The conservative candidates in this election were especially weak, and one reason for that is that they are the product of American higher education, says Mark Bauerlein:
[T[hose politicians didn’t study any conservative thinkers in college. When they talk, they say nothing that suggests they have read much serious discourse on the right side of the spectrum from Burke to Charles Murray. Leftists have their nostrums down pat (against racism, sexism, imperialism, economic inequality . . .), and however dated and predictable those utterances are, liberal politicians stick to the point and press it again and again. Again, one reason is that they received ample helpings of liberalism in freshman English, history, any “studies course,” sociology, etc., reading some Marx, Foucault, Dewey, Malcolm X, a bit of feminism here and multiculturalism there. In school, those future conservative politicians likely rejected those texts, but they didn’t plunge into the other side’s corpus.
It shows in the absence of depth in so many Republican candidates. When you hear them speak, nothing in the tradition comes through—no Franklin on work ethic, Madison-Hamilton-Jay on power, Emerson on self-reliance, Hawthorne on Federal employment, Thoreau on Big Government, Booker T. Washington on individual responsibility, Willa Cather on the pioneer spirit, and Hayek on social engineering. This is a fatal deficiency, and it neglects one of the strengths of conservatism (superiority in the battle of ideas). Worse, when conservatives don’t have the tradition in their background, when they lose elections, they tend to look forward by examining their relationship to the electorate instead of their relationship to first principles and values. Conservative candidates don’t need more political calculation that competes with liberalism, but rather more intellectual heft that presents a better alternative to liberalism. [Minding the Campus, November 7]
Here is the good news: The Right doesn’t need to invent anything new to fix this problem. It already has many organizations and programs that do an excellent job of teaching the foundational principles of American self-government. These organizations and programs include the Acton Institute, the American Enterprise Institute’s Values & Capitalism initiative, the Ashbrook Center, the Cato Institute’s Cato University, the Center for Political and Economic Thought at Saint Vincent College, the Claremont Institute, the Federalist Society, the Fund for American Studies, The Heritage Foundation’s First Principles Initiative, Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, the Institute for Humane Studies, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and the John Jay Fellow Program.
Candidates of the future who truly want to defend and promote American liberty should get in touch with the organizations listed above, and conservatives who want to help develop future leaders should consider becoming supporters of all of those organizations listed above.