OPINION: Idaho’s voice of American illiberalism | Opinion | lmtribune.com – Lewiston Morning Tribune

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There was a time when Boise State University, the 22,000-student college in Idaho’s capital city, only made national news with a football team that played on a garish artificial blue turf.Now, with the football team struggling, BSU is grabbing national attention for arguably more important reasons. The school is front and center in the raging culture wars around the value of higher education, diversity and equity, sexual orientation and, believe it or not, feminism.The Boise State story has many threads, including being part of a growing national effort — orchestrated on the illiberal libertarian right — to broadly discredit education at every level. Like everything else these days it’s all political. Stay with me. I’ll try to connect some of the dots.The latest Boise State angle involves a tenured professor in the political science department of the university, Scott Yenor. Yenor is a scholar of political theory, but more importantly he is a provocateur, which is an important angle of the larger story.Yenor recently gave a speech in Florida at the National Conservatism Conference. Among other intellectual luminaries on the agenda for this Trumpy conference were Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, two Republicans senators who aided and abetted the Jan. 6 insurrection. Christopher Rufo, the guy who singlehandedly created the pseudo-controversy about critical race theory, also spoke.Yenor’s Florida speech — now widely available on the internet — advanced some of his theories about family life, marriage and feminism.Using language that would have made Archie Bunker, TV’s most famous bigoted white guy, blush, Yenor said, among other things, that “independent women” who seek fulfillment in “midlevel bureaucratic jobs like human resource management, environmental protection, and marketing” are — I kid you not — “more medicated, meddlesome, and quarrelsome than women need to be.”The professor suggested it was a mistake for women to be recruited into fields that have long been dominated by men. “Young men must be respectable and responsible to inspire young women to be secure with feminine goals of homemaking and having children,” Yenor said, suggesting that the achievements of men have not been adequately “celebrated.”No word on what the professor thinks about women as political science majors, but this part of his speech might provide a clue: “Every effort must be made not to recruit women into engineering, but rather to recruit and demand more of men who become engineers. Ditto for med school, and the law, and every trade.”It appears the larger point Yenor was attempting to make is that “feminism,” and the radical notion that women and men should be treated equally, have come close to destroying the American family, weakening the institution of marriage, and generally putting us on a path to utter societal destruction. Yenor has produced a wide array of articles and books on this theme.Typically, many were quick to condemn Yenor, and he may have created serious questions about whether women students he has taught at Boise State have a cause for action, particularly if they can show Yenor’s “theories” have penalized them in some way. Did he grade the “striving women” in his classes differently than men, for example? Expect more on this. The university would do well to get in front of the issue with its own investigation.Boise State, correctly in my view, defended the professor’s odious views under the necessary umbrella of academic freedom. Pointy-headed academics on the nutty right are entitled to be as silly as are their counterparts on the crazy left.Yenor’s ideas, while backward, demeaning, even hatefully misogynistic, are worthy of debate. Worthy of being demolished. Worthy of being broadly rejected. Yenor should not earn a wider platform by becoming the latest crackpot martyr who has been “silenced,” which one suspects was part of his rationale for taking on half the human race. What better way to get a bucket load of attention these days — and a Fox News hit — than by saying outrageous things and being called on them by “liberals”?But here is where the Yenor/ Boise State story goes wider. Make no mistake: The real agenda here, and that of the people who gave Yenor a platform in Florida, is to discredit public education. The goal is to play to growing resentment among conservatives about modern “liberal” education — and I use liberal in the classic sense — being a leftist plot to undermine America.Yenor is deeply connected into the world of the anti-education Idaho Freedom Foundation, and he was a member of the phony education indoctrination task force created by Idaho’s Trump-endorsed candidate for governor, current Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin.Yenor is a “Washington Fellow at the Claremont Institute,” the once widely respected conservative California think tank that now happily endorses the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump won the last election.The institute’s “Center for the American Way of Life” — Yenor is listed among the center’s scholars — argues, Trump-like, for a new rightest movement. “The Right must be morally unflinching in refuting the Left’s ideologies,” its website proclaims. “It must speak clearly and confidently about the effects of radical feminism, ‘antiracism,’ and globalism. It must be prepared to protect its children, its property, and its standards from encroachments.”Nothing short of revolution is required, Claremont says, to free the country from “the adversarial press and media, Big Tech oligopolies, and corrupt universities.” Trump authoritarianism, however, is just fine.A Claremont “senior fellow” is John Eastman, a law professor and author of the crazy, anti-constitutional “Stop the Steal” memo that attempted to create a rationale for then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject the Electoral College votes of several states and keep Trump president.Eastman is deeply implicated in the events of Jan. 6, subpoenaed by the congressional committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Yenor, you might not be surprised to learn, recently wrote a defense of the insurrectionist law professor who was — surprise — not exactly given the red-carpet treatment at the recent National Political Science Association’s conference.So, back to the Boise State prof. He’s clearly not a dim bulb — I have met him, by the way — but even gifted minds can lead others astray. He’s playing a game on the fringes of the far, far American right, not unlike the old John Birch Society or Phyllis Schlafly once did. The game is to inflame by outrage and hearken back to “America’s better days” when mom was home in an apron waiting for her man to return from men’s work.This is the “real America” these throwbacks advocate, and what better way to channel it than arguing that women are always better off barefoot in the kitchen rather than as educated professionals?The American “revolution” Claremont and its scholars envision isn’t just insulting, illiberal and undemocratic. It’s a profound rejection of modernity and a repudiation of a society that has struggled for decades to create equal opportunities for all its citizens without regard to the makeup of their chromosomes.It is essential to refute and reject these dangerous people — mostly mediocre white men — who claim so cavalierly the moral high ground that justifies revolution. They have already proven they will stop at nothing to create an authoritarian America, and they are prevailing. It’s probably just a coincidence that Yenor’s misogyny is in the news just as the Supreme Court prepares to roll back the abortion rights American women have had for 50 years.Johnson served as press secretary and chief of staff to the late former Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus. He lives in Manzanita, Ore.

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