Thursday, January 20, 2011

Joe Lieberman and the Changing Vice-Presidency

cross-posted at Dagblog

So, Joe Lieberman is leaving. Or rather, Joe Lieberman is announcing that he's going to take his ball and go home, so that there's absolutely no way to get any leverage over him for the next two years. So I expect we'll all see much more written about him on the blogs.

Lots of blogs will deal with old grudges against Lieberman or grudging praise of him, and heaven knows I have some of both. But I'm most interested in Gail Collins' column, which confirms my own suspicion that Lieberman's political behavior since 2004 has mostly been driven by his anger at not gaining the party's nomination for the Presidency:

The vice presidential race was the high point of the Joe Lieberman story, even though he allowed Dick Cheney to eviscerate him in the debate. But he left it with the idea that he should be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004. Nobody else had gotten that message.

Lieberman, a big supporter of the war in Iraq, expected the party’s base to nominate a candidate who disagreed with them about the critical issue of the day, had failed at the most crucial task delegated to him during the previous presidential election and was one of the most sluggish and cliché-ridden public speakers in the history of oratory.

He was shocked when they decided not to.

“It wasn’t a personal rejection, but I never saw anybody take anything so personally. He became so bitter about Democratic liberals,” said Bill Curry, a former Connecticut comptroller and gubernatorial candidate.

Lieberman's passive-aggressive not-quite-exit from the national life interestingly comes as Sarah Palin's unfavorability ratings hit new record highs, and the American media actually begins to reflect those poll ratings in its coverage of her. Palin's bad numbers aren't an actual story; her poll numbers have been weak since a month or two after she was nominated for vice-president, and outright hideous since July, 2009. Her "record lows" of 53% unfavorable in the recent Gallup poll and 56% unfavorable in the last CNN poll, for example, are statistically identical with her previous lows of 52% and 55%. She has pretty much the same rotten poll numbers that she's had for a long time. What's changed is that her core constituency, the press, has started to believe that she isn't a viable candidate.

The conjunction of Palin's flameout and Lieberman's decision to rust makes me wonder if something has changed in the American vice-presidency, or at least in the the institution of the vice-presidential nominee. Going back to the election of 2000, five people have run for vice-president on major party tickets. The two who have actually been sworn into office, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, have been senior statesmen types rather than potential successors. Biden may have previously run for the nomination, but seems to understand that any chance he might have once had has passed him by, and that he won't be at the top of the ticket in 2016. Cheney never seems to have coveted the Presidency itself. Meanwhile the three major-party running mates who have not taken office (Palin, Liberman, and John Edwards) have all campaigned poorly for the understudy job but come away expecting a shot at being president themselves. It's very peculiar.

That's a laughably small sample, and probably I shouldn't draw any conclusions, but it's interesting that we're seeing this happen as the Vice-Presidency has grown stronger during Gore's and then Cheney's terms, and after the last vice-president to gain his party's nomination for president failed to gain office in such a difficult way. Al Gore expanded the day-to-day policy muscle of the Vice-Presidency (accelerating a development that had started and stuttered in previous administrations) and was a strong addition to Clinton's ticket but had the Presidency slip through his hands and was ruthlessly second-guessed on campaign strategy afterward. Cheney consolidated even more power in the Vice-Presidency (although he seems to have lost some in his second term), but was clearly not interested in anything beyond Air Force Two.

It seems (although this might be reversed in a political eyeblink) that the "vice-president" role is gaining ascendance over the "running mate" role which had been much more dominant for many years. The last vice-presidents have been essentially Cabinet heavyweights without portfolio. There's less emphasis on the Veep's campaign-trail functions, and much much less emphasis on the Vice-President as political heir apparent. In fact, it's been ten years of veeps who are not heir apparents at all. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the last "heir apparent" nominee lost the big prize in the Florida mudfight, and the successful heir apparent before that, George H. W. Bush, lost re-election and was unpopular with his party's base. When you flesh out that list of late-twentieth-century Veeps with Walter Mondale (who lost 49 states to Reagan) and Dan Quayle (a liability who could never be nominated for president), you can see why parties might move away from the anointed-successor model.

What's strange though is that the last three running mates who've lost seem so convinced that they would do better heading the ticket next time. What's even stranger is their evident conviction that they deserve the gig, even though they all fumbled the backup job.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King's Civility

cross-posted at Dagblog

We've been talking a lot lately about civility, for obvious and painful reasons. And our public conversation on that topic tends to go astray pretty quickly, because we don't all mean the same thing when we say "civility," and often aren't even sure what we mean by the word ourselves.

If we mean by "civility" that our public debates should never get heated, and that no one should ever speak angrily about politics, then we're going to be disappointed. American politics has been a rough and tumble business since Jefferson and Adams, at least, and on balance the country is better for it. Inciting violence and inflaming listeners is clearly unacceptable, but we can't rein all of the negativity and name-calling, and we shouldn't. There have always been politicians who managed to be dangerous and inflammatory without breaking any of the superficial rules of polite debate, and some of the speech that breaks those rules is valuable.

Neither should "civility" mean ceasing to disagree. There will always be disagreements, and no amount of comity or bipartisanship will make them go away. Every democracy has to make choices about serious questions, and the answers to those questions are almost never unanimous. Disagreement isn't a flaw that ruins democracy; democracy is the process of working out disagreements. People who complain that partisan politics are too partisan or too political are basically expressing a discomfort with democracy itself.

What I was planning to write, and still view as at least 90% of the truth, is that the heart of civility is participating in the civil process of resolving disagreements, and committing to abide by it. We have disagreements, and will always have disagreements, and we don't believe that any king, high priest, generalissimo or Wise and Distinguished Op-Ed Columnist can be trusted as an infallible referee. So we have this system for resolving our arguments, a system of elections, legal proceedings, and government institutions that allows us to argue and resolve arguments peacefully. Staying with that system, and binding ourselves to the outcomes even when we dislike them, is what makes us civil. "Peaceful" doesn't mean quiet or amicable or even fair. Jefferson and Adams and their partisans could sling a prodigious amount of mud. But when there was an election, they accepted the results. When a court rendered a decision, everyone abided by that decision. The Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans might have been enraged with each other on a regular basis, but they kept it in the courts and the voting booth and the Capitol building. The alternative, as one prominent member from each party demonstrated, was to take it outside the system like Hamilton and Burr. The rest of Jefferson's and Adams's supporters kept it vicious but not violent, and that's a pretty good result. If everybody gets their feelings hurt and nobody gets anything except their feelings hurt, I'd say the country is doing very, very well.

When someone declares that they will not be bound by the civil process, when they declare it illegitimate or announce that they will ignore outcomes that displease them, they are essentially refusing the civil peace. What they're saying is that their participation in our democracy, our justice system, and our national life is conditional on getting what they want. That's "We will honor all the laws and respect the courts, unless the courts try to integrate Ole Miss, in which case we will form a violent mob," or "We will honor the elections unless Aung San Suu Kyi does not win," or “We have a constitutional remedy here, and the framers said, if that don’t work — revolution." These are refusals to accept the social contract, refusals to renounce force. They are expressions of lawlessness ad threats of civil violence. It doesn't matter what tone of voice they're said in.

If we're calling each other ugly names but still talking, that's a good thing. As long as we agree to resolve our differences peacefully, we can call each other scoundrels and shout until we turn red (or blue). Without that agreement, we're not in a civil relationship. We're just dealing with rival gangs.

I've been worried by a lot of political rhetoric for the last few years, and it's not the name-calling that bothers me. It's the repeated claims that the other side is illegitimate or tyrannical or otherwise outside the civil process, the kind of language that suggests that the speakers and their listeners shouldn't feel bound by the process. Claiming that the President was not lawfully elected and has no authority is not civil; it is an implied threat of political violence. Calling the federal government's most banal and everyday functions "tyrannical" is not civil; if it is not a rhetorical preparation for bloodshed, it is at least an attempt to keep bloodshed open as an option. No one who says such a thing should be trusted. Raving about "Second Amendment remedies" if an election does not go one's own way is a disqualification from public life. So is showing up with a mob when you've lost an election. And peddling obviously false conspiracy stories, claiming that grandmothers will be euthanized by the health care bill or that the President of the United States is trying to destroy the economy in order to impose a socialist system, is an obvious attempt to undermine and delegitimize the very systems that preserve civil peace. This is incivility, a threat to our domestic peace.

That was where I was going to leave things, when the holiday forced me to think about Martin Luther King, Jr., and his approach to our public life. Because Dr. King was profoundly dedicated to peace and civility, but also refused a system that he viewed as manifestly unjust. He did not always abide by the laws or the courts. He did not always obey lawful orders by police officers, and he counseled others to the same eminently civil disobedience. Dr. King did not work within the system, the way someone like Thurgood Marshall did; that does nothing to diminish Marshall's staggering achievements, but makes Dr. King's even more surprising. I have to admit that King, whom I admire, refused to accept the laws and the framework for resolving disputes that I otherwise view as essential to keeping the peace, and yet he made the world a less violent place.

The obvious difference is that King and his followers were willing to suffer, rather than to cause suffering, in order to achieve their goals. They could (and did) step outside the rules meant to prevent civil violence because when they stepped out side those rules they brought no violence and no threat with them. They could break the laws in service of a higher good because they were in a peculiar way the perfect citizens: harming no one and wishing no one harm. They didn't need the rules to preserve the peace because civil peace itself was their rule.

They were faced, all too often, with antagonists who had abandoned the framework of civil society in order to intimidate and threaten, and sometimes even to murder. That made the moral choice facing the nation very clear. And often too, King and the SPLC faced legal authorities who were so violent and coercive that they exposed the coercion and threats of violence hidden under the guise of the law. King's vision was successful in part because the radical change he advocated was in fact safer, more peaceful, and less physically threatening than the public order that the authorities decreed necessary.

Talking about revolution is cheap, and easily lapses into an expression of thuggery. Those who genuinely feel that our political system has become tyrannical could learn from Dr. King, who managed a truly revolutionary response to oppression, forcing the violent to lay down their own arms.

And perhaps the secret is that Dr. King never wrote his enemies off, never dehumanized them. Even when facing the worst of mobs, he was acutely aware that the people in that mob were human beings, with moral selves, deserving of love. In the clip below he talks about how non-violent resistance reaches out to the oppressor's conscience, even if sometimes people wrestling with their troubled conscience simply double down on their wicked behavior. But King talks about this as effective, even when its short-term results seemed counter-productive. It wasn't just about "winning" for King, but about reaching another human soul, even if he only nudged that soul on a journey it was still far, far from completing. Nothing can be less violent than that: to confront one's enemies without fear while attempting to hasten their redemption.

Martin Luther King taught us to confront our opponents' consciences, rather than our opponents, and that lesson is one wthat our country needs right now, more than we have in many years. I am grateful to Dr. King tonight.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Violence and Political Gain

cross-posted at Dagblog

I haven't blogged about Tucson because it left me sickened and sad, and because Articleman said it all better than I could have. Anyway, I had nothing to say. Violence like this is a terrible, terrible thing. Everyone should be against civil bloodshed. What else could there be to say?

But now, apparently, many public voices are focused on how horrible it is to "gain political advantage" from violence, by which they mean gaining political advantage from violence directed against one's own side. But gaining political advantage from violence against your opponents is evidently great.

Nine or ten months ago, Republicans complained that Democratic congressmen were "exploiting" death threats against them for political gain. Now after the actual violence against one of those House members has actually come to pass, conservatives are complaining that Democrats are "exploiting" this violence. And voices in the media are echoing this charge.

Here is the new conventional wisdom: Inflammatory political speech is not wrong. Holding public figures responsible for their inflammatory political speech is wrong.

That position is insane and morally depraved, but is nonetheless considered serious, uncontroversial and even laudable. After a few days of hearing it repeated, I am even more sickened and saddened, but I'm also extremely angry.

Penalizing political movements or figures who advocate violence or who are recklessly inflammatory is not worse than advocating violence or being recklessly inflammatory. Penalizing movements or politicians for advocating violence or recklessly inflaming the violent is not "just as bad as" advocating violence or recklessly inflaming the violent. How could it be?

Blaming those who encourage violence is a good thing. One ought to blame those who encourage violence. Such blame should be proportionate and realistic, and should not demonize those who have spoken recklessly but encourage them to come over to the side of the angels. There can be too much blame, or inappropriate blame. But it is right and just to blame public figures when they abandon their responsibility to preserve our civil peace. Demanding accountability from such figures is not a game. It is necessary in any democracy.

If British troops shoot and kill civilians in Boston over a snowball fight, that should be held against George III and against his appointed Governor of Massachusetts. Their policies have led to civil bloodshed, and that is unacceptable. The Governor and the British government were obligated to step back and to become more conciliatory. Nor were Samuel Adams or Paul Revere playing some inappropriate "blame game" by holding the British government responsible for the Boston Massacre. Adams and Revere were right.

If segregationist fanatics blow up a church and kill three little girls inside it, that should be held against the segregationist position. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not wrongfully exploiting those children's deaths. Nor did the Civil Rights Movement wrongfully exploit the violence used against them in Birmingham or at Selma, or the violence of the mobs who gathered to block the integration of Ole Miss, or the inflammatory speeches of segregationist southern governors, or the murders of Medgar Evers and other civil rights volunteers. The segregationists should have been held accountable for that violence, should have been forced to renounce it, should have backed off and restricted themselves to peaceful, legal means. The side using the bombs and the guns and the firehoses should know that they will lose by using them.

It is not wrong to use Martin Luther King, Jr.'s murder to advance the cause of civil rights in this country. I defy anyone who says that it is.

Every politician, every public advocate, every speaker for a public cause should live in holy fear of causing Americans to hurt or kill their fellow-citizens. And they should know that they will pay a steep political price for any violence by those on their side. Dr. King certainly lived in such holy fear, would go to great lengths to prevent any violence by his own supporters, and publicly attempted amends when crowds did not keep to his non-violent message. Dr. King was in Memphis in April 1968 because an earlier march there had been marred by vandalism and other violence from those at the rear of the march. King was disconsolate after that earlier event and determined to return to Memphis to make sure that there was a genuinely non-violent demonstration. The Reverend King was in Memphis on the day he died because of his deep commitment to preventing any violence by his own side, and I think we could all stand to reflect on that commitment now.

If public figures pay no price for inflaming violence (whether they have inflamed it deliberately or merely through depraved indifference to the danger their words cause), then we have a system in which political violence and inflammatory speech is rewarded. If a course of action carries a benefit but no cost, then that course of action will eventually be followed. Politicians who refuse to endanger the public will sooner or later lose to those who have no such scruples. This is axiomatic. If the only price for rhetoric that leads to violence gets paid by your opponents, then the rules of the game will not only permit politicians to gamble with their voters' safety and their opponents' lives, the rules of the game will demand it.

And when violence by one's own side against the other brings gains rather than losses, we're through as a democracy. Violence, and not votes, will carry the day.

And yes, this extends to causes I believe in. John Brown's violence did not and could not make slavery right, but it did obligate abolitionists to renounce such violence unequivocally and to recommit themselves to a peaceful end to slavery. That they did not, that so many of them chose a path that helped foreclose any option but civil war, is a sorry thing, the violence and intransigence on the slaveholders' side notwithstanding. The stupid violence by some members of the Black Panther Party in the early 1970s did not make charges of continuing racism in our society less true, but it did set back attempts to deal with our problems constructively, and we would all have been better off without that violence.

If something horrible happened to Sarah Palin or John Boehner, that would lead to enormous sympathy for their positions, no matter their merits. That is human and understandable. If something horrible happened to Sarah Palin or John Boehner after a bunch of politicians and pundits had been talking about them as horrible menaces who want to kill your grandmother, then the people who had been demonizing Palin and Boehner would quite understandably be discredited in the public eye. That is not wrong. In fact, it's quite natural. And it's totally okay by me, because I don't want anything bad to happen to John Boehner or Sarah Palin. I disagree with them. I'd be pleased to see Boehner lose the Speakership and Palin's ratings drop. But I wish them every health in the world.

The way politicians should avoid blame for inciting violence is by not inciting violence. It's really that simple. If you don't enjoy people blaming you just because you used the rhetoric of violent revolution on the campaign trail, then don't use the language of violent revolution on the campaign trail. I don't want to hear about how you shouldn't be blamed and it's not your fault. I want to hear you talking like the civil peace matters to you, all the time. That is the smart and self-interested thing to do, and also the patriotic and moral thing to do. If you feel aggrieved that (for once) the smart political play is also the right thing to do, then your grievance is noted: you are unfit for office.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Tucson Murders

I don't have the heart to blog about the Arizona shootings today. But my friend and co-blogger Articleman, who knows Representative Giffords and knew Chief Judge Roll personally, has a wonderful post at Dagblog. It is a testimony to both Chief Roll and Representative Giffords' courage, personal kindness, and dedication to serving our country and their state. Give it a read.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

College Football in the 21st Century

cross-posted at Dagblog

Critics of higher education in America generally present themselves as modernizing reformers. They claim America's universities are hidebound, outmoded, and fundamentally inefficient. Maybe, maybe not. It's an easy charge to make about an institution, like the Western university, which is several centuries old, and tends to sound plausible no matter the merits of the particular case. "It's the 21st century," the standard argument goes, "so it's time to get rid of anachronisms like tenured faculty/four-year bachelor's degrees/foreign language departments/semesters/public funding for state universities." This "out with the old, in with the new" argument sounds logical when it actually is logical, but also when it's not. It can be used for genuinely necessary reform, but also to promote poorly thought-out ideas that can't stand much direct examination.

What's striking in a climate where public universities are facing massive cutbacks in the name of "modernization", and students are being asked to pay higher tuition for fewer classroom resources, is that the people talking about "reinventing" higher education almost never talk about college football.

If we're talking about starting over and reinventing the American university from scratch, big-time college football would not be an obvious thing to keep on the table. It's about as much of a frill as frills get. (This doesn't mean that I'm not personally planning to enjoy the Orange Bowl, or that you shouldn't. Frills are fun. They wouldn't exist if they weren't.) It doesn't have much obvious relationship to the core educational mission. It's expensive as all hell, and generally loses a hell of a lot of money. (There's a lot of money to be made in TV fees and bowl appearances, but very few schools actually pull down enough of that money to turn a profit, and you need to spend tens of millions on your football program even to compete for that money in the first place. Lots of schools with "BCS" Division I programs lose millions on football. Berkeley, for example, has been losing $6-8 million on football every year now for years, and raiding the academic budget to make up those losses. Seriously.) Those tens of millions of dollars go to fund an extra-curricular activity that about a hundred or so students actually participate in, on campuses that might have fifteen or thirty thousand students.

Now, the conventional wisdom is that sports programs pay for themselves, and more, by increasing enrollment and bringing in donations from happy alumni. But if we're hard-headed modernizers, we pride ourselves on not believing the conventional wisdom. We need hard data! And when it comes to big-ticket football, the conventional wisdom turns out not to be true at all. It's very hard to demonstrate any serious or enrollment gains from a winning sports program, and if you think about it honestly, you already kind of know this. There are plenty of schools whose football teams will never (and really should never) be on television, but still have to turn away more good applicants than they could take. You can think of plenty of enviable schools, the kind that proud parents and resume-writers brag about, whose sports programs are really, really, really not the draw. As for the donations that a big time football program can bring, usually all of that cash (like the TV money) goes to feeding the football program itself, and the football program is always hungry.

Now we're getting to the point where commitment to education at public universities and commitment to football at public universities don't coexist easily. Spending tens of millions on football (and $3-7 million just on a coach's salary) always annoyed some professors, but not in any way that rocked the boat. But when state budget cuts lead even a great public system like the University of California to cut back its course offerings and shrink its faculty while raising the tuition to three times what it was in 2000 and then ">raising it again, raiding Berkeley's academic budget for six or seven million dollars a year on top of the official athletics budget starts to be a very tough sell. [For the record, UC's in-state tuition and fees were about $3500 or $3600 in 2000-01. In 2010-11, they were more than $10,800. The Regents just voted another 8 percent hike, for a much diminished educational product.]

I'm not going to pretend that killing college football would fix the funding problems of American education. Nor am I going to pretend I don't enjoy a good college game myself. But I think understanding where big-time college football comes from helps us understand what's happening to higher education in general, because college football as we know it is a byproduct of an educational system that emerged in post-war America and is now passing away. They grew up together.

American football evolved on college campuses; most of the rules that we think of as basic to the sport were hashed out between students from various Ivy League and other exclusive Eastern schools in the late 1800s. Of course, it wasn't the Ivy League then, because the "Ivy League" is a sports conference, and college football wasn't officially overseen by the colleges. It was the students' thing, not the administrators', and administrations only gradually started sponsoring the games as a way to get some control over them and to reduce the injury and mayhem. Football was a form of student rebellion against universities that were too much like universities: too much about book learning and discipline and the life of the mind. The academic focus of college made a lot of students unhappy because colleges in those days were much more socially exclusive than they were intellectually exclusive. Most people were there because of who their parents were; whether they had any academic gifts or interests was a secondary question. Of course, there were some brilliant and dedicated minds at every school, and every college had its handful of extremely bright scholarship boys, but the median undergraduate at a place like Harvard or Princeton in 1880 wasn't nearly as good a student as the median undergraduates in those places would be in 1980. So a lot of those wealthy, connected and not particularly intellectual young men got so sick of declining Latin nouns and whatnot that they had to get outside in the fresh air, form up into flying wing formations, and maim each other.

(The next time someone like David Brooks gets all misty-eyed about the old-fashioned elites and how they had so much more character than today's careerist collegians, remember that this is what he's talking about. Brooks is nostalgic for anti-intellectual snobs with inherited fortunes, as opposed to middle-class kids who got into Princeton because of their grades and who will need to find a job after graduation. Brooks especially gets nostalgic for the old Ivy Leaguers when he's writing about people like Barack Obama or Elena Kagan who wouldn't have been allowed into those exclusive schools in 1890.)

So for a solid seventy or eighty years, football was the hobby and ritual of the tiny minority who went to college. A lot of its glamor came from its upper-class context. This is when Harvard and Yale were still major football powers, and while there was an NFL, you couldn't make a full year's living playing in it. The point of playing college football was not to go pro, but to network with influential alumni. This was pretty much how things stood until well after World War II.

College football was transformed into a national sports-entertainment industry during the post-war expansion of American higher education. Between the G.I. Bill and the massive growth in public education to accommodate the Baby Boom, American higher education turned into something very different from anything that had gone before. College education had become an expected middle-class privilege, and the largest, wealthiest middle class that America had ever seen sent the largest generation of youngsters in our nation's history to college. The resulting changes were wide-reaching and fundamental, both for our society and our education system. Increased spending on education both followed from and helped to drive the growing wealth of an expanding middle class, fueled booming economic growth, and weakened the relative position of the older elites. The primary driver for all of this change wasn't the private colleges, which did increase enrollments but could never have met the new demand on their own. What changed things was the state universities, funded generously by state legislatures and educating college students on a then-unprecedented scale at steeply subsidized tuition. But the private colleges were transformed as well, becoming more academic and less aristocratic; once the privilege of going to college was no longer restricted to the wealthy and connected, the only way to stay one of the top colleges in America was to have highly talented students, and Ivy League campuses became increasingly dominated by bright middle-class strivers (of the kind that David Brooks despises, and once was) rather than the old blue-blooded Philistines. The blue bloods didn't go away, but they ceased to be the majority even on elite campuses, and they stopped setting the tone.

At the same time, college football had a wider audience and more alumni, than it had ever had before. And now that huge prosperous new middle class all had TVs in the living room. The NFL began to rise to national prominence at the end of the 1950s, and the market for televised Saturday-afternoon games was suddenly quite lucrative. It was fairly easy money for colleges to begin with; they could get fat TV contracts for the amateur teams that they were already fielding, and anyway, the schools had comfortable budgets to begin with. Spending a little bit more on the football team in order to pull down some big network-TV bucks seemed like a great investment: a small expense for what could be an incommensurately large gain.

Now, of course, things have gotten far more competitive in every sense of that word, and the potential gains from TV rights have already been priced into the cost of chasing those dollars. But at the same time, the initial conditions that allowed colleges, universities, and their football teams to grow and thrive in the 1960s have ended. What we're living through at the moment is the end of the post-war education system, with its low prices, high per-student spending, and broad accessibility. We are sliding back toward an older model, educating fewer students, allowing less upward mobility, and increasingly dominated by selective private institutions, just like in the bad old days. This march toward the past is part of a larger attempt to diminish and weaken the American middle class that emerged after World War II, and move toward a less egalitarian and less mobile society vaguely resembling our social arrangements between 1870 and 1940. State funding for higher education now represents only a fraction of the cost of public colleges and universities, forcing even great public universities to cut how much they spend on teaching and charge students much, much more for it. (Think of UC Berekely and their 200%+ tuition increase over the past decade.) Some things won't change. There will still be some superb colleges in this country, a few of them likely better than American universities have ever been. A select few students will continue getting fabulous educations. But that number will be smaller, and many of their peers in less privileged colleges will get very, very different educations.

College football will survive the conditions that allowed it to become what it is. In the end it's more suited for what American education is becoming than it was for what American education was in the last half of the 20th century. The legitimately amateur programs that still remain will continue on, just as they have been since the 19th century: opportunities for educationally privileged young men to bond with each other and to please alumni. And the high-profile programs with the 100,000-seat stadiums and the television contracts will fit the new corporate model of higher education nicely. Those football programs are narrowly pre-professional; they prepare their students for NFL careers and not much else. (At many such programs, football recruits don't even learn how to fill in a college application. This is literally true.) At the same time, Big College Football is entirely unconcerned about the vast majority of its athletes who will never be able to land the only job that college has prepared them for. Students will be allowed to drop out and drift away when the program has used them up; the model is enrollment, not retention. Developing the student as a whole person is entirely out of the question. And the rewards of the students' hard work and effort are only for the fortunate few, while everyone else (no matter how hard they have worked) is labeled a failure. And a small group of privileged people will stand to make a massive profit. There's a reason that people who agitate for "modernizing" our colleges and universities don't complain about big time, pro in all but name college football. It already looks exactly the way they want college to look.