By Dr. Paul Kengor
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Of all the reasons why America voted the way it did on November 4, one factor stands out: young people and first-time voters turned out and voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama.
Richard Rorty (1931-2007) taught philosophy at Wellesley, Princeton, Virginia and Stanford.
MSNBC's exit polling, which is consistent with other exit polling, showed that voters aged 18-29, who made up nearly one in five voters -- or about 25 million ballots -- went for Obama by more than two to one: 66 to 32 percent. Those voters alone well exceeded Obama's overall popular vote advantage, which was roughly eight million. Likewise, 11 percent of voters were first-time voters, and they went for Obama at an even higher rate: 69 to 30 percent. Single (unmarried) voters, which constituted one in three voters, went for Obama 65 to 33 percent.
While these categories are not monolithic, and overlap, they capture the current generation of college students, who clearly went bonkers for Barack Obama. Why? What are they learning -- and not learning?
These youth live and learn on college campuses where "diversity" and "tolerance" and "multiculturalism" -- bogus buzzwords that apply only to ethnic, gender, and sexual diversity, not genuine diversity of ideas -- reign supreme. Racial diversity is at the crux of this academic trinity, the source and summit of the faith. It is the molten, golden calf, where much of the intelligentsia and their disciples gather to worship. Political correctness has supplanted traditional religion.
Thus, when the university community was presented with Barack Obama, a charismatic, impressive, seemingly excellent Democratic presidential candidate -- who happened to be African-American -- the reaction was nearly reverential, bordering on idolatry. The good senator's bracing radical associations -- enough to deny any other American a security clearance -- and which were not coincidental to a man ranked the most leftist member of the most leftist Senate in U.S. history, didn't matter to the academic world. Quite the contrary, those who dared to point out these associations -- FoxNews, talk-radio, the McCain-Palin ticket -- were deemed loathsome Neanderthals deserving of being burned in effigy from the nearest dorm.
That brings me to another factor in this milieu: McCain-Palin. Neither John McCain nor Sarah Palin resonated with this gang. Given the prevailing orthodoxy in the academic asylum, John McCain's moving personal narrative of military valor had little impact on the college crowd. That McCain was tortured by communists for six years didn't matter much to these people -- the same individuals who endeavor to boot ROTC from their campuses. And as for Sarah Palin, she represented the worst of pariahs at the faculty club: an evangelical so consistently, comically pro-life that she chose to do what 90 percent of women don't do when they're informed of a prenatally diagnosed Down syndrome child -- she delivered the baby. The feminine Palin is seen as an ideological ogre -- an eagerly acceptable target for a torrent of bigotry by the open-minded professoriate and its acolytes.
This is the atmosphere in which these young people are being educated. That's what they're learning. Equally crucial to this election, however, is what college students are not learning.
As I noted earlier, Americans don't care about Barack Obama's radical past, including his links to the likes of Bill Ayers, Frank Marshall Davis, and Saul Alinsky, because of the failure of our educational system to teach the lessons of the Cold War and horrors of communism. This is especially true of higher education, where the leftist worldview is so extreme and so upside down that America's professors share a hearty contempt not for communism but for anti-communism.
Think about this: The current generation of college students was born after the fall of the Berlin Wall. These modern products of elite education are not Reagan babies. They were not inspired by the Westminster Address of June 1982, by the Evil Empire speech of March 1983, by Reagan meeting with Pope John Paul II to topple communism in Eastern Europe throughout the 1980s, or by Reagan in front of the Brandenburg Gate in 1987, demanding that Mikhail Gorbachev tear down that cement tombstone to human freedom. No, today's freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, who voted for the first time on November 4, 2008, were born after these historic events. They've received their education on communism from their professors, which means they've received either no education at all on the unparalleled slaughter formally known as Marxism-Leninism, or, to the contrary, they've heard only dark, dire lectures about the malevolence of anti-communism -- of McCarthyism.
A deliciously fitting -- albeit depressing -- symbol of this came at the very moment that Obama's coronation was announced by the networks. A FoxNews camera-crew was outside the White House, where a contingent of hysterical students from George Washington University hopped up and down in sheer ecstasy. This was a most appropriate image, in light of the fact that it was such voters who delivered the presidency to Obama. I was struck, however, by the conspicuous presence of a beaming student wearing a red t-shirt with a giant Soviet hammer and sickle. No doubt, the young revolutionary was thrilling at the spectacle, awe-struck amid this sea of what his mentor, Vladimir Lenin, considered "useful idiots" -- i.e., naïve liberals incapable of realizing when they are supporting the communists' intentions.
Ironically, the dupes of, say, the 1950s, would have recognized the young Bolshevik for who he was, but I seriously doubt that the typical student in that crowd had any idea of the true loyalties of their comrade, or sensed that they were celebrating arm-in-arm with a Marxist: Hammer-and-sickle? What's that?
What's more, I would bet $100 that if some disgruntled conservative within the throng yelled out, "Hey, that guy is a communist!" one of the well-trained university brethren would have quickly denounced the conservative -- the anti-communist -- as the real villain in the mix. They have been carefully trained to view Joe McCarthy as more insidious than Joe Stalin.
This is an abbreviated way of explaining why Barack Obama's communist connections didn't matter in this election, and how the Ivory Tower paved the road to victory. We won the Cold War but seem to have lost the long-term, crucial ideological struggle at home. We lost not on the battlefield but in the classroom. On November 4, it finally came back to bite us, and at a time (economically and politically) that couldn't be worse.
Finally, I should add that I've received emails in the last couple of weeks from distraught conservative parents saddened to learn that their college-student children voted for Obama. They shouldn't be surprised; sadly, these parents have unwittingly paid for precisely this. In the vast majority of the nation's colleges, this is what their children are learning at a cost of the parents' lifetime savings. I'm reminded of the statement from the late atheist philosopher Richard Rorty, who said that the job of professors like him was "to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own" and "escape the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents."
This has been the personal mission of many professors for decades now -- in flagrant violation of the scandalously fraudulent mission statements of the colleges where they teach. They've been enormously successful. The left's gradual takeover of academia is complete -- the Long March a stunning success. Behold: the presidency of the United States of America.
The fruits of the left's dogged work were on display on November 4, 2008. And now, alas, to paraphrase the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, America's chickens have come home to roost.
- Paul Kengor is author of God and George W. Bush (HarperCollins, 2004), professor of political science, and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).