Class of 2008
To the Editor:
I write in response to yesterday's "A Call to Debate." For the past thirty years, the American conservative movement has used college campuses to develop a corps of ideologues, using its wealth to fund speakers and programs. These students become the party faithful, spewing rhetoric, challenging "liberal bias," and raising money while claiming to be "nonpartisan."
It is for this purpose, not education, that John Ashcroft comes to campus. Ms. Klibaner says that his visit shows the "presence" of conservatives. Really, the visit is less connected to Columbia than it is to the national conservative student campaign. Online, Ashcroft's visit is advertised by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a partisan machine existing solely to develop this "movement," and the New York Young Republicans Club, encouraging its members to RSVP promptly to ensure preferred seating.
Conservatives are not stupid. They intentionally posted vague posters that merely referred to Ashcroft as "American Patriot," aware of the response it would provoke. The claims that those on the left are the ones trying to make a partisan stink out of an "intellectual debate" cannot be uttered seriously.
Yes, I believe Ashcroft's tenure as Attorney-General turned back years of progress towards civil rights and liberties. But the conservative movement knew that when they brought Ashcroft to Columbia; a polarizing figure isn't brought here to persuade nonbelievers. I won't try to "get" John Ashcroft tomorrow, because doing so would let the right claim another example of those uncouth liberals. However, I refuse to allow my interest in his appearance here to be claimed as a victory for the right.