Are the Military and Universities Adding to the Polarization of America?

By Alan Stewart Carl | Related entries in News

Our military is overwhelming conservative. Our universities are overwhelming liberal. What does this say about American society and how do we bring more balance to these great institutions and our nation as a whole?

Some thoughts at Maverick Views.

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 16th, 2006 and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

10 Responses to “Are the Military and Universities Adding to the Polarization of America?”

  1. Glen Wishard Says:

    The left could start by dropping their hysterical aversion to ROTC.

    Since they won’t do that – not in this life, anyway – at least one state has stepped up to the issue of ensuring intellectual diversity on the campuses they fund, and many more will follow. So the problem will be addressed from that end.

  2. Joshua Says:

    ASC: Our nation has chasms because one ideology wants to minimize personal responsibility while maximizing government’s and the other ideology wants to maximize personal responsibility while minimizing society’s. We need a better balance in our ideologies. Perhaps one way to achieve that is to moderate the military and universities.

    A draft or mandatory national service would possibly work. The military would be chock full of people of all beliefs and ideologies and many, many college students would enter after learning the virtues of honor and duty.

    In this light, it is a supreme irony that the main proponent of this sort of thing has been one of the most liberal of House Democrats, Chuck Rangel. For Rangel and like-minded Democrats, this could be yet another case of having to be careful what you wish for.

    But, that’s just the military. I don’t see how the universities can be (re)moderatized via government policy, especially not the private ones. At the very least, any attempt to do so is likely to quickly meet fierce and widespread resistance from the academic establishment, and almost certainly get dragged into courtrooms across the nation.

  3. Meredith Says:

    No way should we reinstitute the draft now that we are fighting the “war on terror.” Just like the “war on drugs,” the “war on terror” could be indefinite, so there would most likely be permanent drafting going on like crazy.

    Second, I’m not sure that adding diverse people to the military would really help. The military and universities are really quite different from one another, almost polar opposites. In the military you are supposed to unquestioningly follow commands, and I’m pretty sure there isn’t much room for sharing opinions and feelings (except for private down time, if there is such a thing). In Universities, it is far more likely that conservatives would be able to express their ideas and opinions along with their liberal classmates. While some areas of the country are probably home to more liberal universities than others, you are still not going to find a university where students are ordered, under threat of severe consequences, to keep their mouths shut and do what they’re told. Even if this absurd situation were occurring in universities, lawsuits would be immediate and effective. Not so with the military. There, you are entering almost a “no civil liberties” zone, where no one gives a crap what you think about anything. Am I wrong?

  4. Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    Meredith: the benefit of diversifying the military in terms of ideology is that more diverse ideas coming in means more diverse officers being commissioned. The military might not have much room for individual expression, but officers do influence their soldiers. Those soldiers eventually reenter the civilian world carrying beliefs they aquired from officers, not unlike college students enter the work world carrying beliefs they aquired from professors. There is clear evidence that when there was a draft, the political orientation of the military as a whole was a lot more moderate.

    But reinstituting the draft is about as popular as killing puppies, so I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

  5. Meredith Says:


    I see what you’re saying. Thanks for the clarification. I guess I didn’t even think of the upper-level military guys.

  6. Jeff Says:

    I agree that the makeup of the military won’t change because the nature of it tends to attract conservatives. The military is more for those who tend to think that it is laudable to submit to authority, and those people tend to be more conservative. Conservatives hold traditional societal norms in high esteem, tend to hold more dogmatic religious beliefs, tend to be more unquestioningly patriotic, and tend to look skeptically on people who protest authority or live alternative lifestyles.

  7. BrianOfAtlanta Says:

    I wouldn’t say those serving in the military consider it laudable to submit to authority. rather, they consider it laudable to serve their country. You don’t take an oath to defend the president or your superior, you take an oath to defend the Constitution. It’s that service to a higher calling which defines those who join the military. It’s a desire to serve, not a desire to submit.

  8. Jonathon York Says:

    I guess my own university experience was the exception rather than the rule. The college I attended was best described as “Christian Libertarian”, but also had a vocal strident conservative element that tended to dominate campus life. I remember huge stacks of “Campus” magazine crowing about how quasi-Marxist collectivism was running rampant at colleges everywhere and had to be stopped. ISI and the TFP had recruitment drives. The Student Government association had a voter’s bus that was rumored to be open only to registered Republicans. Two or three years ago Santorum was the commencement speaker.

  9. Jeff Says:


    I don’t dispute that those joining the military want to serve their country. I do think that the ways in which conservatives feel that their country can be served (or the ways in which the “right” thing can be done) are more likely to involve entirely submitting oneself to an institution or set of ideas that are traditionally respected. A deep trust of traditional values, religious teachings, or the actions of the US are examples where conservatives see doing the right thing as submitting to authority in an almost unquestioning manner.

    I think that liberals are more outcome oriented, and thus are more likely to want the autonomy to be able to choose the right thing to do in any given circumstance. They feel that the military, the country, or religious leaders can sometimes do good things and sometimes do bad things. If they join the military, however, they lose the autonomy to follow what they believe is right in any given circumstance.

    I guess that it was wrong to say that conservatives think that it is laudable to submit to authority. It is just that they are more likely to think that submitting to authority is a good means to achieve the right outcome.

  10. Brian in MA Says:

    I don’t know about that liberals not liking to submit to authority… You ever tried to join the Democratic Party without towing the party line? Ain’t gonna happen.

    If anything, both organized liberals and organized conservatives have an issue with ideological groupthink and towing the line, they just have different values you have to submit to in order not to be ostracized.

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