Evolving conservatism

For anyone committed to open inquiry and expression, the Yale Daily News’ finding that nearly 75 percent of 2,054 students view Yale as unwelcoming to conservatives (“Election 2016: Conservative Views Considered Unwelcome at Yale,” Oct. 27) should prompt not alarm but some introspection and reassessment by conservatives as well as liberals.

American conservatives are classical liberals, committed to individual autonomy and “free markets.” They’re in crisis now because they can’t reconcile such commitments with their claims to cherish ordered, civic-republican liberty now that “free markets” are dissolving our liberty and sovereignty via casino-style financing (Donald Trump, anyone?), underregulated, predatory lending and degrading, intrusive marketing that waves the free-speech banner.

Conservatives used to know that what the Constitution rightly protects in free speech, civil society rightly modulates. Their abandonment of this principle is opportunistic, as I show in “The Coddling of the Conservative Mind.” That was also my point in a comment only partially reproduced in your Oct. 27 story, “Conservative Views Considered Unwelcome at Yale.”

Instead of facing their crisis squarely, conservative leaders have dined out on liberals’ obvious follies, forgetting how to cook for the rest of us, leaving the kitchen to Trump and his “free speech” rampages. A liberal education shouldn’t welcome that. We all need a new recipe for a capitalism that could sustain democratic deliberation instead of deranging it. Campus conservatives who value viewpoint diversity should lead that discussion.

Jim Sleeper ‘69 is a lecturer in political science. Contact him at james.sleeper@yale.edu