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US culture

Ultra-liberal colleges are radicalising conservatives

Princeton: personal pronouns, please

Not so long ago, says Princeton student Adam Hoffman in The New York Times, the “Typical College Republican” idolised Ronald Reagan, fretted about the national debt and read Edmund Burke. For them, political sophistication implied nothing more radical than “belief in the status quo”. And even though universities have long “skewed liberal”, the conservatives of old were free to make their case – “and have their ideas respectfully challenged”. Politics, I’m told, was mostly separable from personal friendships. “How things have changed.” Instead of believing in the status quo, today’s campus conservatives increasingly embrace “scorched-earth politics”.

The reason is simple: “puritanically progressive” campuses demonise right-leaning students, which turns them into radicals. For young conservatives, used to the idea that personal views on niche areas of gender theory or history should be irrelevant to a person’s daily experience, life is suddenly “punctuated by political checkpoints”. Classes begin with declarations of “preferred pronouns” and “land acknowledgments”. A student who “jokes about the wrong subject” faces social punishment, or worse. And while progressives might think this intolerant culture would encourage free-thinking students to abandon their beliefs and conform, in reality it has the opposite effect. Young conservatives who spend their formative years in these conditions are more likely not only to double down on right-wing ideology, but also to distrust authority and become convinced that America’s “most august institutions” are “fundamentally broken”. The universities that once served as “moderating finishing schools” have become breeding grounds for conservative firebrands.