Campus protests and blatant attacks on free speech

The blatant attacks on free speech seen recently on college campuses pose a special challenge to Democrats and liberals. This, because the illiberalism inherent in the conjuring-up by campus progressives of things like “trigger warnings,” “microaggressions” and “safe spaces” is an outgrowth of the identity politics and victim culture that have been promoted by Democrats and liberals generally.

{mosads}Take, for instance, immigration and our changing racial demographics. In a demonstration of the most corrosive kind of stereotyping, Democratic strategists like Stanley Greenberg triumphantly wave the “demographics is destiny” meme like a sword. Whether there is any predictive value in Greenberg’s recent claim that racial minorities are “supporting Hillary Clinton by more than 2 to 1 in today’s polls,” how is it helpful to profile them as bloc voters, politically defined by their ethnicity?

Are not Hispanics, Asian-Americans and African-Americans interested in having for themselves and their families secure, middle-class lives? And if so, might not some, perhaps many of them, come to see the governmental nostrums promoted by Democrats as being inimical to their ambitions?

The demographics-is-destiny meme crosses into the preposterous in the hands of people like dyed-in-the-wool Democrat Chris Matthews, who recently questioned from his perch at MSNBC (where else?) whether Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, given their Cuban backgrounds, are “actually Hispanics.”

Consistent with this kind of race- and ethnic-baiting, the Iowa, Connecticut, Missouri, Georgia and Maine Democratic Parties have recently decided to drop the names of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from their decades-long Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinners. Because both men owned slaves (at a dismal time in our history when slavery was common), Democrats are purging the names of Jefferson and Jackson from any association with their party, no matter the former presidents’ contributions to American history — in Jefferson’s, case as the principal author of that small matter called the Declaration of Independence.

It’s a short distance from acts like these to the spectacles we’re witnessing at universities like Princeton, Yale, Missouri and Wesleyan, where groups of students, abetted by administrators and faculty members, push for such things as “sensitivity seminars” designed to alert (or shame) Caucasian students about their so-called “white privilege.”

Indeed, looking at the predominantly race and gender focus of much of the student activism — not to mention the amen chorus among administrators and faculty — one might infer that the people most in need of safe spaces at these institutions are white, male, heterosexual, and conservative or libertarian students who run the risk of censure, expulsion or grade deflation for alleged offenses arising out of their race, ideological affinities or gender.

If there’s any good news in all of this, it’s that campus progressives don’t speak for all Democrats or all liberals. Indeed, they don’t speak for the best of them, as shown in recent pieces on the subject written by people like Jonathan Chait and Nicholas Kristof, and in comments posted by the readers (if not the writers) of liberal publications like Vox.

Still, the campus challenge is great and growing, and will require a much more principled effort by liberals and Democrats if they are to rescue their party and their ideology from what Alan Dershowitz recently characterized, with perhaps no more than a skosh of hyperbole, as a descending “fog of fascism.”

Witness, for instance, the performance at Dartmouth of one Inge-Lise Ameer. Ameer is the vice provost for student affairs at the school who, following a Black Lives Matter protest in the school library that featured racist chants and harassment of white students studying there, apologized to the protesters for the negative responses and media coverage they received. Quoth Inge-Lise, “There’s a whole conservative world out there that’s not being very nice.”

Several days later, and after the protesters and Ameer herself received further critical media coverage, Inge-Lise apologized. As reported in the The Daily Caller: “In one of the meetings, I said something completely off-base regarding Americans with conservative political views. To my discredit, I suggested they are not nice people. For this, I offer an unequivocal apology.”

Conservative students should be forgiven if they find this apology to be unacceptable and far less telling about the competence, goodwill and political mindset of their vice provost than the fact that it occurred to her to utter this ugly slander in the first place.

Maines is president of the Media Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes free speech, sound communications policies and excellence in journalism. The views expressed are those of Maines alone.

Tags College free speech Higher education Hillary Clinton Marco Rubio Protest Ted Cruz University

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