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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Trump Divide Among Conservative Profs

There has been an outpouring of research on right-wing populist conservatism since the advent of the Trump presidency and right-wing movements in Europe. Yet, little research has been devoted to divisions among conservatives themselves, especially among conservative academics. Although Trump has maintained remarkable unity within the Republican Party for electoral reasons, he has fostered sharp divisions among conservative intellectuals and academicians. This article compares 102 politically conservative professors who are Trumpists and 80 conservative professors who are anti-Trumpists. All 182 function as public intellectuals who advocate their views in print and digital media. Drawing on recent research in the sociology of intellectuals and particularly Pierre Bourdieu’s analytical field perspective, this article proposes a fielding political identities and practices framework to show how these two groups of professors (Trumpists and anti-Trumpists) differ in where they teach, their intellectual orientations, their scholarly productivity, where they network with think tanks, scholarly professional associations, and government agencies, and their stances on key issues surrounding the Trump presidency. The academic Trumpists embrace the right-wing populist wave mobilized by Trump and the conservative academic critics resist this move. This polarization of views between these two groups of conservative professors is enduring and rooted in two distinct social networks that connect positions in the academic field to affiliations with think tanks, government agencies, and professional associations in the field of power that reinforce their respective political identities. This research contributes to political sociology, the sociology of intellectuals, and the sociology of conservative politics in American higher education.