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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

There Are No Weathermen Here

<uld not be foolhardy to wager the farm that 85% of voting Carls voted for President Obama in 2008.  I say 85% conservatively.  I only know of three other students who for a fact chose John McCain.  While political disillusion and apathy have since risen, a general Democratic sympathy persists and the president remains personally popular among my friends.  If the White House announced an initiative to slaughter puppies, a goodly number of them might just argue that dogs are awfully inconsiderate to sidewalks and fire hydrants.  The above would portend ill for conservatives interested in the liberal-arts vote, but a paper-thin silver lining exists.       

Liberal passions are weak.  In my social circle at Carleton, most everyone is a humanities and social sciences major.  Though they are the sort whom one would expect to be most engaged in political activity on campus, politics drives only a handful.  A good-humored rehashing of Christine O’Donnell’s greatest hits generally passes for political debate.  Sure, they all voted in 2008, and if I were to guess, they all will vote and vote Democratic in every future presidential election (a few split their tickets for favored down-ballot Republicans back home).  This is not to say that my friends are not well-informed: they just don’t feel passionately about more than a few issues. 

As all good readers of Burke know, respect for existing institutions is the essence of conservatism.  Neither the opinions nor lifestyles of my friends threaten the American status quo.  Gripes against basic American economic principles like the rightness of private property and a more-or-less free market are nonexistent.  Occasionally, some pay homage to William Jennings Bryan.  Over dinner recently, when one friend announced that oil company profits were “excessive,” another friend suggested that the federal government nationalize them.  But substitute “oil company” for “Wall Street bank,” and arguably a majority of Republican voters would share similar sentiments.  Perhaps most importantly, no matter what my friends think about economic matters, none are the type to man barricades or to stage mass demonstrations, like many French students this week.  My friends are Whole Foods Democrats.  

Their lives are conventional, if distinguished by a certain leftist voyeurism.  Everyone I know is fluent in the language of carbon footprints, “a woman’s right to choose,” and the most avant-garde manifestation of sexuality.  The relationship which rhetoric bears to behavior is dubious.  None seriously questions the right of his or her parents to live in detached suburban homes or to drive multiple cars.  Most are either romantically dormant or are in stable relationships with members of the opposite sex and none object to imbibing from plastic red cups.  Petitions circulate, and some friends chip in on socially-liberal and “green-friendly” political and social-action campaigns when their time is free and the weather is good. 

Their political philosophy is simple.  Generally, they don’t want to be bothered or to have their choices restricted.  Exceptions abound, especially when cloaked in “green” or “fairness,” but excite little.  We are happy.  The system works for us.  Homework, tests, applications for grad schools, jobs, and internships and their usual distractions consume our time and energy.  As always, a few who can afford to (and a few who probably cannot) seek lives in social and public service, but a staggering number of Carls seek the un-revolutionary career paths of medicine and law.  There are no radicals here.

-James Kerson is a Carletonian columnist.

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