- - Wednesday, October 17, 2012


State universities are organizing students in support of President Obama’s re-election efforts. Professor Brian McHale of Ohio State University asked for class time for Obama campaign organizers. At Colorado’s Adams State University, a campus blog promoted a “12 week long organizing internship for the Obama campaign.” These highly questionable activities at nonprofit institutions were repudiated quickly by administration officials when they were exposed.

Still, they underscore the reality of the Obama campaign. The president is counting on our campuses to be decisive in the 2012 elections just as they were in 2008. That is why Mr. Obama has made a record number of high school and college appearances since he first sought the presidency. In 2008, when he had a $100 million advantage in funding for campaigning on college campuses, the Obama campaign swept 66 percent of a record youth vote. The 2008 efforts were well-documented in Jason Mattera’s brilliant book “Obama Zombies.”

In 2012, the situation is different, but not as different as the Romney forces may hope. Many of those same Obama voters are college graduates who, as Rep. Paul Ryan described, are “[living] out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”

The Obama administration has left them with a dismal economy, limited or no job prospects, mounting student loan debt and no “hope” in sight.

Some contend that these dire conditions — the direct result of four years of leftist policies — can only help conservatives win the youth vote. According to a Pew Research Center survey released following the first presidential debate, Mr. Obama’s support among the under-30 crowd declined from 65 percent to 58 percent. Mitt Romney’s support rose from 32 percent to 42 percent among young voters.

Nevertheless, it is unrealistic for conservatives to expect ideal results from our nation’s youth. Our students’ common values and beliefs reflect decades of liberal dominance — nearly monopolistic control — in their schools and in our culture. The fact that young Americans came out in droves for Mr. Obama in 2008 should surprise no one. He embodies the leftist values extolled by their high school teachers, college professors, campus administrators and the mainstream media.

In fact, the challenges facing the Romney forces are a direct outgrowth of higher education’s preoccupation for more than a generation with race, class and sex. Those themes have been preached — to the exclusion of rewarding merit, individual freedom and the American dream — at almost every college, including Occidental, Columbia, Harvard and the University of Chicago.

These are the very institutions that shaped Mr. Obama. He is not the product of America’s election cycle. Rather, he and the millions of young people who support him are products of America’s education system, specifically our colleges and universities.

The division of America by race and sex and the preaching of envy and coveting as virtues will continue to plague America’s public life as long as those ideologies dominate our classrooms.

Despite all this, many “conservatives” continue to give blind allegiance to institutions of higher education. Many even give financial support in the form of endowments, alumni gifts, general donations and taxpayer revenue. In so doing, we condemn our young people to spend four to eight of their most formative years without any ideological balance. Indeed, our young people often will go through their entire education without hearing a single conservative idea advanced by a teacher or professor. The results remain inevitable. An election cycle, or even a perfect candidate, cannot make up for generations of miseducated young Americans.

In addition, conservative leaders, recognizing the barriers educators place in their way on campus, seldom appear before student audiences and certainly have not matched the pace or intensity of the left.

Abraham Lincoln warned, “The philosophy of the classroom today will be the philosophy of government tomorrow.” That timeline may have accelerated to the present as leaders like Mr. Obama go directly from academia into political office.

As conservatives, our mission should not be only to win the next election. It also should be to win the next generation. In fact, I would contend that an exclusive obsession over an election guarantees we lose our freedoms because there will be endless waves of poorly educated candidates waiting for the next set of elections.

The current Republican ticket includes a very young and attractive vice presidential candidate. The Obama years have been disastrous for young Americans, who face high unemployment along with record student and government debt. Still, it is naive to believe these factors will offset the huge advantage the left has built up over young Americans. Mitt Romney will do better than John McCain, but Mr. Obama still will carry the youth vote.

We must raise succeeding generations who know and love freedom. That contest will be lost if conservatives continue to give unwavering support to higher education while missing the chance to give young Americans an opportunity to learn conservative ideas.

Ron Robinson is the president of Young America’s Foundation and co-author of “Funding Fathers: The Unsung Heroes of the Conservative Movement” (Regnery, 2008).



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