Campus Progress has a superb article profiling Guy Benson, an up-and-coming attack poodle still finishing up college. The piece is great, a must-read both on an intellectual level and as a simply enjoyable piece of reporting. I do, however, want to highlight this quote:
I spent a lot of my time with Guy trying to figure out how he got so good. He doesn’t go to a conservative school, his family is only moderately Republican (his mother is a straight-ticket Republican, but she doesn’t think about it much; his father, an executive at a multinational financial-services company, says he’s “much, much more politically moderate than Guy”), and, most important, he’s only 19 years old. Then it came to me: like others on the right, he’s better at messaging because he’s been forced to spend every second of his college career arguing with liberals. So he and his friends pool their resources and hone their arguments and become virtually unbeatable. The same thing doesn’t happen for liberals at elite schools. We get good at arguing about how classist the drug war is and how subversive porn is. Then we get out into the real political world and just don’t have the chops to win an argument – or an election.
I ran this theory by Rich Lowry, editor of the nation’s premier conservative magazine, the National Review. Lowry met Guy last summer during the Republican National Convention. Since then they’ve maintained an e-mail correspondence, and Lowry appeared as a guest on Feedback last fall. “If you’re a conservative, usually you kind of like going against the crowd a little bit, that’s sort of the appeal of it,” Lowry said. “It’s much harder to be a lazy conventional conservative, because you’re constantly going to be challenged. So you think: why is opposition to gun control correct? You go and look at articles, back issues of the National Review, and you pay attention to the arguments. You acquire this arsenal. Why is the Iraq war right? You better know if you’re a conservative on campus….All that helps produce something like Guy. That’s not to discount his natural talents, and just the way he is, which is very hard to invent.”
I'm sure other college students can back me up on the truth of this. I'm not really sure how you counteract it, but it really does seem that there's a Jackie Robinson effect here -- being a vocal conservative on campus is so hard (and, in all honesty, it actually is, at least at UC) that the kids who choose to do it are necessarily better, more informed, and more committed than most of their liberal counterparts. They're alos, as a result of perceived persecution, much more committed to the success of their movement. That's why so many bright conservatives exit college and dive into the politics, while so many liberals wander off to academia or NGO's or the Peace Corps. Campus progressives generally judge their ideologies triumphant and not really requiring their constant attention, while conservatives see theirs as embattled and in desperate need of more recruits. In the real world, of course, it's actually the opposite, but nobody knows that till their paths are already set. Guy is a good example of this phenomenon, and I highly recommend the piece for insight into it.