action' programs in the country is the system of legacies, thanks to which
the children of these alumni are now given preferential treatment in college admissions. Here too, it's not that universities don't have what D'Souza thinks of as 'standards of merit'; it's that the social and cultural
bases of those standards have changed drastically.
This is not simply an academic discussion of the shifting sands of time.
The reason these questions of value and merit come before us with such
exigency, the reason we need so desperately to be able to take our case to
the public and to the literary public sphere, is that we are facing a drastic
shrinking of resources, the defunding of the humanities, the wholesale
elimination of entire academic programs and departments that aren't directly helping us compete with Japan. And I believe that our chances, in
the humanities, of withstanding this defunding and this retrenchment depend largely on our ability to recognize and to win new constituencies
among aspiring educators and professionals, new constituencies on the
progressive-but-not-poststructuralist left, and, not least of these, new constituencies in what we must help to make a broader and more diverse
public sphere. However arcane and 'theoretical' some of its manifestations
may seem to be, therefore, the struggle over the university is a struggle in
which liberals, centrists and progressives, inside or outside the universities, have a civic obligation to engage.
Dinesh D'Souza, Falwell: Before the Millennium ( Chicago: Regnery-Gateway 1984); Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus, hereafter cited in the text as IE. Before
the Falwell book is consigned to the ash-heap of history, it's worth looking at - as a period
piece of far-right optimism in 1984, and as an index of how far D'Souza will go to curry
favor with extremists in the interest of self-advancement. ' Falwell has altered the terms of
political discourse in this country', concludes D'Souza. 'Today he sets the agenda.... He
has successfully made himself the spokesman for moral America.... Listening to Falwell
speak, one gets a sense that something is right about America, after all' (pp. 194, 205).
See Chester E. Finn, "The Campus: An Island of Repression in a Sea of Freedom", Commentary, vol. 88, no. 3 ( 1989), pp. 17-23. Finn attributes the line to Abigail Thernstrom; Peter Collier and
David Horowitz, in "PC Coverup", Heterodoxy, vol. 1, no. 1 ( 1992), pp. 11-12, attribute it to Jeane Kirkpatrick. The confusion as to who actually coined the phrase
is doubtless due to the fact that all card-carrying neocons were required to repeat it at one
point or another during the 1980s.
See, e.g., Dinesh D'Souza, "P.C. So Far", Commentary, vol. 92, vol. 4 ( 1991), pp. 44-7; Collier and
Horowitz, 'PC Coverup', pp. 1, 11-12.
Eugene Genovese, "Religious Foundations of the Constitution", Reviews in American
History, vol. 19 ( 1991), p. 338; review of Ellis Sandoz, A Government of Laws: Political Theory,
Religion, and the American Founding ( Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1990).
For a compelling and well-documented account of how McCarthyite persecution
proceeded in higher education, see Ellen W. Schrecker, No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and theUniversities