Why Academics Tend to Lean Left & Our Country’s Current Ideological Shift
Maybe it is too soon for this, as emotions are still a bit high on the morning after the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. Regardless, here are a few thoughts.
Shortly after the last election cycle (i.e., 2012), I made the following statement on Facebook: “I seriously doubt a conservative will ever once again win the Whitehouse. The demographics of this country in terms of education, nationality, religion, and ethnicity has changed forever.” Fast forward to last night, I observed the Iowa-caucus-process in action, as college students debated within their perspective groups live on TV. What was apparent to me was the influence of their college education upon their dialogue.
The truth is, our country is undergoing an ideological shift that has been to a large degree influenced by academia. This is clearly seen within my own field of Biblical Studies, but can also be observed in other disciplines. In post-modernity, there has been a move in Biblical Studies (et al. disciplines) to challenge any belief system that is perceived to be oppressive or dogmatically doctrinaire, which is also perceived to have unconsciously helped to shape the masses’ “uneducated understanding” of the world. For example, within “mainstream” academia, it is frequently alleged that both evangelicalism and capitalism possess these qualities. Nevertheless, this shift is best understood by the term ”ideological criticism,” which is a critical approach employed in a number disciplines that has largely been designed to overthrow the hegemony of those ideas that are perceived as having a long history of exploiting the weak and marginalized.
Also responsible for the shift is the rise of “cultural criticism”—which can also be characterized as an “ideological criticism”—which has sought to challenge certain traditionalist or conservative interpretations of the Bible and religion in America, along with their corresponding political agendas. This scope of Biblical studies (et al. disciplines) also involves African-American Liberationist Studies, Feminist Studies, and Post-Colonial Studies, which are all quasi-Marxist in their thinking. That is, they are all concerned with addressing the perceived socio-economic substructure and class conflict that exists between the oppressors and oppressed.
Likewise, the shift is due to the voice of those advocates of “multiculturalism,” who allege that rich white males are oppressors in our society. Rightfully or wrongly so, their view has certainly taken root in numerous academic disciplines and in our current culture. This view certainly seems to be shaping up to be one of the major component in this election–both in our media and among the candidates.
Finally, notions of “American Exceptionalism” have also been thoroughly challenged in a number of academic disciplines. This has not only fostered a radical rethinking on race, gender, and sexuality, but has also challenged hegemonistic conceptions of what it means to be an American. For many academics and politicians, it is no longer as simple as such phrases like “as American as Apple Pie.”
At the end of the day, no one can argue that academia’s influence is not being felt in politics and culture. For example, these themes are certainly evident in both Hillary’s and Sander’s campaigns. Therefore, I will be very surprised if either do not win the Whitehouse. However, there are also signs of a possible counter-conservative-revolution of sorts, as Iowa saw record Republican turnout. Certainly, many of these citizens feel that America—as they have known it—is changing and on the precipice of slipping away forever.
Nevertheless, I still hold to my comments from 2012, but in the end, I can’t predict the future. Thus, I will revisit this article after the election in November.
Bryan E. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies from Southern Christian University and a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Amridge University, Turner School of Theology—where he is also currently working on his PhD in New Testament with a focus on Pauline Theology & Eschatology. Additionally, he has earned a significant amount of graduate credit from Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, TN. Recently, Bryan has served as an Adjunct Instructor of Classical Hebrew in the Foreign Language & Literature Department at Middle Tennessee State University. He currently lives in Nashville, TN with his wife of 24 years, 3 children, and 1 grandchild.