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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Conservatives, Let's Stop Whining

For those who were not involved in the protest this evening and/or didn't receive the obnoxious emails, John Ashcroft spoke at Columbia tonight. The event was organized by the undergraduates--the Columbia College Conservative Club--and the Federalist Society was only ancillarily involved. Ashcroft has an interesting relationship with the Federalist Society; there are probably just as many Federalists that hate him as there are that love him. The Fed Soc chapter president noted during the introduction to the event that in Ashcroft v. Raich, the oral arguments both for the government (Clement) and for the medicinal marijuana users (Barnett) were by Fed Soc members.

Ashcroft did a great job, beginning with talk about the prosecution of gun crimes, sex crimes, and drug crimes during his tenure. He went on to discuss his cracking down on corporate crime, and the need that our capital markets have for executives with integrity. He did spend most of his time talking about the war on terror, and the PATRIOT Act, but even that was pretty tame. He made a great case for his policies, though I'm sure there is plenty critical to be said of his rather "campaign speech" platitudes.

The problem with what was otherwise a great and uplifting evening was not the intermittent booing and hissing from the gallery, but the repeated emphasis on "woe is the conservative" at Columbia. I of course agree (and doubt it can really be disputed) that views held by many if not most Americans are not given their relative time in debates at, at least, the law school. But come on folks. Do we really think that whining and complaining that we have to be at this school where we don't get to hear what we want is going to change anything?

At the risk of unduly tooting our own horn, I think the Federalist Society has gained much legitimacy at the law school during the last couple years. Our events are always well attended, and there is never an inappropriate outburst from students who obviously don't agree with everything being said. Although we don't have as many conservative faculty members as we would hope, we are having the very debate we claim to deserve. Our views and our arguments are being heard by the law school, and although they will have no bearing on any election, and have probably not convinced very many of the things we think most important to our Constitution and legal system, the arguments are at least, I think, being respected.

What will never be respected is whining about the bias against conservative professors and that our entitlement to professors who share our views is being denied us without due process. That is to say, injecting ourselves into the great debate is not a matter of complaining that we are being excluded, but by just including ourselves. Organizing the event tonight was apparently a lot of work, but that need not be repeatedly harped upon. The views expressed tonight in Lerner Hall are views rarely given credence in Columbia classes or events, but no one really doubts that or needs that brought to their attention.

The biggest problem with both movements--liberal and conservative--is not their core tenets, but the numbskulls that advance them. Consider this line from the the Spectator:
"We all agreed that it was best not to . . . try to keep people from seeing the speech," said Emily Crow, CC '07, a representative from Students for Choice. "It's important for even us to hear what he has to say."
Should this be novel? This was the conclusion after suggestions such as human barriers to Lerner Hall, stuff in his drink, and the like. The liberal movement does itself only harm when it seeks to silence conservative speakers--even those whose views are most anathema.
Conservatives whining and complaining about having to go to these schools does this same harm. We need to neither continually tout our open-mindedness nor remind everyone how oppressed we are. Our arguments are sensible, and very smart and decent people ascribe to them. The only help they need from us is time on the stage.

3 Comments:

Blogger Stephen McArthur said...

I couldn't agree more with you. I agree that Ashcroft was great. I want to add that whoever the guy is that introduced him and moderated the questions came off as a sycophanic dimwit. It was embarrasing having to listen to him whine about liberals not taking conservatives seriously at Columbia and then try to upstage Ashcroft with his comments about Michael Moore and the "nineteen cowards".

12:22 AM  
Blogger Stephen McArthur said...

I wish I could edit the above comment. I don't mean to be so harsh on that guy. I just think he could have spoken more wisely and given Ashcroft time to say more.

12:40 AM  
Anonymous A. Rickey said...

I'm going to have to go with "harsh but deserved" there, Stephen. If he's going to all the trouble and effort to bring Ashcroft to Columbia, let Ashcroft speak. The moderation was cringeworthy.

1:22 AM  

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