After the recent student riots at Berkeley and Middlebury, Tuesday evening’s lecture at Trinity University by Dinesh D’Souza was a pleasant throwback to that forgotten era when civility and free speech reigned on college campuses. Security was tight as the crowd of several thousand filled Laurie Auditorium to hear the conservative provocateur, gray hair and Trump t-shirts marking the generational dividing lines between concerned citizens and Trinity students.
Greeted by cheers and a standing ovation, D ‘Souza lost little time getting to the red meat his audience craved. He contrasted the organized resistance of the anti-Trump movement “from the national megaphones of media and Hollywood” with their warmly partisan support of Barack Obama eight years earlier. But he promptly returned to the main theme of his commercially successful 2016 documentary about Hillary Clinton tracing the close relationship between the Democratic Party and slavery. What did Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan, Senators James T. Calhoun and Robert Byrd all have in common? They were Democrats!
While the Democrats now claim to be the party of the oppressed and the downtrodden, D’Souza charged that their real objective was simply to control votes and perpetuate their own power. While Republicans held a ladder for aspiring Americans to better themselves through hard work, Democrats offered only a rope thrown from their lofty positions on the rooftop. But while Democrats claim to pull their clients steadily upwards, they leave people dangling and dependent on endless assistance from government bureaucrats.
To perpetuate the illusion of progress, the suppression of free speech was essential, in politics and on campus, “The media now intimidates by fear…for which the only antidote is courage.” D’Souza cited his own recent brush with the law, convicted of a minor campaign contribution that is rarely prosecuted. He claimed this ordeal took place solely because of his prominence as an outspoken critic of the left. In the same way, a generation of campus orthodoxy has achieved not only an uncritical acceptance of liberal-socialist values but also the systematic suppression of any opposing points of view.
As if to confirm his thesis, the first several questioners identified themselves as Trinity students, promptly chastising D’Souza and the Trump administration for banning immigration, resisting climate change and suppressing minority rights. While their questions were posed with reasonable courtesy, the audience visibly bristled when another student – identifying himself as the campus newspaper editor – began by calling the speaker “a hack.” A well-seasoned debater, D’Souza coolly countered that moral outrage typifies the late teenage years; but he drew laughter and applause by urging his questioner to justify his impertinence by first acquiring his own reputation.
Probably the most compelling question was asked by a young Hispanic man holding a baby and describing himself as a student, though not from Trinity’s well-heeled climes. He asked how Republicans could speak to the ghetto and the barrio when everything he heard from every quarter of those communities identified Democrats as the only party interested in advancing their ethnicities. It was the only question asked all evening for which Dinesh D ‘Souza did not have a crisp and convincing reply.
But neither did anyone else in that audience, the surrounding San Antonio community, or, for that matter, in a country now starkly divided along political, ethnic and generational lines. Sadly, those are the kinds of meaningful discussions once reserved for our campuses – but a long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away.
[Col. Ken Allard, a retired Army officer, is a military analyst and author on national security issues. He is a believer who proudly calls San Antonio his home.]