Who Cares About McDonnell’s Thesis?
The media spotlight is on gubernatorial hopeful Robert McDonnell who is currently launching his 2009 campaign for governor of Virginia. McDonnell finds himself in hot water for his 1989 thesis, which outlines a position hostile to women’s interests and feminism.
Frankly, I think this kind of thing misses the mark. Politicians who have been in office for awhile have had ample opportunity to build a record that can be judged. More importantly, that record can show how a politician’s thinking has evolved over the years. People change their minds. They vote different ways. Moreover, as Will notes, this type of examination can have a chilling effect on academia:
Moreover, I’m wary of the chilling effect academic witch-hunts have on the interaction between experts and politicians. Presumably, we want our political leaders to get advice from academics, who are disinterested and frequently more knowledgeable on a particular subject. Academic documents are also fundamentally different from political ones — they’re less vetted, more exploratory, and ultimately less subject to artificial political constraints. I think this is a good thing, and I’d like to see more practical interaction between the academy and policy-makers precisely because academics have more freedom to come up with good ideas.
I completely agree. Judge McDonnell on his record in office; not his college thesis.