cass R. Sunstein, who at various times in his career has been a professor, is discussing a recent survey of faculty:

A few months ago, Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College, published a study of the political affiliations of faculty members at 51 of the 66 liberal-arts colleges ranked highest by U.S. News in 2017.

Of course, it comes up with the expected results that almost everyone, everywhere is a Democrat.  Cass says they don’t really mean it:

Such discrimination might take the form of unconscious devaluation of people whose views do not fit with the dominant perspective. For example, young historians who cast Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in a terrible light might not get a lot of job offers.

And says it only matters sometimes:

It is true that in some fields, political affiliations do not matter. In chemistry, math, physics and engineering, students should not care about the party affiliations of their professors. Sure, it’s conceivable that Democratic chemistry professors want to hire fellow Democrats. But that would be surprising. In all likelihood, they are looking for good chemistry professors.

He is wrong on both counts.  What is disappointing is that he has been in academia but did not seem to pay attention to the influence of faculty.

They, the folks on the left, mean it.  They set up curriculum, e.g., Woman’s Studies, and courses, e.g., Women and The US Economy, to attract fellow travelers.  Research works the same way as they create outlets for these areas.  Accreditation and hiring senior administrators happens in a similar manner.

Political affiliation matters in every field for at least three reasons.  First, folks on the left need the support of all faculty to create a leftist environment.  All faculty are involved in running the university.  Curriculum, courses, outside speakers, and senior administrators are largely to entirely selected by faculty.  Second, a big part of picking faculty is collegiality.  Of the folks that can do the job who do you want to spend the next twenty years with?  This is another way they do it on purpose.  Third, the scientists don’t just talk about science in classes.  Students should, as Cass says, be exposed to the joys of markets as well as market failure.  We commonly heard about the latter when scientists made research proposals at the university level.  We are certain that those comments made it to the classroom too.

We are glad that Cass recognizes that the political tilt of academia is a problem.  We wish he realized how serious it really is.