What goes on in the mind of people who write stuff like this?
Academia is simultaneously both the part of America that is most obsessed with diversity, and the least diverse part of the country. On the one hand, colleges bend over backwards to hire minority professors and recruit minority students, aided by an ever-burgeoning bureaucracy of “diversity officers”. Yet, when it comes to politics, they are not just indifferent to diversity, but downright allergic to it.
Universities are, in fact, the most politically and intellectually diverse institutions in American society. In which corporate boardroom or elite law firm does one find not only Republicans and Democrats, but also Burkean conservatives, libertarians, social democrats, and socialists? Yet this is typical of every major university in the country. As an example, I looked at my own law faculty, with 65 members; I have no idea what the political views of 12 members of the faculty are, which leaves 53 whose politics are known to me. (I could run the same exercise with my philosophy faculty, but I have no idea what the political views of most of my colleagues are there.) Of those 53, 10 are on the right (conservatives or libertarians--slightly more are libertarians), 13 are in the American "middle" (6 are moderate Republicans, 7 moderate Democrats), and 30 are on the left (liberal, social democrat, socialist--most of these are American liberals, needless to say). Self-selection would seem the most obvious explanation for this distribution--just as it would be for the distribution of political views at the large New York law firm I worked at, which was skewed in the opposite direction, but much more radically (there were some liberals, but no one to the left of liberal, for example--well, except me, of course, but I kept that to myself).
Moreover, situate my faculty in the context of the legal academy at large, and it is even clearer how much more politically diverse the academy is than the society at large. Confining ourselves to just the top 25-or-so faculties, there are a handful of schools definitely skewed further to the right than the Texas faculty (e.g., Chicago, Northwestern, Virginia, George Mason, San Diego), another handful definitely skewed further to the left than the Texas faculty (e.g., UCLA, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Berkeley), with the rest being hard to place without more information--though for almost every faculty in the top 25 (including places like UCLA and Berkeley), I can identify three or more well-known scholars on the right; no doubt there are more simply not known to me.
There is no doubt that the academy is to the left of the society at large; there is also no doubt that views to the right of the society at large are better represented in the academy than anywhere else. The fact remains: for genuine diversity of political viewpoint, no other major institution in American society holds a candle to the universities: not corporations, not law firms, not Congress, and so on. That is as it should be given the tasks charged to universities, but what is amazing is that--in keeping with the "black-is-white" moment we're living through in America--it appears that huge sectors of the population believe otherwise--and now The Economist is doing its bit to propagate this "big lie". They continue:
Evidence of the atypical uniformity of American universities grows by the week. The Centre for Responsive Politics notes that this year two universities—the University of California and Harvard—occupied first and second place in the list of donations to the Kerry campaign by employee groups, ahead of Time Warner, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft et al. Employees at both universities gave 19 times as much to John Kerry as to George Bush.
The obvious question, of course, is what percentage of university faculty give to any political candidate? (It appears to be a very small percentage.) And might the patterns of giving be skewed in one direction rather than another? What of the well-known fact that academics on the right are unlikely to support the Republican Party in its current form, with its radical foreign policy, its anti-libertarian initiatives, and its hostility to science and objective knowledge? The point is simple enough, that you might think even journalists could figure it out: the fact that relatively few academics give money to George W. Bush (together with the fact that relatively few give to any political candidates) tells you next to nothing about the actual distribution of political views in the academy.
Predictably, The Economist attributes the academic right's desertion of the Republican Party not to that Party's having gone off the rails, but rather to the academy's having done so!
These days, academia is marginalised in the capital—unless, of course, you count all the Straussian conservative intellectuals in think-tanks who left academia because they thought it was rigged against them.
There is no doubt that serious academic disciplines are "rigged" against Straussians, since they are "rigged" (at least when working well) against scholarly incompetence. But how could one expect journalists to be able to assess that claim? One would actually have to know something, for example, about the actual quality of Allan Bloom's translation of The Republic or Leo Strauss's interpretation of the same text to realize that the absence of Straussians from philosophy and classics departments--indeed, their absence even from politics departments outside North America--is entirely on the merits. Let us hope that universities remain inhospitable to diversity of scholarly mediocrity.