Young conservatives achieved prominence on campuses across the nation by zooming in under the radar. Now they've even made the cover of the New York Times magazine, the bastion of politically correct liberalism.
The Times limited its focus to one campus, Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., and that's too bad. The politically correct armies of Mailer-lite are in retreat in a lot of other places as well. Tenured liberal professors who have dominated campus politics since the 1970s haven't been knocked off their pedestals - not yet - but moss is spreading at their feet and cracks are growing in the foundation.
At Stanford, for example, Young Republican business is booming. When I was there for a week last fall I could count the college Republicans on two hands with a finger or two left over, but after rallies to support the war on Saddam Hussein, countering the antiwar protests, conservatism blossomed. Young Republicans now number nearly 500.
"When (students) realized we were right and that the Iraqi people appreciated what we did, they started to abandon the Left," says Joe Fairbanks, president of the Stanford College Republicans. "College conservatives don't get the media attention that the left gets because we're not out skipping classes every day for ineffective and inane protests. We have facts and common sense on our side."
Next year the Stanford Republicans plan to lobby aggressively to bring ROTC, banished in the wake of the Vietnam war, back to campus.
Polls continue to show that increasing numbers of young men and women are patriotic, supportive of the military and tired of listening to the exhausted clichés of the '60s. They're not averse to using guerilla tactics to suit the 21st century.
Style is a tactical issue rather than a statement. They've traded in their penny loafers for sneakers, though they don't stoop to conquer in the way of Abbie Hoffman, the prototype '60s manic radical who encouraged his followers in the 1960s to "steal this book." These "hipublicans" exhort their followers to read books only after buying them.
At the top of the reading list is Letters to a Conservative by Dinesh D'Souza, sort of a right-wing Mario Savio, who set off the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in 1964. D'Souza crusades for free speech as leftist administrators and professors push restrictive speech codes and mandatory sensitivity sessions. At Stanford, liberals even want to kick the Hoover Institution off the campus because it's "too conservative."
Using the model of the feminists of the '60s, who heard a telltale "click" every time a male chauvinist pig oinked, college conservatives cultivate a "gut check," a visceral reaction every time a liberal tries to intimidate one of them. The "gut check" signals the fight-back mode.
Joseph J. Sabia, a conservative who has spent nine years on the Cornell University campus, tells Cornell Republicans of a "gut check" he felt during a debate over race-based "living centers" with the president of Cornell Democrats. When he argued that such arrangements promoted de-facto segregation and heightened racial tensions - "the situation has become so intolerable that even lunch tables are racially segregated" - his opponent could muster only an off-the-point insult: "You mean black students don't want to sit near you, Joe? Wow, that really surprises me."
Some students cheered, but Joe knew he had won. The one-liner was "an unconditional surrender of any semblance of intellectual thought," he said.
At Amherst, conservatives had a "gut check" when the Association of Amherst Students voted to designate specific "diversity senators" for three groups - international Latino students, and lesbian-bisexual-gay-transgender students - but wouldn't award a diversity senator to the College Republicans.
"This is a liberal liberal arts college," Theodore Hertzberg, the conservative representative said. "The faculty is predominantly liberal with only two registered Republicans on the entire faculty."
He opposes diversity seats on principle, but he wanted to be a diversity senator as a way to eliminate the positions. Stiffing the Republican students exposed the hypocrisy.
Another Cornell conservative had a "gut check" in the middle of a lecture in a course on rural sociology. When the professor observed that Cleopatra was an "African-American," a shy sophomore Republican raised his hand. "I don't know as much as you do about rural sociology," he said. "But I can say with certainty that Cleopatra was not an African-American."
The startled professor asked him to explain.
"Cleopatra could not have been an African-American because at the time Cleopatra lived America had not yet been discovered."
Bob Dylan's weatherman, like the professor, felt a gust of cool wind blow in from the right.