Young. Conservative. Academic.
One of these things is not like the other! One of these things is not the same!
Only, not. I am all three. Conservative, an academic, and (still quite) young, and I’m here because I think it’s time for the rest of the movement to recognize the viability of the concept.
Being the Old Lady of TCC, I like to think I can offer some perspective as I flail around in the deep end of the age gap. I’m one of those career academics in pursuit of a piece of paper that will allow me to put a pretentious little “Esq.” after my name on my business cards. It’s enough, though; walking into the classroom is the 1% equivalent of stepping into the trenches. It changes who we are, how we think, and what we’re willing to do both as scholars and as conservative activists.
Thus, the point. It’s time for the Right to carve out a home for the conservative academic. Especially the young conservative academic. It’s not something that’s going to be easy; academics—young, old, whatever—approach things from a completely different direction. We evaluate things differently, ask different types of questions, and come up with different solutions; what I’m particularly interested in is the questioning/evaluation process.
I’m not the most popular kid on the conservative block; I’ve gotten into it with my conservative family more times than I can count, not because of my beliefs, but because of the questions I asked, and how I evaluated the event/scandal/penis tweet in question. I’d be willing to bet a few pitchers that I’m not the only TCC contributor who’s had this problem.
We as young conservative academics have trained ourselves to give everything the squinty-eyed once-over. It’s not that we don’t trust your investigation skills, or your judgment; conservatives in the classroom are attacked on a daily basis. Friendly professors are rare; intellectually honest liberal professors are even more rare. Getting caught with your pants down in a room full of hostile liberal minions who look to an equally-hostile liberal professor for the final call on an issue is a nightmare I’d never wish on any conservative—even the ones I disagree with. So, we’re careful. We scrutinize. We ask questions. We hone the issue down to the actual controversy because for the past four (or five or six or seven) years, we’ve been one misstep away from gleeful humiliation by the liberal horde.
Don’t take our caution personally.
As for me, I want to be used. Pick my brain. Learn from my experience. Exploit my tendency to question everything. Young conservatives are a wasted resource, a fact that was glaringly evident during the 2008 (and ensuing) campaigns. When I have the opportunity to interview candidates, the first question I ask is, “How do you plan on reaching out to young conservatives?” Most candidates don’t have an answer, which means they’re throwing away votes on account of pure laziness.
I don’t expect everyone on the right to suddenly get down with the hot new whatevers that are constantly puked out by the machine of American pop culture. I don’t demand that you don’t challenge me when I question your research or your tactics. I do ask, however, that you get it. Listen. Learn from me, like I’m constantly learning from you.
Confession: I love academia. It hasn’t always been good to me, which is another reason why the right needs to support young conservative academics: this s&*! is rough. I’m not talking about the coursework, either. To hell with the coursework. The coursework is child’s play to getting harassed and marginalized simply for not identifying with Barack Obama’s Sparkling Personality Cult. I’ve been called an idiot in front of a lecture hall full of people; I’ve been cut down by professors; I’ve had signage for events and speakers vandalized, simply because the event was sponsored by a more “conservative” organization.
Talk about #H8.
Moral of the story? Support young conservatives just as you would your peers. Don’t look at academia as a taint; instead, look at academia as a gauntlet…outspoken young conservatives who are willing to risk their reputations and rise above are worth listening to.
You might just learn something.
Amy Miller | Michigan State University College of Law | @amyvrwc