Sometimes we write.
Writing helps me feel connected to an intellectual tradition far greater than myself, and in some small way I like to think that my contributions serve as a visible reminder that there are in fact right-leaning Rams. However, in a collegiate environment that favors liberal-leaning discourse it is imperative that those who raise conservative voices hold themselves to the highest rhetorical and intellectual standards.
American conservatism is at something of a crossroads. Assaulted for years by the rise of talk radio and the corresponding forces of commercialism, the movement has taken on a tone more befitting of partisan propaganda than intellectual principle. Talking points become the currency of discourse, while fully formulated argumentation that recognizes the nuances of the topic at hand falls to the wayside.
Conservatism, once a bastion for ideational vibrancy, has become tepid. It lacks the ability to creatively argue or to present a contentious point in an effective manner. Instead of persuasive critiques of the ironic exclusiveness of liberal thought on campus, we present the trite repurposing of Democratic sloganeering. Instead of making a compelling case that family, faith and community ought to hold primacy of place in our lives, we cry out over the disparity of campaign clickbait.
Now more than ever it is the responsibility of conservative college students to have the courage to offer a competing voice. But when we make underdeveloped analogies or fail to demonstrate appropriate context, we lose the ears of the very audience we seek to engage. Instead of showing our peers that we hold attractive principles, we reinforce negative caricatures and throw away the goodwill of the community.
College conservatives need to reinvigorate an intellectual movement for the 21st century. Such an endeavor is not the same as partisan devotion to the GOP. Electoral victory does not mask the Party’s embrace of a resurgent populism or exonerate a candidate that has normalized a disregard for constitutional norms.
As the American right moves into an ambiguous future, it is crucial that college conservatives remain guardians of civility. We must offer up fluent defenses of the separation of powers, the existence of inalienable rights and the equality we intrinsically hold as human beings. In an age that sees the normalization of authoritarian tendencies and ethnic nationalism, we must spark a countervailing renewal of democratic civic engagement.
We must be the engine of intellectual growth that moves conservatism forward.
This requires criticism of not just liberal ideology, but criticism of when we ourselves fall short of our own ideals. It is the price of intellectual freedom that ideas are criticized, a truth that should be venerated as a welcome crucible, necessitating our arguments be honed to a point.
On the Supreme Court, the duality of Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader-Ginsburg demanded opposing schools of jurisprudence be better. At Fordham, the reality that conservative students are called to a higher standard of philosophical rigor requires us to be better.
If our voices are called to be more eloquent, more compelling and more persuasive — they will be ever stronger for it.