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E-Pluribus | August 18, 2023
Conservatism's threat from within; a victory over DEI in Arizona; and Donald Trump's "secret weapon."
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Kim Holmes: The Biggest Threat to Conservatism? The New Right.
Conservatism is often the underdog, prompting William F. Buckley to utter his famous line that a “conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” However, according to Kim Holmes at The Dispatch, this call to action is now most necessary within the conservative movement itself.
[The New Right wants] a big government of their own. Some even want to use “progressive” means to achieve conservative ends. They are jettisoning the traditions of limited government and economic freedom because they are no longer really conservatives in the American sense, but nationalists and statists dedicated to creating an alternative style of big government to achieve culturally conservative ends. They favor empowering and using government to ban socially liberal practices, rewarding supporters with federal aid and programs, punishing private individuals and companies with punitive legal and federal action, restricting free speech and expression with which they disagree, and supporting industrial and trade policies that increase the reach of federal power over the economy.
Will using rhetoric against capitalism that echoes Karl Marx create a winning formula? Will bemoaning “market fundamentalism” and supporting industrial and other economic policies that Elizabeth Warren favors create a conservative majority? Will embracing an anti-American foreign policy that sounds very much like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ilhan Omar bring about a conservative renaissance?
Of course not. It will only legitimize the very foundations of modern progressivism. For well more than 150 years progressives have wanted a powerful state to guarantee the “common good.” All that talk about liberty and personal responsibility was for chumps.
And so it is with the New Right: Supporters believe that freedom itself is the problem, that there is too much of it. They know that American conservatism was anchored in liberty, and so conservatism is problematic. Their biggest mistake is equating the liberty of limited government and economic freedom with the personal licentiousness of social liberalism.
They could not be more wrong. The problem with progressivism is not that it grants too much freedom, but too little. Is a judge or official forcing someone to take a public action against their religious conscience too much freedom? No, it is denying freedom.
Read it all.
J.D. Tuccille: Arizona's Public Universities Drop Controversial DEI Statements for Job Applicants
In a victory for free expression on college campuses, J.D. Tuccille reports at Reason that Arizona’s public universities will no longer press job applicants to provide DEI statements as part of the application process. Given the left-leaning bent of many universities, the DEI statements came to be seen as a way to weed out potential employees who didn’t conform to the status quo.
"The Arizona Board of Regents said Tuesday the state's public universities have dropped the use of diversity, equity and inclusion statements in job applications," Ray Stern of The Arizona Republic reported on August 8. "In statements to The Arizona Republic, spokespeople from the Board of Regents, which oversees the university system, and Arizona State University said that 'DEI statements' were 'never' required. However, examples of job postings shows this is not true."
[ . . . ]
DEI statements are controversial because they're widely seen as intended to screen out those not committed to progressive politics. "Vague or ideologically motivated DEI statement policies can too easily function as litmus tests for adherence to prevailing ideological views on DEI, penalize faculty for holding dissenting opinions on matters of public concern, and 'cast a pall of orthodoxy' over the campus," cautions the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.
For example, the University of California, Berkeley's DEI scoring "punishes any candidate who expresses a dislike for race-conscious policies," according to John Sailer of the National Association of Scholars. Western Oregon University looks for an explicit commitment to "advancing racial equity and eliminating systemic racism."
[ . . . ]
"The use of DEI statements has never been required by ABOR or Arizona public university policy but some university departments have requested statements in job postings," Sarah Harper, vice president of communications for the Arizona Board of Regents, told me by email. "After reviewing the Goldwater report, the Regents and the university presidents discussed ways to improve our human resource practices in this area and the presidents are taking steps to make those improvements."
"This is a huge victory for academic freedom and the First Amendment," Goldwater Institute President Victor Riches said as the organization took an earned victory lap. "The Goldwater Institute is continuing to show the nation how to defeat the destructive ideologies that are crippling colleges and universities."
Read it all here.
John K. Wilson: Donald Trump’s Attack on Academic Freedom
Donald Trump has been a loud, self-proclaimed “anti-woke” warrior, but his record is mixed on free expression and decentralization of authority. Drawing on a May Trump campaign video, John Wilson at Discourse Magazine writes about Trump’s intention to apparently attempt a federal takeover of the private accreditation system to help reshape campuses nationwide.
What will happen to higher education and intellectual freedom if Donald Trump is elected president again in 2024? Trump offered some answers in a May 2, 2023, campaign video, in which he outlined some of the most radical changes ever proposed for how colleges are regulated and controlled. He aims to use the federal government to totally transform higher education into a tool for the conservative movement. One suspects these radical government attacks on higher education are inspired by the work of Republican competitors in the states, most notably Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida. Regardless, no president has ever suggested a more widespread attack on academic freedom than what Trump is advocating.
In his campaign video, Trump declared, “Our secret weapon will be the college accreditation system.” He said, “When I return to the White House, I will fire the radical left accreditors that have allowed our colleges to become dominated by Marxist maniacs and lunatics.” The purpose of accreditation is to ensure that colleges meet the minimum quality standards necessary to provide an adequate education to students. But no accreditor should ever demand ideological purity tests or compel colleges to ban teachers of any political stripe, including Marxists. And no government should ever get to “fire” independent organizations, such as accrediting agencies, because they fail to control the ideas allowed on college campuses.
Not only did Trump announce that he would fire the current accreditors, but he promised to use the “weapon” of new accreditors to impose his own preferred views: “We will then accept applications for new accreditors who will impose real standards on colleges.”
One new Trump standard to be imposed on all colleges would be “defending the American tradition and Western civilization.” But universities should be places of open inquiry where all traditions and civilizations are scrutinized and critiqued. Government-imposed rules to “defend” certain views are anathema to academic freedom. Should college professors be forced to defend American traditions such as slavery and racism? Or does defending America require the denial of this history?
Read the whole thing.
Via Christopher Rufo, the American Psychological Association gets . . . creative:
And finally, FIRE’s Alex Morey on the real issue with DEI policies: