I am European and came to America in 2002, where I teach at an elite Liberal Arts College. My native country is among the most socialized in the world, with strong leftist parties, from democratic socialists to outright communist. All across Europe the left – the far left, somewhere between Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean – has a very strong political position, as well as a clearly visible presence on university campuses. Despite my European background I found myself deeply surprised by the political bias on college campuses here in America. Left-wing bias is almost undetectable among European college faculty compared to America’s academic institutions. The bias that I have encountered has so many facets that I am still encountering new ones.
One of the first signs of political bias was an unqualified admiration for Europe in general and its welfare systems in particular. Having both personal and scholarly experience of those, I told new colleagues of all the problems that I saw there: unemployment twice as high as in the U.S., heavy welfare dependency, high crime, health care rationing, perpetually rising taxes, etc.. This image of Europe did not accord with what my new-found colleagues – overwhelmingly liberal – had decided that they saw over in the Old World.
In fact, their uncritically positive image of Europe astonished me so much that I began trying to convince them that they were wrong. (In the name of free speech and an educated academic conversation – things that you would expect to find on a college campus.) This turned out to be a bad idea: my colleagues slowly but steadily changed their attitude toward me. I refused to acknowledge that the politics in Europe was as superior as European wine, cars or cuisine. (In fact, I prefer California wine, I drive a Chevrolet and I love pumpkin pie!)
The most feverishly liberal among my colleagues now began looking at me as a traitor. One told me to stop expressing my political views when other faculty was around. Why? Because, he said, “I do not want to have to defend why we have a conservative here” at our department.