Political commentator Bill O’Reilly yesterday indicated that the overwhelming presence of progressive professors means this country needs an affirmative action program for conservative intellectuals. To protect, you know, America’s children. Good luck with that.

As O’Reilly put it:

…By letting so many liberal professors to openly get political with their students, taxpayers are seeing their money spend in a irresponsible manner. He proposed “affirmative action for conservative thought on campus.” [Libertarian columnist John] Stossel said that such a move would result in liberals “scream[ing] McCarthyism,” though he did agree with O’Reilly that having so many professors of one particular political agenda is troubling.

Here’s the clip:

It’s actually not troubling. While it’s true that American professors are likely to lean Democratic politically (one study several years ago, for instance, indicated that 72 percent of academics are liberal and only 15 percent identify as conservative), there’s no evidence these academics are indoctrinating America’s college students with their views. In fact almost 40 percent of college graduates are Republicans; only 27 percent are Democrats in the 2008 election only 53 percent of college graduates even voted for Barack Obama. If that’s indoctrination, not working out very well.

I suspect O’Reilly isn’t really serious. The general conservative take against affirmative action is that it’s unfair to reward or punish people for anything other than the quality of their intellect and work ethic, and the consequences to society be dammed. If colleges aren’t hiring conservative academics, it seems unlikely national or even institutional policy would do a good job correcting this.

The real problem with the proposal, however, is that this liberal bias in academia is not something that could be corrected through an affirmative action program. Such programs for ethnic minorities in college admissions and federal hiring are possible because there exists a vast supply of ethnic minorities who want to go to college and obtain good jobs.

While there are an awful lot of unemployed academics, particularly in this economy, there’s no evidence to suggest that there’s some huge group of unemployed conservative academics out there.

It’s not just that tenured professors lean liberal; this is also true of adjunct faculty, graduate students, and recent PhDs. Where would we find these conservative intellectuals?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer