A Conservative in the Academy

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

If the common saying, “if you are young and not liberal, then you have no heart; but if you are old and not conservative, then you have no brain,” holds true, then why are our academies littered with aging Marxists and radical feminist professors? Indeed, how is it that aging citizens with growing assets and grandchildren to look out for seem all too eager to back harmful, big-government policies? Professor Ron Lipsman, author of Liberal Hearts and Conservative Brains: the Correlation between Age and Political Philosophy, argues that “typical traits or signature qualities” of liberal “overgrown adolescent[s]” include

1. He does not learn from his mistakes

2. He does not take responsibility for the consequences of his actions

3. He is prone to temper tantrums and fits of whining.

4. He thinks his ‘elders’ are stupid.

5. He behaves recklessly.

6. He is totally self-centered.

In his book, Lipsman finds these traits in political figures such as Jimmy Carter, Howard Dean, the “Peoples Republic of Maryland” Democrats, and Vietnam War protestors, arguing that each of these figures matches the above criteria. “The persistent insistence of liberals on labeling Republican presidents as stupid is a damning piece of evidence supporting my argument that liberals behave like overgrown adolescents,” the University of Maryland professor argues. He notes that liberals have historically labeled “stupid” not only the ideas of George W. Bush, but also Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and George W. H. Bush.

Those looking for hard facts, studies, or data to back up these assertions should look elsewhere, as the author openly states that the intent of the book is not to create “a weighty political tome, replete with cross references, annotations and data from statistical surveys.” “I prefer to present the book more in the style of a long op/ed [sic] piece rather than as an academic government and politics text,” he writes. Lipsman’s assertion that age and political philosophy have a small, positive relationship is largely forged by the force of his rhetoric, anecdotes, and fiery political analysis.

Academics, Lipsman argues, often get stuck in liberalism due to ignorance, inexperience, stubbornness, or self-interest. Less frequently they are liberals “whose political principles are born of [dispassionate] examination.” “My observation is that substantially less than half of the lifelong liberals that I’ve encountered have practiced examined liberalism in the way that I’ve described it,” he writes (emphasis original). “I don’t intend that this [ignorant] label should imply stupidity, only lack of exposure to ideas other than those found in the rigid liberal programming to which too many Americans are subjected,” writes Lipsman. He continues, “This occurs throughout the American public education system, from kindergarten up through high school, college, and graduate school.”

“After beating my head against the rocks for a decade…I decided that it wasn’t worth the anguish. I shut up,” he writes. “In effect, I cooperated in my own muzzling…With the publication of this book I have taken off the muzzle,” he continues.

The book intertwines three distinct narratives: an academic deconstruction of political ideology, a revision of history, and Lipsman’s personal experiences. The author evinces an uncanny ability to communicate the mores of both philosophies, such as in his description of the current political opposition to Bush. Liberals hate President Bush because “he has, through deceit and deception, led us into an unwinnable war of questionable legitimacy and spilled the blood of American youth in a worthless cause,” Lipsman writes. Conversely, conservatives abhor liberals because “they claim that the New York Times and CBS News are fair and balanced, but that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are biased.”

Perhaps the most valuable substance of the book lies with the personal vignettes included at the end of each chapter. “Instead of rage, shame and determination, I saw sorrow, disappointment and feeble attempts to ‘understand what happened and why,’” Lipsman writes of UMD’s response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. He recounts how the New York Times reinforced his early liberal biases, writing, “in any event I was a Times devotee for nearly a decade and a half.” “In all that time I don’t ever recall reading any story and thinking that it was slanted, biased, or other than totally objective…How could it be otherwise? The New York Times was as reliable as the Bible, probably more so,” he notes.

Lipsman proposes that conservatism is rooted deeply in American values. Although he admits in the final chapters that liberalism and conservatism are largely irreconcilable, he finds America strongly unified behind such values as patriotism, respect for law, devotion to family, and the veneration of education. These values, he argues, forge the background of an American society which is not predicated, like Poland, primarily on “having ancestors who lived in the same land.” “Being an American is, at the core, to be faithful to a political idea: the belief in human freedom, individual liberty under the rule of law, administered by a government whose powers include only those that the people grant to it,” Lipsman writes.

Bethany Stotts is a Staff Writer at Accuracy in Academia.