Democrats and Republicans used to be able to agree on some things. Now, pretty much every policy issue, institution and cultural trend is seen through a partisan lens.
The latest evidence: Americans of all ideological stripes once widely accepted that our institutions of higher learning made America better. But now we are sharply divided over whether universities are good or bad for the country.
Fifty-eight percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say colleges and universities have “a negative impact on the U.S.,” according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Only 19 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents feel that way.
The Pew poll doesn’t directly make the connection, but it’s likely that Republican voters’ increasing wariness of universities comes from the GOP’s attacks on “political correctness” and the so-called “liberal elite.”
For a few years now, for example, the influential conservative journal National Review has published an annual list of the “Most Ridiculous PC Moments on College Campuses.” The report for 2016 included a gleeful summary of “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” at colleges across the land. It even shined a light on an “actual academic article” that claimed “ski slopes are ‘sexist.’” During the presidential campaign last year, then long-shot GOP candidate Donald Trump declared, “I don’t have time for political correctness, and, quite frankly, this country doesn’t have time for it either.” Trump was far from alone in that opinion.
“In the 2016 Republican presidential primary season,” the Washington Post wrote in January of last year, “‘political correctness’ has become the all-purpose enemy. The candidates have suggested that it is the explanation for seemingly every threat that confronts the country: terrorism, illegal immigration, an economic recovery that is leaving many behind, to name just a few.”
Political correctness is, needless to say, a liberal idea, one that has been gaining steam for about 30 years. Many conservative pundits believe the “liberal elite” use it to inculcate America’s college students in liberalism.
Which colleges and universities, you might wonder, are the most liberal? The data-analysis outfit Niche.com has compiled information, come up with a methodology, and determined the “most liberal colleges in America.”
There are surprises in the ranking. Harvard University, long attacked by conservatives as the foremost bastion of the liberal elite, doesn’t even make the Top 20. A Portland school, however, does — but, surprisingly enough, it’s not the famously liberal Reed College.
Photo: Reed College is known for being liberal, but it’s not among Niche.com’s “most liberal colleges.” (The Oregonian)