What’s Going on at College These Days?
Ross Barkan

“What do you want?” is a powerful rejoinder these days, to those on the extreme left and right. (And I am not equating the two. The extreme right of the ’90s is now governing the country and its lies, distortions and misapprehensions are now considered gospel by vast swathes of the country. The extreme left is minute by comparison, despite some outsized influence in some campuses and media circles.)

But, as you say, to ask the Campus Liberal, “What do you want?” is probably to be answered with outrage, obscenity, or, at best, some version of Utopia. But being able to answer these questions is politics! What do you want this coming election? Next year? In four years? You make a good point by referencing the labor movement. It had focus, and was unrelenting and inclusive. But it had an agenda (social insurance, workplace protections, 40-hour week, collective bargaining, etc.) that was unaffected by social/religious mores (for the most part, excepting birth control, etc.) and an economic world (industrialism) that stayed very much the same for 100+ years (c. 1860 — c. 1970). It’s hard to blame the left for not having a clear agenda today when the economy and perhaps life itself is unamenable to broad-based solutions and is also transforming at an impossible-to-predict pace (post-industrialism, service economy, automation, AI, Singularity, etc.). What do we want? I am not sure yet. Ask me how the next 5 years play out. Maybe Universal Basic Income become the rallying cry, but we’ll see if 2+ million drivers are rendered obsolete in the next 5-10 years.

Same for the Right. I deal with this all the time with once-moderate Republican family members who have been turned by Fox News and Breitbart, et al. into something worse than a John Bircher ever was in the 1960s. My question is always: What do you want? They can’t articulate it. They live in their Utopia and hate it. The hard Right’s ideals have been running this country if not the world since 1976 at most, 1994 at least, and still yet they’re put upon, always aggrieved, and unable to consider that their own politics is to blame. But when they see this “Campus Liberalism,” as you call it, blown up to larger-than-life proportions by Right Wing “media,” it only hardens their resolve. What do they want? They have everything except the obvious: They want “those people,” those Campus Liberals, or SJWs, or whatever they call them, gone. Emigrated. Converted. Or otherwise unactualized. That is what they want. They want to be unopposed. Unconfronted by the wrongness and failures of their efforts since the 1970s. Right Wing media amplifies it. And the Campus Liberal left misses an opportunity to accomplish their agenda by alienating 75% of the country because they only associated with their own 25% (or less).

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