Meet the Republicans, Education Bashers
In the same way it drives me crazy when I see nitwit Democrats giving my party a bad name (by, for example, kowtowing to the union on indefensible stuff that clearly screws kids like ironclad tenure and layoffs purely by seniority), it must drive sensible Republicans (no, that's NOT an oxymoron! ;-) crazy to see their party positioned as being hostile to people becoming well educated. "Republicans: The Party of Ignorance" isn't exactly a winning slogan. (By the way, while it's true that students and professors at elite universities are far more left-leaning politically than the general population, studies show that professors do not CAUSE this – studies show that students don't move to the left during college; rather, they entered that way; similarly, do not become less religious.)
Here's are two op eds in today's WSJ and NYT. First, Michael Medved in the WSJ:
The angry, populist tone of a seemingly endless battle for the GOP presidential nomination could damage the Republican Party in building a long-term connection with the fastest growing group of swing voters: college graduates.
While candidates focus on the white working class as the key battleground in their frantic struggle for advantage within the GOP, it's actually voters with four-year college degrees who will play the key role in defeating or re-electing Barack Obama.
In 2008, exit polls showed that an unprecedented 44% of all voters held bachelor degrees or higher, compared to just 28% of the electorate in Ronald Reagan's landmark victory of 1980. The Gipper, however, crushed Jimmy Carter among college grads (52% to 35%) while John McCain lost this segment of the population to Barack Obama (45% to 53%). In other words, the Republican nominee went from a 17-point advantage (in both '80 and '84, as it turns out) to an eight-point loss among those who completed college—a crippling swing of 25 full percentage points.
…It's neither an accident nor an embarrassment that an America eagerly embracing meritocracy has elected four presidents in a row with degrees from either Yale or Harvard (or, in the case of George W. Bush, from both venerable institutions). The American people instinctively respect elite achievement in academia the same way they admire elite achievement in business. Most believe that just as wealth creation by corporate leaders harms no one and promotes prosperity for the nation at large, so too advanced learning at top universities serves to open, rather than close off, opportunities for the populace.
Republicans rightly slam Democrats for "class-warfare"—pushing resentment rather than respect for those Americans who achieve economic success. It makes no sense for those same GOPers to turn around and promote anti-intellectualism by encouraging similar spite for those who compile enviable academic records.
The Republicans can't possibly build a winning coalition by recruiting only college grads any more than they can prevail by connecting exclusively with the currently rich and successful. But if they appeal to future dreams instead of present circumstances, they could easily assemble big majorities. Applauding such aspirations instead of belittling them will enable conservatives to honor the best American traditions of upward mobility. With more and more of our fellow citizens completing college degrees, it's also the only way that Republicans can win.
- March 9, 2012