Discover more from PLURIBUS
E-Pluribus | August 30, 2022
The global influence of America's academic wokeism; are we really headed for civil war; and if everything is fascism, then nothing is.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Walter Russell Mead: Campus Wokeness Harms America Around the World
While social justice excesses on modern U.S. campuses primarily harm the students here at home, Walter Russell Mead contends in The Wall Street Journal that the damage extends beyond the borders of the campus and even of the country. If the U.S. is to maintain its global influence and leadership, it must continue to attract students from around the world, and wokeness isn’t a big selling point.
Attracting foreign students is more important than ever. American higher ed faces a difficult environment as the number of native-born 18-year-olds declines nationally and rising tuition leads more Americans to rethink the importance of a four-year academic degree. While top-tier American universities have little to fear, ever-rising tuition combined with a continued drift from traditional measures of merit and achievement is likely to reduce the attraction of an American college education for many families abroad even as American colleges grow more dependent on international students who pay full tuition.
Unfortunately for some schools, American-style wokeness holds little international appeal. Elite families overseas (and only elites around the world can afford American college tuition) can be surprisingly traditional. The idea of paying $80,000 to a second-tier American research university where your son decides that he is really your daughter isn’t as attractive to these parents as in a more utopian world it might be. Reports of declining academic standards at some institutions, or of the politicization of science at others, can be more damaging still.
The competitive threat is real. Seeing strong universities as a key to economic growth and seeing revenue from international students as a way to subsidize university growth (and reduce tuition costs for local students), governments around the world are investing in building increasingly competitive institutions. And they are marketing to reach international students. Australian, Canadian and British universities already offer lower tuition and high-quality instruction in English. It isn’t clear how long the Chinese government will allow hundreds of thousands of China’s best students to study overseas.
Read it all here.
Sarah Vowell: What’s With All the Fluff About a New Civil War, Anyway?
Perhaps as a way to emphasize her point, Sarah Vowell writes with a rather flippant tone at The New York Times about all the “new civil war” talk, which she considers silly. Vowell insists that despite our divisions, the U.S. is stuck with itself, so we should learn to live with our differences and work together instead of constantly threatening a breakup.
Recent polling on the growing support for secession echoes that 1850s-style tripartite political divide. Last year the University of Virginia Center for Politics issued an unnerving report in which 41 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans “somewhat agree” that red and blue states should secede from the Union and form separate countries. Eighteen percent of Democrats and 25 percent of Republican respondents “strongly agree.” Thus secession is one of those subjects where each party’s extremists are de facto allies, like forsaking the First Amendment or provoking every educator and librarian in America to resign.
[ . . . ]
Somewhere around 40 percent of us do not live in the state where we were born. The ability to move from one state to another is not only an essential freedom that Liz Cheney should definitely look into; it is also an economic imperative. How much of Florida’s economy is New Yorkers and Midwesterners waiting around to die? Moreover, interstate migration is a foundation of our arts and culture. Pittsburgh’s Billy Strayhorn wrote “Take the A Train” after following Duke Ellington’s subway directions to Harlem.
[ . . . ]
Full-blown wars tend to get bogged down in geography pretty quickly. The arc of George Washington’s command of the Continental Army can be told largely from the banks of rivers. A topographic map of Afghanistan now looks like a prophecy.
Yes, the 2020 Electoral College map gives the impression that there are still dependable, contiguous regions of this continent with natural or psychological boundaries akin to the Mason-Dixon Line of yore. But the county election results maps tell a messier story of who we are and where we live. More Californians than Texans voted for Donald Trump. And even Richmond isn’t Richmond anymore — now that the city removed all the Confederate monuments from Monument Avenue, it’s just a bunch of Joe Biden voters driving past a statue of the tennis star Arthur Ashe.
Here in Montana, a state as deep red as a Flathead cherry, I’m a Democrat living in a blue county bigger than Delaware. Still, Republicans live among us and they look just like people. (Hi, Larry.) It’s hard to pick them out unless they step in front of the C-SPAN camera to fist-bump Ted Cruz.
Read the whole thing.
Subscribe for FREE!
Henry Olsen: No, MAGA Republicans do not support ‘semi-fascism’
Pluribus has warned about the dangers of unrestrained hyperbole, and President Biden would do well to subscribe given his penchant for it. Henry Olsen says whatever the issues of Trump Republicans may be, fascism (even semi-) misses the mark by a mile.
President Biden’s claim that the MAGA philosophy is “semi-fascism” has understandably outraged Republicans. Biden is no stranger to fevered bloviation. The human gaffe machine frequently engages in rhetorical hyper-exaggeration. His calumny is nonetheless inaccurate and inflammatory.
Classic 20th-century fascism was a political philosophy that comprehensively denounced modern liberal democracy. Fascists believed that multiparty democracy weakened the nation, and that competitive capitalism was wasteful and exploitative. Their alternative was a one-party state that guided the economy through regulation and sector-based accords between labor and business.
[ . . . ]
There is a modern state that is distinctly fascist in ideology and organization: China. It’s ruled by a Communist Party, but that party has shifted its ideology to one that Italian fascist strongman Benito Mussolini — himself a onetime socialist — would admire.
Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China emphasizes its own national identity over an international fellowship of proletarians. Like European fascists, it justifies its aggression as merely attempts to recover lost territory: Taiwan and Hong Kong are the Chinese equivalents of the Sudetenland. The economy is nominally private but actually subject to strong state control and intervention. And China’s political system presents a clear ideological challenge to Western democracy, extolling a one-party “harmonious nation” over freedom’s cacophony. If there is to be Fourth Reich, its capital will be Beijing, not Mar-a-Lago.
Read it all.
Via the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry, the University of Michigan’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion-related staff now exceeds 125:
Wesley Yang highly recommends Lisa Selin Davis’s article at Common Sense from a few weeks ago on young girls and gender ideology:
And finally, New York cracks down on… whipped cream?