I made a point of reading “Crashing the Conservative Party,” as I hoped it might have some insight into the plight of conservatives in a time when they are, nationally and internationally, in decline and retreat, beset on all sides, but especially on their right, where various authoritarian and reactionary strains of right-wing politics have largely purged them from, e.g. the Republican Party. I was greatly disappointed, then, to read an article that fails in its most basic task: to define who and what a “conservative” is.
The author notes multiple forms of Princeton “conservatism” in passing, but gives only the barest of definitions, “ways the school tends to resist change.” He then elides all left-wing movements into progressivism and/or liberalism (they aren’t the same thing, and are only a tiny part of the “left” spectrum), and seemingly defines everything on the right side of the coin as conservatism. This leads to ridiculous statements like Dobbs v. Jackson being a “high-water mark” for conservatives. (Destroying precedent and removing — for the first time in U.S. history — a Constitutionally protected right isn’t conservative; it’s radical and nihilist.) Or to holding up someone (Matt Schmitz ’08) who supports Donald Trump — a man without a conservative bone in his body — as somehow being representative of conservatives? Undermining democracy and the rule of law, as Trump consistently does, is the utter opposite of conservatism. (And before you say, “But Trump’s a social conservative,” please, please, think about who you’re talking about.)
This division of the political spectrum into two sides of a coin makes it impossible to identify conservatives on campus; to wit, the main metric for judging student attitudes is The Daily Prince’s presidential election polls. Which candidate better represents conservative values in a contest between Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden and Donald Trump? (Hint: It’s not Trump.) Corporate/Liberal Democrats have much more at stake in conserving the status quo than MAGA Republicans who are busily burning “RINOs” at the stake and scheming to start a second Civil War. I submit that there are now, just as there were in my day, plenty of centrists of all stripes at Princeton, and that it, in fact, is probably a more welcoming home for conservative ideology than the modern day GQP. (And that there continues to be a dearth of “far left” perspectives, but that’s another story.)