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If Republicans Want To Govern, They’d Better Learn How To Go After The Left

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For too long, conservatives have been loath to use government power to defend the republic from enemies within. That has to change.


Amid the controversy following recent congressional testimony on the problem of campus antisemitism by the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania, Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio has introduced a bill that would drastically increase the tax rate on the largest university endowments.

This is something Vance has been talking about for some time now, and while it’s a good idea on the merits, it’s also a good example of how conservatives should be willing to use whatever political power they have to fight back against the left. Simply put, unless the right starts treating the left and its institutions like the hostile entities they are, our republic will not likely survive.

This is especially true when it comes to higher education, where the wealthiest and most elite schools have long enjoyed preferential treatment even as they poison the body politic by actively promoting not just antisemitism, but racism, gender ideology, and every other brand of cultural Marxism you can imagine.

The recent spectacle in Congress is a case in point. During their testimonies last week, the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and Penn refused to say the blatant antisemitism on their campuses since the Oct. 7 attack on Israeli civilians by Hamas terrorists — including explicit calls for genocide of the Jews — violates their schools’ policies on harassment.

Their equivocation, insisting that whether such antisemitism constitutes harassment depends on the “context,” elicited understandable outrage from donors. After a major Penn donor pulled a $100 million gift to the school that was made in 2017, Penn President Liz Magill was forced to resign — a rare instance of a leftist elite facing real-world consequences for defending her appalling ideology in public.

Vance, for his part, rightly sees these schools as threats to American values and our way of life that in no way deserve special treatment. Currently, the tax rate on endowments at places like Harvard and Penn is just 1.4 percent, making them effectively slush funds for the ultra-rich. His two-page bill would increase the rate to 35 percent on all endowments worth $10 billion or more.

The point here isn’t to raise additional tax revenue (although the money raised could be used to pay down the deficit or help working, middle-class families or just be given back to the American people as dividends). The point is to acknowledge, through federal tax policy, that in their current form, these universities don’t serve the national interest. If they can’t be reformed, at least they can be punished.

That’s the right approach, not just to higher education but to every facet of what has become an all-consuming cultural and political war in this country. Conservatives can no longer afford to shy away from using the institutions they control to defend Western civilization and the Christian values that undergird it.

State legislatures that responded to the overturning of Roe v. Wade by passing strong restrictions on abortion, like Texas and Florida, have the right idea. Same with states that have imposed restrictions on transgender interventions and surgeries for minors (they need to take the next step, though, and impose those same restrictions on adults).

A crude but no less effective version of this posture toward the left is what one man did on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. Michael Cassidy, a Christian and former military officer, tore down and beheaded an altar to Satan in the state capitol. Why was a Satan altar even there? Because the left has managed to insinuate itself everywhere — even into the Iowa Legislature, despite a Republican supermajority. Under the banner of diversity and tolerance, we’re told we must accept altars to Satan in our legislative halls.

Cassidy begged to differ. “The world may tell Christians to submissively accept the legitimization of Satan, but none of the founders would have considered government sanction of Satanic altars inside Capitol buildings as protected by the First Amendment,” he told The Sentinel

And he’s exactly right. There’s no reason to tolerate altars to Satan in public places, no reason to tolerate massively wealthy universities that spread poisonous ideologies, and no reason to accept the ultimate victory of the left as inevitable. For too long, conservatives have foolishly hoped that appeals to a neutral public square, high-minded tolerance, and live-and-let-live winsomeness would be enough to halt the left’s march through the institutions.

But it was a fantasy, a soothing story conservatives told themselves while their culture crumbled around them. William F. Buckley famously said in the mission statement for National Review that the purpose of the magazine was to stand athwart history, yelling “stop.” That was in 1955. In the nearly 70 years since, it’s become clear you can yell all you want, but the left isn’t listening. They will not stop unless someone stops them.

Buckley’s own career began with the publication in 1951 of God and Man at Yale, which excoriated the university for foisting collectivist, secular ideology on its students. Today, Yale and its peer institutions like Harvard and Penn are doing far worse than that, actively preaching racism and antisemitism and a virulent form of liberalism that disfigures reason and enslaves the mind.

It’s not enough to stand athwart history, yelling “stop.” At some point you have to do more than yell. You have to act.

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