Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Rebuilding liberalism on campus.
The cover story of this week's Nation profiles three new groups trying to help liberal student groups on college campuses, Campus Progress, YP4, and the Roosevelt Institution. More power (and money) to them!
Frustrations abound, but the emergence of national progressive organizations on campus has given many student activists renewed hope. In its first year Campus Progress has provided progressive students with tools they've never had before: money and a sense of unity. While its $1.25 million projected budget falls well below the more than $10 million of the right-wing Young America's Foundation, Campus Progress has made an immediate impact. Wayne Huang, editor of Cornell's student progressive publication, Turn Left, has seen his paper "go through a shocking transformation in little under a year," thanks to funding from Campus Progress. On twenty-seven other campuses, formerly cash-strapped student left publications are finally competing with conservative papers, publishing regularly and printing on high-quality paper. At its virtual meeting place, CampusProgress.org, students from across the country are sharing ideas and getting advice on how to communicate their values from the likes of Senator Barack Obama. Features like "Know Your Right-Wing Speakers" and "Crib Sheet" provide concise talking points for fighting the right. . . .
As Campus Progress works to build a national community for student progressives, Young People For (YP4) focuses on developing individual leaders. A project of People for the American Way, YP4 mirrors the right's Leadership Institute, which has trained more than 40,000 young conservatives, including movement heavyweights Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, since its inception in 1979. Providing a leadership pipeline for the left, YP4 has trained 126 students on forty campuses in its first year. . . .
[Quinn] Wilhelmi says that the Roosevelt Institution is not an attempt to replace grassroots activism but rather to complement it. "Nothing would have happened in the '60s without the sit-ins, but nothing would have happened without the Civil Rights Act either," he says. "I hope students will do both. I hope they'll do the sit-ins and then also work toward getting a city government to pass a law." He also maintains that Roosevelt will be a "big tent" for progressive ideas. Even though the organization is courting DLC darling Hillary Clinton, it has Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel and liberal philosopher Richard Rorty on its advisory board.
The Nation has to appeal to its man-the-ramparts base, though, so of course there's hand-wringing about whether these aspiring insiders are sufficiently lefty. Don't they want to free Mumia?! I want to pull out my hair reading purists like Tom Hayden complain about cultivating mainstream allies. After all, it's the collapse of liberal institutions within mainstream culture that has made progressive ideas ineffective. But then, I am — and was, on campus — just a liberal.
(The new face of the campus left, Sam Graham-Felsen, The Nation 2.13.06)
Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 31 January 2006 at 7:08 PM