En Garde, Conservatives

Written by S. Rainsford

Conservatives do not take the offensive. It should be apparent why we don’t—we aren’t the offending type. I am sorry to say that this will be our undoing.

Students for Life at UNC Chapel Hill regularly tables in the public spaces on campus to give out information on local resources for pregnant mothers, and call students to think critically about the cause of children. As you might imagine, these sessions can cause a stir, inflaming passions with more unhinged members of the student body. I remember discussing the issue with a few students who had approached our table. They were a particularly diverse crew; composed of a young asian woman, a young black woman, and a (self-identified) gay white man. After a few minutes of engaging discussion, they interrupted the flow of conversation to remark loudly that their side had much more diversity than the volunteers at our table. My response should have been “Yes, and?” After all, neither your genetics nor your sexual ethics are of any consequence to this issue.

I didn’t say this, however. Instead I timidly responded “Well, my Ghanaian friend was supposed to be here just a bit ago, but she had an emergency come up.” This friend of mine is perhaps the most committed of the group, yet the response from this radical ensemble was “Ha! So you have a TOKEN black representative!” I was immediately very angry and confused; my friend certainly wasn’t a token, she wasn’t a box to be checked, she sincerely believed in the protection of the unborn. But the exceedingly silly notion of racial and sexual diversity providing intellectual superiority is so pervasive in our culture that, in the heat of the moment, my own subconscious bowed to it.

Ratio Christi, a philosophy and theology club of which I am a member, invited a popular street apologist and theologian to speak to students in the open-air “Free Speech Zone” on our campus. Discussion was generated, miscreants aroused, and a positive message of critical thinking was proposed. Then a young black student, without relating her name or even saying “hello”, approached my friend and me. She asked my friend if she was pro-life; the event wasn’t about the rights of the unborn, but without hesitation my friend responded in the affirmative. This individual then began spouting off all types of claims about racism, women’s rights, and the intersection of the two. 

My friend noted she was Latina, and that she had African-American friends who similarly agreed with her on many of these issues. In other words, the racial dichotomy this frenzied student was proposing was not as stringent as she’d like it to have been. The response? We must name these individuals. She demanded we name our friends and show us proof of their profiles on Instagram. I tried to divert the conversation, using the Socratic method to respectfully inquire into the presumptions she held. She called us a “lost cause” and strode away, shouting for us to read Angela Davis and “educate” ourselves. These interactions I have had are not isolated incidents—they are indicative of a pervasive attitude of anti-intellectualism present in our universities today.

I remember watching the footage released from the Nicole Hannah Jones affair at UNC. Jones is the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, an admittedly cynical and deeply anti-historical work which seeks to portray this nation as nothing but a continued expression of injustice and violence. During a closed meeting where the university trustees deliberated over whether to offer Jones a tenure position (after a 5-year contract had already been offered and accepted), several left leaning students broke into the building. They began shouting at the members gathered, insisting that offering Jones anything less than tenure was proof of institutional racism. Each of those students ought to have received academic discipline, and yet the trustees sat in silence as the security guards, outnumbered, pushed out the rabble-rousers. It was evident they were afraid to insist on decorum, afraid to resist against the subtly authoritarian majority which governs our schools and our nation.

It does not end with our universities however; local school boards are being affected in a similar manner. Parents who voice their concerns with school policy are cuffed and pulled away from meetings. Even when violence is perpetrated against our nation’s children, individual accountability is avoided through bureaucratic meddling, as can be seen from the horrific events in Loudoun County, Virginia. This pervasive upending of our society is not just limited to our educational institutions either. Details are emerging, but it is obvious to anyone cognizant of the subject that the Biden family’s criminal behavior has been protected by a cohort of leftist activists within the DOJ.

There have certainly been wins. The revitalization of originalism has borne much fruit, as is evidenced from the past few notable Supreme Court decisions. One can even consider the election of Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin in Virginia to be a public response to the ideologies that led to Loudoun County. I would note, however, that these are political wins. We seem to only lose ground when we consider our churches, schools, media, and the court of public opinion. Perhaps we are in this place because we have given the reins of the Conservative movement to the political scientists and lawyers, who are evidently trained to do battle in their respective fields but nowhere else. In contrast, our families, churches, and schools have cowered behind the safety of non-resistance.

To be abundantly clear, the failure of conservatism has been, at least in practice, to hyper-focus on issues of policy and legislation, whilst ignoring the ordering of non-governmental institutions within our society. It doesn’t seem to me that this is in any sense a historically conservative course of action. A latent defense of inaction within conservative and libertarian circles is that our system accounts for the headaches of disagreement, as we have a republic designed to preserve liberty from factional struggles (Federalist, no. 10). This assertion is weakened by the simple observation that factionalism itself is deteriorating. What are we to do if, instead of public debate, strict orthodoxy is achieved through a slow process of inculcation into our youth?

Conservatism seeks to cling to those eternal and irreplaceable principles which make life in a wider society worth living. These days however I rarely see Conservatives taking the offensive in creating bastions of  Conservative thought, or even attempting to re-establish footholds in places where Liberal and Marxist values have taken root. We are falling short in that we do not believe our values strongly enough to share them on the social stage, and to cover for this we absolve ourselves of the responsibility of doing so. Throughout all my 20 years, I have been told that any radical swings of thought among those in my generation are to be considered youthful follies, which wisdom and experience should serve to dissolve. As Churchill’s maxim put it, “Anyone who is not a liberal at 20 years of age has no heart, while anyone who is still a liberal at 40 has no head”. The emerging data is showing that this rule has been perilously weakened among Millennials and Generation Z, and may in fact disappear completely. 

Our government and our society is further deteriorating because of the encroachment of a new strain of left-leaning thought. I will leave the exposition of this virus to those who have dedicated their careers to analyzing these philosophies, but suffice to say, our most essential institutions, with the Constitution as supreme above all, are being trampled upon by a vicious ideology which rejects all rules and civility. The explicit instruction of the Constitution cannot itself be depended upon, society must insist upon a common decorum for the expectations and obligations from our government. Even in the early days of our nation’s founding, the preservation of the union was not an assured fact. It was only through mutual understanding between ideological parties, and the co-operative transfer of power, that a precedent was set forward for continued existence as a nation. Thus, in order to preserve liberty and Constitutional government, it is necessary to preserve a culture of liberty and virtue, not simply maintain the practice of a set of civil procedures.

It’s not as if Conservatives are inescapably outnumbered. I observed from afar the remarkable change in UNC’s own student government. Our student government has for the longest time been dominated by liberals – not just simply because there are many liberals at Chapel Hill (there are, although the degree to which they outstrip conservative students appears to be overstated) – but because our Conservative leaders had abandoned the cause. This was until the editor-in-chief of the Carolina Review started organizing conservative student representatives under what he termed the Carolina Coalition, and managed to secure a majority conservative representation at perhaps the most left-leaning university in the south.

With the graduation of its leader, the conservative majority at UNC has quickly fizzled out. Many of the student senators who came forward to serve did not fulfill the duties of their position, notably the attendance requirements of senatorial sessions, and were thus discharged. How could a position of strength have been so easily lost? Those senators who had been selected did not have the requisite commitment, nor were they provided continued leadership. I suggest that the Conservative movement stop entertaining the opposition’s callous rebellion to the system—and rise to the challenge of engagement. The left has, as self-described radicals, appointed themselves future tyrants of a brave new world. This should be taken into mind, not as a war cry to which we recoil, but as a public throw of the gauntlet, an indication that we as conservatives must strive forward, back into our institutions, back into the seats of the school board, and insist on the public discourse, and public knowledge, of Conservative thought and virtue. 

Else, I fear, all will be lost.

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