In the last 50 years, conservatives have defeated liberals in a variety of elections when the public got fed up with liberals going too far. But after Ronald Reagan's victory in 1980, too many conservatives became complacent with the idea that they had won the battle for sound political, economic, and social poilcy principles. This was clearly not the case because the Reagan spirit of creative energy and optimism about the power of individual freedom did not survive his era and the nation started to slide back into the same superstitions of socialism that came to power in the 1930s.
Unhappily too few conservatives followed that gradual strategy because they were too impatient for more immediate results and therefore poured their energies into campaigns for office rather than into endowing scholarships and fellowships or creating a core curriculum that was based on the ideas of freedom. Conservative thinkers such as Russell Kirk of the University of Michigan and Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago and Stanford University were badly out-numbered by socialist faculty members.
Conservative campus organizations such as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute were also in the minority but played an important role in keeping some ideas of freedom alive on campuses. Only five years ago in the campaign of 2008, millions of college students were recruited by the Left due to the false idealism of the Obama brand of collectivism. But that trend to the Left by youth might be starting to shift now. A poll of students released by the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard University on April 30 shows a recent dramatic drop in the trust students have for government.
This could be a healthy and welcome development if it leads to more students becoming suspicious of the fake benevolent motives of the Leftist elites on campus and in government. But this window of opportunity will not stay open very long if conservatives do not follow up with a greater push to recruit scholars on campus. Many students are idealistic and they want to find the intellectual challenges that the freedom philosophy can offer and they are even willing to risk the wrath of their liberal professors by dissenting from the dominant ideology. Conservatives should look for any and all opportunities to encourage the next generation of scholars who want to know about freedom.