Politics & Policy

Ye Olde Yale Excursion

The Right is alive and well in New Haven.

I thought you were going to be enormously fat,” said a disappointed young man in jacket and tie. I must say I wasn’t exactly heartened by the fact that he felt it necessary to qualify his expectation by saying “enormously.”

But I must say I had a great time up in New Haven. For those who don’t know, Yale’s Party of the Right invited me to “debate” at the Yale Political Union on Wednesday night. The best measure of the prestige of such an invitation is that I gladly accepted it despite the fact there was no filthy lucre involved. (Since my couch needs me, I find it difficult to justify pro bono speaking events out of town — I must constantly put quarters in his coin-operated dialysis machine or it will stop going chipocketa-chipocketa, which the doctors tell me is bad. Oh, no, wait, that’s me. Anyway, the point’s the same).


But, I was willing to shag my not-enormously fat Clymer up to New Haven to mix it up with the bulldogs. I was picked up at the train station by two Tories, Holland Sullivan Jr., the president of the YPU, and his homey, the head of the Tory Party. At first they called me “Mr. Goldberg,” as did many others. This is very depressing for me. It’s similar to what Tarzan must have felt when he first returned to the jungle and the apes said, “Oh, look, a human” instead of, “Hey, that’s Tarzan, he owes me a banana.”

See, in my (not-enormous) gut, I still think I’m a college kid, and so being called “Mr.” by a couple of seniors is pretty distressing. Then again, Tarzan wasn’t real, so maybe I should just shut up.

Anyway, the Tory Boys — not to be confused with the gay techno-industrial-punk-ska band of the same name — took me to a place called Mory’s, which is to Yaleness what Little Rock’s “Drive-Thru Topless Krispy Kreme and Bait Shoppe” is to Clintonism (locals who like to say the two p’s and the extra ein “Shoppe” are super classy).

Mory’s is wood-paneled, old, reverential. Surrounded by history, you can almost imagine being worth millions while you watch other people clean up your vomit. Of course, there’s a picture on the wall of the elder George Bush when he was the younger Bush — in his Yale baseball uniform.

So, I had dinner with the board of the YPU. They are a smart and pleasant bunch, and quite observant of Yale traditions. We took part in one tradition called, I believe, “cups.” We all drank from a giant spittoon filled with about a gallon of Jonestown Kool-Aid (which it was, except for the fact that the cyanide was replaced with vodka, gin, Triple-Sec and the like). We passed the “cup” around until it was empty. Holland — a very charming and impressive young man — finished it off. Then, as tradition requires, he zealously licked the sides clean and wore the giant chalice on his head as everybody sang a song.

How could one do anything but think, “future leader of America?”


So, after dinner we went off to the debate. I will reserve the bulk of my comments right now because I am trying to convince Rich Lowry to let me write up my argument for the magazine. But the essence of it should be familiar to close readers of this column (which reminds me, could you step back a couple feet? You’re making me nervous.).

I argued that the Left has become an enemy of classical liberalism, largely by adopting many of the attitudes of the pre-Enlightenment Right. The Olde Right (Hey! That extra “e” is super classy!) was unapologetically racist, in the sense that racial and ethnic categories were believed to be permanent and at all times relevant. Today it is the Left that speaks of permanent racial categories and how we cannot transcend our own racial or ethnic identities.

The pre-Enlightenment Right was married to crippling notions of mysticism and naturalism, rejecting science and reason. Today it is the Left that despises science and reason — and the Enlightenment too. To read the hot academics of the Left is to discover a world in which “reason” is rejected as racist — a myth, a fool’s errand, sexist, cruel, barbaric, or just plain mean. As Colorado law professor Richard Delgado once put it, “if you’re black or Mexican, you should flee Enlightenment-based democracies like mad, assuming you have any choice.”

Of course this is also assuming that there is such a thing as a non–Enlightenment-based democracy. I guess I didn’t know that in the state of Colorado, where Mr. Delgado teaches, democracy is based on the non-Euclidean precepts of Aztec democratic theory. I assume, now, that they elect mayors in Boulder by eating several thousand conquered slaves and drinking blood for days on end with no sleep. Definitely dude, blacks and Mexicans should stick around for that.

Anyway, I went on about how the Left has all but declared war on science — long considered the natural ally of the Left, i.e., “scientific socialism” and the rest. My chief example was the current war on biotechnology. The examples of this are well-known to anyone who pays attention to the subject, which apparently does not include any of the left-wing political parties at Yale. To them and others I recommended anything written lately by friend Ronald Bailey of Reason magazine.

Reason, a libertarian magazine and therefore slavishly devoted to the Enlightenment (and the seventh-season finale of Star Trek: Voyager), has been taking the lead in defense of biotechnology for a long time. Biotech is the best hope for millions of sick, malnourished, and starving people around the globe (for more also see Virginia Postrel’s Dynamist.com). Sick and dying poor people of color were the people the Left were supposed to care about most. Today, the Left denounces genetically improved rice and corn by mustering arguments equivalent to the expression, “if God meant man to fly he would have given him wings.”

Judging from the academic press, instead of caring about the poor and starving, the Left cares most about liberating hermaphroditic lesbians, smashing the fact-value myth, and proving that women, in fact, have just as much upper-body strength as men (I’m not kidding. For example, the fair Jessica Gavora is reviewing a new book, The Frailty Myth, for The Weekly Standard and has been reading me excerpts. The author claims that it is the Patriarchy of the Pale Penis People which discourages young girls from being as physically strong as men.).

This silly literary junk is no less absurd than the “how many angels on the head of a pin” arguments the ancient conservatives used to get into. In fact, the ancient conservatives at least believed in universal morality and religious salvation; the leftist academics just believe in making clever arguments at whine and cheese parties.

Anyway, I think I made a pretty good case that the Left hates (classical) liberalism and loves the status quo much like the Olde Right did. What convinced me were the meager criticisms from the Lefties who didn’t walk out of the room. Their point-guy, who seemed a good sort, ridiculed my assertion that the Left has no good new ideas in circulation today by pointing out Al Gore’s incandescent idea for more prescription drugs. This, of course, is not a new idea; universal health care was proposed a century ago by some yutz in a beret. And it is not even a new “idea.” It’s just a new entitlement.

But what convinced me even more that the intellectual and moral energy is on the right today was the quality of the conservative students I met. These guys were smart, funny, engaged, and convinced they were on the right side of history. The Lefties whined and got their facts wrong. The Right asked me tough questions from first principles. The Left asked me for more examples, as if I was making up my argument. The Right enjoyed themselves. The Left seemed to be in a dentist’s waiting room and many simply walked out. Ultimately, they made my arguments for me.


1. I would be remiss in not thanking Miss Eve Tushnet of Yale’s Party of the Right for inviting me in the first place. I would also be a cad if I did not thank them for the signed (by the artist) poster of Wolverine, of the comic book, The X-Men, they gave me in lieu of filthy cash. They had read my review of The X-Men movie, in which I explained how important comic books were to me (so important that one might think comics had something to do with the fact that I got rejected from every college I applied to, including ones Yalies would rather die than go to). It’s a pretty cool poster, and it will soon be hanging in my office between my print of Rembrandt’s “Belzhazar’s Feast” and my Westminster Kennel Club press credentials. It will be a permanent reminder to me that I should be careful how much I reveal about myself.

2. At first, I was a little disheartened to discover that my Wednesday column, “These Things I Know,” was considered my “best ever” by quite a few of you. Why am I doing all this work if I can get away with that, I wondered. Then I realized, whoa, this is great! I can do this more often. So, thanks for letting me know and look for more such columns on days when I’m frazzled.

3. If today’s column left you cold, you can read my piece about Jesse Ventura.

4. Be sure to check out NRO Weekend, Sept. 23–24: Deroy Murdock on America’s Eminem habit … Clayton Cramer on a very bad gun book … James Q. Wilson on the literature of marriage and divorce … Robert A. George on Johnny Cash … Geoffrey Norman, Dave Kopel, Jeffrey Hart, and Ilya Shapiro on the Olympics … Rich Lowry on “Almost Famous” … Matt Feeney on “Human Resources” … Melissa Seckora on the Italian arts … Ben Domenech on kids, marijuana, and lies … and much more.


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