The Michigan Review provides a broad range of in-depth coverage of campus affairs at the University of Michigan. The Michigan Review is published bi-weekly September through August. The Michigan Review is the independent, student-run journal of campus affairs at the University of Michigan. We neither solicit nor accept monetary donations from the University of Michigan. Contributions to The Michigan Review are tax-deductible under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code. The Michigan Review is not affiliated with any political party or any university political group. Unsigned editorials represent the opinion of the editorial board. Ergo, they are unequivocally correct and just. Signed articles, letters, and cartoons represent the opinions of the author, and not necessarily those of The Michigan Review. The Serpent’s Tooth shall represent the opinion of individual, anonymous contributors to The Michigan Review, and should not necessarily be taken as representative of the Michigan Review’s editorial stance. The opinions expressed in the publication and on this website do not necessarily reflect those of the advertisers or the University of Michigan.
In Response to Needs and Demands
Change does not occur in a vacuum. All political and cultural shifts produce a ripple pattern which penetrates the surrounding social fabric.
The most dramatic cultural shift in recent history took place in the 1960’s and the repercussions of this turbulent era continue to be felt in the American political arena.
The “anti-establishment” attitudes of the 60’s released a series of backlashes unprecedented in U.S. history. In the fires of rebellion, a new social conscience was forged. The healthy distrust of authority which emerged brought with it a flood of self-proclaimed crusaders for justice. Political activism became the goal of every educated man and woman, and for every social ill, real and imagined, federal legislation was offered as a cure.
College students of the 60’s were overwhelmed by the battle cries of the “War on Poverty,” and at the same time plagued by a guilty conscience resulting from our questionable involvement in Vietnam. They leaped feet-first into the whirlpool of activism – lashing out against what they mistakenly understood to be the cause of society’s problems – the capitalist system.
But the quest for Utopia by college students during this era proved to be a doomed one. The “War on Poverty” soon ended without a victory, leaving taxpayers and minorities as its casualties. Activism became the hobby of a few aging actors and sheltered college students, and it became apparent that raw emotion is no substitute for a persuasive and rational argument. The deafening screams of the radical left for a “workers’ revolution” drove away the very workers they were supposed to attract. The decidedly anti-establishment attitude which prevailed among members of all radical groups had the same effect. And so, in search of a cause, the 1960’s student radicals proclaimed a takeover of the liberal banner. To fight the establishment, they created their own liberal establishment.
The decade that followed the left’s shift in position proved to be the demise not only of the worker’s voice, but also of the American Dream. To satisfy the demands made by the liberal establishment, the government began to implement vast “social welfare” programs which ballooned the national debt to over a trillion dollars. A more damaging effect, however, was the gradual erosion of the work ethic, with its promise of success as the result of individual effort.
The social misconduct of students during the 1960’s brought to the surface a new breed of activists demanding change. They demanded change because the political power had become too centralized, and the abuses of power too common. The unsatisfied contingent entering college in the late 70’s and early 80’s began to challenge the bromides of liberalism with a unique style; unique because they had relinquished the irrational principles of their predecessors and had set a new course for a more prudent order. This new brand of radical, repelled by the blindly altruistic intentions of their 1960’s counterparts, sought to purge the college activist movement of its guilt-ridden and emotional tendencies.
Thus, the 1980’s brought with them a tide of change in college students, with its roots in a profound respect for the free-market and individual liberty. A radical dissenter of conservative origin was born – a dissenter who was not concerned so much with maintenance of the status quo as with the creation of a better future.
The results of the 1980 elections proved that the unsuccessful liberal blueprint for change had been abandoned by the American people. The time was ripe for action – and what better setting than Ann Arbor, Michigan, a city transformed by the chaos of the “era of upheaval,” to serve as the backdrop for a revival of rational political commitment?
A group of adherents to this new political commitment conceived of a forum in which to present their concerns and desires to the rest of the college population. The forum would take the form of a review, a scholarly piece devoted to essays, commentary and issues salient to college life.
The idea was to confront the existing liberal media bias on Michigan’s campuses. The dream had been born, and only a spark was needed to ignite the powder-key, of dissatisfaction among radical activists.
It happened on a Tuesday in October of 1981. An editorial appeared in The Michigan Daily, the University’s student newspaper, condemning the College Republicans and its chairman, Thomas Fous. Fous, a former employee of The Michigan Daily, sought an appropriate tactical rebuttal. A scheme was devised after a conversation with Alan Miller, a Detroit News writer and National Review contributor, who had written an article pertaining to the Dartmouth Review’s contemptuous attitude toward the university in Hanover. The scheme involved taking the liberal establishment head-on by battling philosophy versus philosophy.
The drama started to unfold as Fous began contacting sources on the plan to bring a conservatively-based review to the University of Michigan. Paul W. McCracken, distinguished economist and presidential advisor, encouraged the idea and pledged his support. The enterprise would eventually manifest itself as The Michigan Review. For Fous, a former writer for The Flint Journal, the formation of a student publication came easily. He set about the task of securing bonafide writers and staff personnel. Ronald J. Stefanski, an English major, proved to be the perfect addition to the Review’s mixture of satire and commentary.
Along with the tasks required to establish such a publication, certain less tangible assets are also necessary to insure the longevity of The Michigan Review. A host of reputable individuals have given their acknowledgement and support to the enterprise. Among them are: Gerald R. Ford; Russell Kirk, famed conservative intellectual; Peter Fletcher, former Republican National Committeeman; Irving Kristol, renowned neoconservative; R. Emmett Tyrrell, editor of The American Conservative; and Stephen Tonsor, history professor and conservative intellectual.
The radical conservative seeks to mesh the essentials of the conservative philosophy with the 1960’s flair for instigating reform. The hope is to concretize the “best of the tried and true” with the hope of arriving at a rational order, based not on the whims of self-proclaimed social reformers, but on a deep understanding of human nature. The quintessential purpose of The Michigan Review is to confront the existing liberal establishment on Michigan’s college campuses by presenting this new perspective in a clear and precise manner.
The radical conservative nurtured by a generation of idealists, politicized by the 60’s need for social rearrangement but not overwhelmed by the emotional and guilt-ridden excesses has arrived on the college campus. Their desires and concerns are now articulated in The Michigan Review.
This essay was originally published in The Michigan Review’s very first issue printed December 1982.