Further thoughts on the prevailing political affiliations of academics

What if it turns out that no professional group is closely aligned with the distribution of political affiliations in the general public? What if that differential distribution were in part driven by values inherent in the respective professions themselves?

What if — and stay with me here — professional groups are among the demographic segments out of which political parties build their coalitions? And what if some of that coalition-building takes the form of demonizing certain groups — to pick a random example, let’s say… teachers?

That is to say: the two political parties — and the “conservative” and “liberal” leanings that they imperfectly reflect — are neither a fact of nature nor are they exhaustive of all forms of political thinking and loyalty. The two parties are two competing organizations that have basically monopolized American politics over the course of the last 150 years, in large part by being opportunistic in the building of political coalitions.

There is no reason to expect any particular group of people, especially a self-selecting one, to display a 50/50 divide between Democrat and Republican (or liberal and conservative, to the extent that those terms are proxies for the existing political parties). Nor indeed is there any reason to believe that a 50/50 split along those axes would represent an important or meaningful form of intellectual diversity.

It would be safer to assume just the opposite, because a perfect 50/50 split between Democrats and Republicans would indicate that the group in question was completely and exhaustively defined by the conventional wisdom constructed around the current balance of power between the two political parties. If I found a university that was perfectly divided between Democrats and Republicans, I would advise potential students to just save their money and read the New York Times opinion page for four years.