Dinesh D’Souza, a neoconservative political commentator, spoke to an overflowing crowd in the Main Lounge in Moulton Union on Tuesday night about his thoughts on the ideological origins of the two major American political parties, the one-sidedness of the current political system and his perception of the dangers of a lack of intellectual diversity on Bowdoin’s campus. 

Discussing political correctness at Bowdoin, D’Souza warned students of the dangers of using witch hunting as a solution.

“Here we are at Bowdoin College. We’ve got this diverse body of students,” he said. “You have to learn to get along and you have to learn to talk with each other but it can’t be a one sided discussion so rigged with political correctness that everybody is walking in a political minefield in which you can’t actually speak your mind because you are under immediate indictment for being a racist. You can’t do that. That makes no sense.”

While he didn’t discuss specific incidents that have occurred at the College, D’Souza urged students to be more careful in what they deem to be racist words or actions.

“In today’s climate let’s keep in mind proportionality,” he said. “There is racism and there is stupid stuff that you shouldn’t have said.”

In an interview with the Orient, D’Souza spoke of the risk of a lack of intellectual diversity on a campus like Bowdoin, where he said the student body is intellectually and socioeconomically homogenous. 

“This is a very fine and demanding intellectual environment, but it always has the risk of insularity … of having the risk of being cut off from the larger currents of the world,” he said.

D’Souza believes political correctness has gotten worse on campuses since he published his book “Illiberal Education” in 1991. As an example, he questioned the audience to think about how many professors at Bowdoin are outspoken in their religious views. 

“To me, this diversity game is a little bit rigged,” he said. “There’s so much emphasis on racial diversity, gender diversity, transgender diversity and the most important type of diversity, intellectual diversity? A little bit scarce.”

He told the Orient that if the College could not encourage more intellectual diversity of its faculty through hiring practices, it should fill those voids with speakers who hold less-common viewpoints among the faculty and students. 

D’Souza also addressed American history, tracing the history of the two major parties back to the days of slavery.

“The main opposition to the Civil Rights movement came from the Democratic party,” he said. “If the Democratic party was the only party in congress—no Republicans—none of these laws would have passed. Why don’t we all know all this?”

He cited the 1930s as a time of radical change in the support base for the Democratic party due to the economic benefits of the New Deal, which he said encouraged African Americans to leave the Republican party. Starting in the 1960s, accelerating in the 1970s but solidifying in the the Reagan era, southern white Democratic support, he said, transitioned to the Republican party as it came to stand for ideals of free markets, privatization and patriotism. 

“There has been this political migration,” he said. “But this migration has nothing to do with race.”

D’Souza believes the Democratic party has failed to take responsibility for the role it has played in racism throughout American history. 

“To me, this is the essential backdrop of trying to understand our situation now,” he said.

He further condemned the media and academia for contributing to the disruption of democracy by generating a one-sidedness to the flow of information that leaves little room for a well-publicized right wing voice. 

“The problem as I see it is many things in American public life are said to be true but are not true,” he said. “But the reason they are believed to be true is because the political left dominates the three biggest megaphones of our culture: academia, Hollywood and the media.” 

Describing next week’s election as “the most surreal” he has seen in his lifetime, D’Souza warned against third-party voting and praised Donald Trump for his ability to challenge the parameters of current political thought. He criticized Clinton for her track record as Secretary of State and described voting for the candidate as voting for a “known crook.”

When D’Souza last visited Bowdoin in 2007, he spoke about the war in Iraq. At the time, co-president of the College Democrats Charlie Ticotsky ’07 criticized the College Republicans for their choice to bring D’Souza to campus, saying “he is known for his obscene, intolerant and racially charged assertions on race and foreign policy.”

Tom Lucy ’19, a member of the College Republicans, commended D’Souza for voicing the need for more intellectual diversity on campus, something he thinks the College has failed to properly address. 

“The College has done a phenomenal job diversifying the campus in terms of race and ethnicity and we think that’s a great thing, but that the College still has some work to do in terms of intellectual diversity,” said Lucy. 

Francisco Navarro ’19, co-leader of the College Republicans, said that the sheer number of students in attendance at D’Souza’s lecture is evidence of both the interest in and need for more diverse voices on campus. 

“It was very rewarding to see students engaged in a respectful and challenging manner,” he said. “It’s opened a door of discussion that we must continue and having a speaker present doesn’t have to be the only moment when we have these conversations.” 

While many students respected the voicing of an alternative political viewpoint, many expressed disagreement with his sentiments.

Justin Weathers ’18 thought it was valuable to have D’Souza give students the opportunity to challenge their own views and exchange ideas. However, he took issue with D’Souza’s responses to questions about race. 

“My issues came when he was making blanket statements about things he’s not knowledgeable about,” said Weathers. “A lot of scholars come to talk on campus, and [D’Souza] is not a scholar on race … I feel like he made some pretty strong claims and left out a lot of the facts and complexities that go into his reasoning. I think that choosing to leave out those facts is a miseducation.”

Tharun Vemulapalli ’19 echoed Weathers’ sentiments. 

“I feel that his interpretation of history is misconstrued in many ways. His interpretation of racism didn’t take into account all aspects of racism—it was a very limited definition,” he said. 

Seamus Keenan ’20 thought it was refreshing to hear a talk that didn’t emphasize race. 

“He knew what he was doing coming in here. When questions of race came up he didn’t really go that deep into it. I think that’s good because I think sometimes race is overamplified in every discussion, especially on this campus,” he said.