Avi Woolf writes for the Martin Center about a conservative approach toward diversity.

Are conservatives against the campus diversity administrative machine or are they opposed to diversity itself?

The argument in favor of the former seems like an easy one. Ever since debates over affirmative action heated up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, conservative groups and publications—this Center included—have marshalled an impressive array of data, stories, and philosophical arguments in favor of merit-based acceptance of students into college and against what seems like artificial boosterism that leads to unintended and negative consequences—even for the beneficiaries of affirmative action themselves.

However, there is a great difference between elite conservatives and the rightwing “man on the street.” The fact that Turning Point USA, one of the most popular conservative student groups, repeatedly gets caught in scandals involving support for white supremacy and open and covert bigotry toward their fellow citizens means that too many young conservatives hear conservative leaders rallying against the liberal conception of “diversity” and think they mean diversity as such.

It’s more than odd or embarrassing that this is the case—it’s tragic. Ever since the rise of modernity in the form of the French Revolution, conservative thinkers of all stripes and across the globe argued fiercely for the diversity and variety of human life against the pulverizing flattening of modernity and of progressive thinking.

Edmund Burke famously railed against the French destruction of its local traditions and regional identities in favor of mathematical départements. British conservatives fought for local variety in their country in the nineteenth century against the utilitarians seeking to flatten everything based on mathematical formulas. America’s own conservative movement in the ‘50s arose against the crushing political conformity of that era.