Jonathan Chait

Why The GOP Lost Academia

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I've always wondered why conservatives think academia's hostility to the GOP reflects badly on academia rather than on them. Nils August Andresen at Frum Forum mulls:

Some on the right see in these numbers a brainwashing effort from “liberal elites” on Ivy League institutions, rather than a brain drain from the Republican Party. People like David Horowitz try to gather evidence of how liberals conspire against conservative professors and students. To me, these accusations seem not only often to lack any real evidence, but also to lack substantial explanatory power, even when correct. Even conservative professors find themselves surrounded by students who vote for the Democrats. Furthermore, while students have fled the Republican Party, they do not seem to have moved very far to the left. The Weathermen are long gone. Hippies, utopian Marxists, socialists, anarchists – groups that were prominent in the 1960s and 1970s – are marginal today. Rather, today’s best students identify as slightly to the left of center, policy-wise liberals who massively prefer the Democratic party. ...

Under Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, Republicans championed science and knowledge. But over the past 30 years, national Republicans have formed an intensifying alliance with religious conservatives more skeptical of science and knowledge. I don’t know whether discarding evolution goes against common sense; but I’m pretty sure it goes against most Ivy League-educated senses.

Also, Republicans propose a mix of policies that make no sense:

Educated people may also be extra-sensitive to policy positions that do not make logical sense. While individual elements of the Republican platform can make sense on their own,  the combination of demands to  reduce the deficit, plus increase Medicare spending, plus opposing reform meant to save costs, plus uncompromising insistence on tax cuts just does not add up. Granted, Democrats have also behaved irresponsibly in opposition. Still, I think it’s fair to say that over the past decade, the Republicans have convinced educated America that they are the less policy serious party.

I know it sounds blunt to say that Republicans have lost ground among young, well-educated voters because their platform makes no sense. But I think it's basically true. A really committed conservative ideologue can overlook that kind of incoherence, but it's going to repel someone who lacks any strong ideological or partisan attachment.

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