Professor Jean Yarbrough: ‘How I Became a Conservative’

Jean Yarbrough

Taking her cue from the Lady Gaga song “Born This Way,” government professor Jean Yarbrough announced at a recent talk about her politics that she “was not born this way.”

“I was not born into a conservative family, I was not born into a Republican family, and I am still an outlier in my birth family,” revealed Yarbrough, who is Bowdoin’s Gary M. Pendy Professor in Social Sciences, Government and Legal Studies and an expert in political philosophy and American political thought.

The talk was organized by the Eisenhower Forum, a conservative-leaning political discussion group at Bowdoin. Read the story in Bowdoin News.


  1. Dale Tomlinson '70 says:

    Professor Yarbrough is, to me, a classic case of a person who cannot see the forest for the trees. She is free to be a conservative, but she is a bit too facile when it comes to her reasoning, especially as regards our current president.

    She talks about the importance of character and the need for virtue; Trump socializes with and seems to respect the most crass, bottom-of-the-barrel scum one can find. Has she ever listened to the violent, unhinged, racist stuff that comes out of Ted Nugent? Kid Rock? But, by all means, invite them to dinner at the White House.

    I loved her comment, “I think women should be free to live a life they want and not be railroaded or corralled by feminists.” I guess it serves her self respect to support someone as vulgar, ignorant, and blatantly dishonest as Trump. I’ll bet no feminists ever grabbed her crotch and bragged about it. He is a pig, and I cannot understand how any self-respecting woman could support him. I agree with Alan Branch of the NE Patriots (he chose not to meet the president) who said he’d been in locker rooms in college and the NFL and never heard talk as disrespectful to women as Trump’s — and Trump has a history of it. The feminists she hung around with must have been one miserable bunch!

    I can’t tell if she is insinuating that feminism somehow adversely affected her first marriage, but it seems so. ( “That divorce caused me to rethink my commitment to feminism.”) My wife is a few years my junior and certainly absorbed a lot of the 60s feminist movement, and that’s one reason we are still together; she could always stand on her own and hold her own, socially or professionally. I’ve always respected her for that.

    As far as her knowledge of history goes, I have to question her understanding of the Vietnam War. She regrets her protests of it, and thinks Kissinger relegated the US to second rate status after that lost war. Her protests were justified, the war was the biggest foreign policy mistake of my lifetime (until Bush’s Iraq invasion), and many people knew it at the time — or at least had an inkling. I was in ROTC at the time, and my focus was enjoying college until I had to figure out how to stay alive over there. (For reasons I’ll never know, the Army sent me elsewhere.) Kissinger, whom I had respected for his intellect and unflappability erred badly after the war, but that was in Chile with Allende. Our own actions (the war, the CIA, and Watergate) caused us to retreat a bit and do some overdue soul searching, not Kissinger’s design.

    Her finding her faith sounds good, but the idea that liberalism is anti religious sounds like the tripe I hear on Fox “news”. After the Polish Pope took over (in 76?), he drove my wife from the Catholic church and she joined the Protestants, because they were more welcoming to all. (I was raised Methodist but was never a regular attendee until after my son was born.) Hierarchical religions always … well, I won’t get into that (though the new Pope — a breath of real freedom in the church — would have been a different story).

    Finally, the Republican Party is “the freedom party”?? Spare me! That is baloney to any casual observer, unless you mean freedom for those with money to lord it over those with less, or for business to be free to pollute, or big finance to be free to plunder and rip off their own clients. And lets not forget Republican freedom of businesses to do as they please with your personal data, just passed (even though the affected companies are already being paid by you for their services). How about freedom to let workers work unsafely? Oh, and freedom for every fool walking the streets to carry a lethal weapon that can kill at a distance.
    But what about freedom of women to control their own reproductive rights? Freedom to protest (which is being challenged by several state legislatures right now)? Freedom to prevent anyone not right-leaning to vote (they keep trying)? The list goes on ad nauseum.

    I have voted Republican as often as Democratic, with Independent and Green thrown in. But this Republican Party is not Eisenhower’s, or even Reagan’s (who would never be nominated by this bunch) — don’t forget, he actually raised taxes and grew government, in spite of firing the Air Traffic Controllers. I hope the professor (and all “conservatives”) enjoys her association with the current crop of Republican reactionaries, just don’t try to rationalize their behavior as good for the country.

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