What Do Frat Boys and the Republican Party Have in Common?

National Review celebrates shallow mess-making as a conservative virtue.

On the face of things, it feels just a little too easy to equate today’s Republican Party with a bunch of over-entitled frat boys. Sure, George W. Bush spent most of a decade doing his level best to seal the connection in our minds with his famed ability to keep even close associates in their place by giving them passive-aggressively bullying nicknames like “Turd Blossom,” and sure, it’s easy to look at campus organizations filled mostly with smug, privileged white guys and guess how they’ll end up voting, but still, it’s all just a little too easy, right? The cheapest of cheap shots?

Well, no. Thanks to National Review, we can now affirm that the guys in Omega Theta Pi aren’t just a bunch of keg-loving douchebag brahs. They’re more complex than that: They’re a bunch of keg-loving douchebag brahs for liberty.

“Are Frat Brothers Natural Conservatives?” the magazine asks.

The answer? Yes. And apparently this is a virtue!

“As college students head back to school for spring semester, most will enter largely anti-conservative atmospheres,” National Review’s Betsy Woodruff wrote last week. “But for many, the Greek system may offer a respite from the typical environment of academia — or at least a safe and non-judgmental place to believe in limited government and free enterprise.”

How does this love of limited government express itself? By making a mess of the campus for everybody else who lives and works there.

The key anecdote in Woodruff’s piece, it turns out, emerges from Dartmouth University, where administrators placed restrictions on the number of kegs available for frat house parties. Chris Bowen, a 2002 graduate of Dartmouth, explained what happened next:

The keg rules, though, seemed to do the most to disabuse members of the Greek system of any romantic notions about central planning. “Eventually the leftists had to admit that that was an environmental disaster for the college,” he says, “because it wasn’t that kids wouldn’t drink. It was that we started buying racks of 20-ounce cans. And so pretty soon we were just filling the trash cans and the dumpsters and the recycling bins, to the extent that we could find them, with all these cans, and they were causing a lot of pollution.” As far as Bowen could tell, the university’s anti-drinking measures did nothing to actually reduce drinking.

Get that? Darmouth, you see, has a pretty widely documented problem with binge-drinking on its campus. (This, seriously, is the university’s “unofficial mascot.”) And instead of trying to help solve or address the problem, Dartmouth’s frat boys—with cheering from National Review—choose to circumvent the rules and celebrate that they’ve made things a little worse. You didn’t stop the drinking, but now we’ve made a mess! Joke’s on you! It’s self-centered and anti-community—and yeah, that’s a package seems to perfectly represent too much of modern conservatism.

But that’s how it goes for the magazine’s celebration of the Greek system. We’re given no real examples of a “limited government” embrace—instead, we’re shown that Republicans and the frat boys share a disdain for pointy-headed liberals and intellectuals: Feminists, journalists, and the rest. In fact, Woodruff writes, many of the Greeks favor abortion rights and gay marriage while paying lip service to fiscal conservatism. Which means the frat boys she depicts in the piece aren’t really conservative, so much: They’re right-wing tribalists. There’s a difference, believe it or not—but if that’s how America’s leading conservatives see themselves, why should the rest of us treat them any differently?

That difference, after all, seems meaningless to today’s modern Republican Party, which seems mostly to know what it’s against—President Obama—than what it’s for. Which is why ObamaCare, which started life in a conservative think tank and was first passed by a Republican governor, now stands as an example of petty tyranny to the Tea Party set. It’s a shallow, empty approach to politics and governance, and right now it’s all the GOP has.

Which makes it perfect for the frat boys. The rest of us are wise to keep our distance.