Phi Beta Cons

Conceding the Culture War

Daniel Henninger is certainly right to point out how a second Clinton presidency would mean the further and deeper entrenchment of freedom-destroying political correctness, especially in  higher education (“The Clinton Default Mistake: Her Presidency Will Use the Federal Enforcement Agencies to Enforce Political Correctness,” Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2016). But if he means to imply that diversity originally meant something positive, “absorbing new immigrants, alongside blacks and women via affirmative action commitments,” he is quite mistaken and, furthermore, illustrates once again why conservatives are losing, or have lost, the culture war: that is, to believe that the original versions of various progressive agendas, such as feminism, such as diversity, were good, but descended into excesses that are bad.

These things were liars from the beginning, to paraphrase Jesus, and the fathers and mothers of it, that is, the lie. Diversity from the beginning meant group rights, enforced egalitarianism, absolute parity by group in all areas. If group equality becomes the supreme value, it necessarily tramples over individual rights, and over other values that are or should be the prime focus of the various institutions into which diversity is introduced. In academia, those values would include intellectual honesty, academic integrity, freedom of expression, and individual merit. By allowing a benign, desirable, justified dimension to these progressive agendas, conservatives concede an enormous amount of territory, and then are just left scrambling alongside to point out where the concept is going to excess.

Often, conservatives’ own premises are not clear, even to themselves. Henninger notes the unconscionable proliferation of diversity bureaucracy on campuses today, in which “university administrators know their next job depends on showing evidence of achieving diversity metrics. So they push them, relentlessly. In 20 years, diversity went from an idea to an industry.” But the industry was implicit in the idea. And, for that matter, what would have been the right stopping point for diversity, for feminism, for “social justice”?  

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