University of Chicago newspaper tars college President by finding that he voted in the last Republican primary

Our student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon, had as its big headline the results of its diligent investigation: a trawl through public voting records. And what they found is revealed below (click on screenshot):

Make no mistake about it: this is meant to tar the President—who’s done a pretty damn good job—by implying that he’s a Trump supporter.  But of course this was the primary, not the final election, so we don’t know exactly for whom Zimmer voted; here are the candidates:

Frankly, I’m surprised that Dr. Zimmer voted for any of these guys, but of course I don’t know his politics.  I’m surprised simply because he doesn’t seem like a Republican and, mainly, because so few academics are Republicans.

But why is this big news? Because the Maroon wants to impugn Zimmer, connecting this primary voting with U of C policies, including our free-speech policy (enacted by a faculty committee) and the letter from the dean of students (not Zimmer) saying we don’t require safe spaces or trigger warnings. The Maroon is pretty much a reflexive social-justice organ: they’re becoming the HuffPost of campus. So here’s how the paper tries to impugn him:

Zimmer has long been coy about his politics, declining to answer a question on the subject in a 2016 interview with The Maroon. In recent years, however, he has become somewhat of a celebrity in conservative circles, earning praise from commentators for publications like the National Review and The Federalist for attacking “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” as the public face of the University of Chicago’s purportedly pro-free speech stance.

Under Zimmer’s leadership, the University has taken a strong anti-union position with respect to graduate student workers, refusing to negotiate following a decisive vote in favor of unionization in 2017, even as other universities like Harvard have done the opposite.

The anti-union stand is the one thing I find worthy of criticism. As for the rest, anybody who speaks out for free speech and against an offense culture that demands trigger warnings and the like is going to be lauded by conservatives. I have been, too. You’re not going to win friends on the Left by promoting free speech and criticizing the demands of many students that they not be offended.

Zimmer, however, is also a celebrity in liberal free-speech circles for his advocacy of our free-speech policy, which has now been adopted by over 35 universities.

As for the “purportedly pro-free speech stance” (note the missing hyphen between the second and third words”; Maroon, please get a copy editor!) it’s not a purported stance, it’s a real stance. It’s worth noting here that despite myself and others asking the Maroon—a college newspaper, for crying out loud—to endorse the university’s free-speech policy, they refuse to do so, probably because more than half of the editors aren’t in favor of that policy. That’s shameful.

But then the Maroon reluctantly owns up to something else (my emphasis):

Zimmer has also led the University as it sent several letters to the Donald Trump administration in opposition to its immigration policies, though at times UChicago has responded to the current administration more moderately than other colleges, opting not to declare itself a “sanctuary campus” and declining to join hundreds of universities in endorsing the Paris climate agreement.

Zimmer voted in a primary election in only one other year since 2000 according to public voting histories, voting in the Democratic primary in 2008.

Note that you don’t have to vote in the primary election to vote in the “real” election.

This is a hit piece, and there’s no doubt about it. The readers agree. Here are a few comments:

Here’s the comment I added after I posted this. I’d be surprised if it stays up, though it’s no different from many of the other comments.

And YES, they trashed it! What a crummy thing to do. However, I will nevertheless persist, and I posted it again, in exactly the same form. And YES, they removed it a second time.

I’m no fan of Republicans, as every reader here knows, and I find it curious and a bit depressing that President Zimmer voted for one in 2016 (though he went Democratic in 2008). But to impugn him because of this is simply an ad hominem tactic, unworthy of any decent paper. But then again, the Maroon has long ceased being a decent student newspaper.



  1. Posted January 9, 2019 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m registered as a Republican, not because I vote for them in general elections (in fact, I never have), but because they seem to me to be the party that is more in need of input from rational people during the primary process. Between Bernie and Hillary I preferred Bernie, sure, but it wasn’t a huge deal to me. Between Trump and, say, Kasich, there is no contest; Kasich by a mile. And so I register Republican, so as to maximize the impact of my vote. Shall I now be tarred and feathered? :->

    • Posted January 9, 2019 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      That’s an interesting strategy. However, doesn’t it mean that you can’t vote in the Democratic primary?

      • Douglas E
        Posted January 9, 2019 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        I think that’s the point. Not sure how it works in Illinois, but here in Colorado, we unaffiliated voters are sent the primary ballots for both the Republicans and the Democrats, and we just choose one. If one is a Democrat and the Democrat outcome seems certain, it might make sense to vote in the Republican primary. I’d like to think that Zimmer voted for Kasich 🙂

      • tubby
        Posted January 9, 2019 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        Depends on your state- being registered independant I can’t vote in either primary where I live.

    • BJ
      Posted January 9, 2019 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      You don’t even have to be registered with a party to vote in their primary in Illinois! So, not only is the paper’s “story” a pathetic hit piece, but also a dishonest one by implying that Zimmer must be a Republican because he voted in their Presidential primary (and then, by extension, that all of his policy position and, indeed, his very position are illegitimate).

      I thought to myself many times in 2016 that if I lived in a state with open primaries, I would have voted in the Republican primary for the candidate who had the best average, in my estimation, between the two qualities of guy-I-least-hate and guy-I-think-has-a-chance-of-winning.

      • BJ
        Posted January 9, 2019 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        My parenthetical was poorly worded. It should read “and then, by extension, that all of his policy positions and, indeed, his very position as President of the university are illegitimate.”

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted January 9, 2019 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        This is exactly true – I voted in the Republican primary in IL, on the grounds that I would vote for the democrat in the election, but wanted to impact the insane range of choices on the other side. Purely a tactic. Didn’t work! You make a decision on which primary to vote in when you walk into the polling station.

      • eric
        Posted January 9, 2019 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        Yes exactly; since the state has an open primary, it’s entirely possible that he voted in the Republican one because he wanted to vote against Trump in the primary more than he wanted to pick between Clinton and Sanders.

        My state has an open primary and I, in fact, did exactly that. I didn’t really care which of Sanders or Clinton won the state’s delegates, but I *really* didn’t want Trump to win the GOP primary…so I voted in the GOP primary, against him.

        • eric
          Posted January 9, 2019 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

          And as an addendum…if Trump faces a primary challenger in the 2020 election, not only will I do exactly the same thing again, but I’ll come on here and encourage every person in an ‘open primary’ state to do it too.

          • BJ
            Posted January 9, 2019 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

            100% agree.

            I can’t believe all of us are so willing to come out as Nazis 😛

            • eric
              Posted January 9, 2019 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

              As Bugs might say, “what a maroon!”

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted January 9, 2019 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

              I think the correct term in your cases is ‘fifth columnist’ 😉

              Except that you’re trying to influence the ‘enemy’ into making a more rational choice, rather than sabotage them. So I’m not sure whether ‘fifth columnist’ is quite accurate either…


              • BJ
                Posted January 9, 2019 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

                But we’d be voting for Republicans, even if not for office. That’s Nazi stuff…

              • eric
                Posted January 10, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

                No, a fifth columnist would vote in the GOP primary for the *worst* candidate, using the logic that this would push fencesitters towards their own (Dem) candidate in the general election. Fifth columnist also sorta implies I’m a Democrat.

                Neither of those are true. I voted for whom I thought was one of the more rational GOP candidates because I think it’s better for the country overall if they have two decent choices for President, even if that lowers the overall chances of the Dem winning. And I’m not a Dem, I’m an independent.

    • Diane G
      Posted January 9, 2019 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

      In my neck of the woods the opposite tactic’s been encouraged by Democrats, now and then. That is, that we vote Republican in the primary, then pick the most unpopular, unqualified,inexperienced candidate, rationalizing that the Democrat running against such an incompetent is more likely to win than if s/he were running against a charismatic, well-qualified sort.

      Of course that would have backfired in 2016…

  2. mikeyc
    Posted January 9, 2019 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Maybe someone should call the cops and the crack Bias Response team from UofI (if UofC doesn’t have their very own) to assist in dealing with this.

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 9, 2019 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Good grief. I don’t agree with the Republican party, but tarring a leader for voting for a Republican seems a little misguided. Shouldn’t we judge people on their actions not who they vote for? It’s not like he joined the SS.

  4. Posted January 9, 2019 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Joseph McCarthy has risen, resurrected as SJW politics.

  5. Posted January 9, 2019 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    My wife registered republican and voted in the most recent primary. Then she changed back to Democrat and ran for office.

  6. BJ
    Posted January 9, 2019 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    As I said in response to a comment above, Illinois has open primaries, so the fact that he voted in the Republican primary doesn’t even signify anything. It doesn’t mean he’s ever voted for a Republican in any general election in his entire life (not that it should matter if he did, but voting “the wrong way” has become synonymous with “everything you say and do is illegitimate and you lose at everything now. Oh, and you’re a Nazi. Sorry you didn’t know that before you voted 😦 “)

    • piercyplace
      Posted January 9, 2019 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      In Texas, which has open primaries, it is quite common for Democrats to vote in the Republican primary. At the local level, it may be the only chance to influence what the one-party option will be. And in 2016, many Democrats voted in the Republican primary specifically to cast a vote for someone other than Trump or Cruz.

  7. denise
    Posted January 9, 2019 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Your comment is not there now.

    • Posted January 9, 2019 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      PCC is officially a non-person at the Maroon.

    • Posted January 9, 2019 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      Well isn’t that just freezpeachy??

    • Posted January 9, 2019 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      I posted my comment again. This happened with a comment I made a few months ago, and yet I’m puzzled, because my comment is no less polite than other comments that went though. I can only guess that they don’t want a professor making them look bad.

      • Posted January 9, 2019 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

        They’ve deleted the comment again. I’m not sure why.

        • Posted January 9, 2019 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

          Looking at the Maroon’s policies, the only possible reason I can see is that they think linking to your website is “commercial promotion.” Remember, these folks are not the brightest bulbs at UChicago.

          • Posted January 9, 2019 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

            Well, when they remove it again I’ll try with the “bitly” link replaced with a full website link, and then without any links. The comment shows up but then is removed, so it’s not an automatic filter.

          • JP415
            Posted January 10, 2019 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

            That was my thought, too. Some websites have policies against posting links in comments. (Granted, it still does seem a bit suspicious.)

      • Michael Sternberg
        Posted January 9, 2019 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        Did your comment show up at least once? If not, they might have a comment filter that blocks submissions containing certain sites. Very plausibly, would be included in such list because the ultimate link target from shorteners is opaque to the reader and thus can be abused.

        If The Maroon actively censored comments, however, that would be inexcusable.

        • Posted January 9, 2019 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

          Yes, it showed up twice and then was removed after it was on the site. They’ve removed it.

      • Deodand
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:38 am | Permalink

        I think what you’ll find is that most of the editorial believe that the only purpose of free speech is to promote equality.

        Since your comment did not promote equality that makes you a fascist in their eyes which means you have no rights at all.

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 9, 2019 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Lucky for the Maroon we do not live in a free country where people get to vote for whomever they wish. Oh Yeah…. Why doesn’t the paper try hiring someone in journalism?

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 9, 2019 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    I’ll take a backseat to no one in being anti-GOP. The only Republicans I’ve ever voted for have been in local elections, where they were running on a good-government platform against opponents I was convinced were corrupt.

    Hell, in the family I grew up in “Republican” was considered a dirty word. In fact, my sweet, silver-haired grandmother wouldn’t say the word in the presence of her grandkids; she’d call them “those motherfuckers” instead.

    And when it comes to unions — well, I’m the son of a labor organizer, the grandson of a member of the United Steelworkers on one side, and of a United Mine Workers member on the other. I’ve got a Teamster’s card in my wallet right now (next to my ACLU card) from a summer job moving furniture during college. I’d as lief cross a union picket-line as I would burn down my own home.

    Yet even I hafta call bullshit on these these coddled college kids. If U of C president Robert Zimmer wants to do something stupid — even something so godawful stupid in my view as to vote for Donald Trump — that’s his right as a citizen of the US of A. I’d still make common cause with him on the issue of free speech.

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 9, 2019 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      I predict they will defend their actions by pointing the paragraph where they outed other admins who voted in both Republican and Democratic primaries, with the obvious bullshit journalistic equivocating. They won’t fool anyone but mark my pixels; if they respond they’ll make that argument.

  10. Posted January 10, 2019 at 2:54 am | Permalink

    Dear Jerry, I probably disagree with you over lots of things, and if I was in the USA I would vote Republican. But I sure do respect you for taking these SJWs and anti-Semites to task as you have been doing. Keep it up!

  11. Serendipitydawg
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    This is the fourth time I’ve posted this comment and the Maroon removed it three times. Let’s try it without the link to my website post on the issue…

    Well it has been up 8 hours as of 11:28 GMT so maybe cutting the link took away their excuse.

    It is also the first comment at this time 🙂

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:36 am | Permalink

      I am getting really bad at closing italics!

      The top comments after yours seem to be pretty critical of the story. I particularly liked:

      I am literally shaking at the thought of the violence that Zimmer’s political allegiances have done to the university community.

      Next you’ll be telling me he owns a pickup truck.

      I don’t know whether people have been voting the critical comments up, life is too brief to wade through comments on a ridiculous non-story like this one.

    • Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      No, they removed the comment after I’d taken out the link. But I tweeted it to the Maroon and then reposted it saying that they’d removed it three times. Maybe they’ll remove it again when they wake up. . .

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        I hadn’t thought of that… well, it’s nearly 09:00 so we shall see what happens in the next couple of hours.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Well, they have either given up or are having a well earned lie until afternoon 😀

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 10, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

          lie in (oops, is that freudian?)

  12. Dean Reimer
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I’m currently re-reading Orwell’s 1984, and I find it doubleplus ironic that the very same people who will drop 1984 references into a polemic against Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, his use of misinformation, lies, and propaganda, utterly and completely fail to see that their anti-free speech agenda is simply Orwell’s thoughtcrime repackaged as social justice.

    And their argument that free speech absolutism suppresses free speech by silencing marginalized people is Orwellian doublethink at its finest.

    I can’t even imagine what Orwell would make of the state of things today.

    • Dean Reimer
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Also, I’d like to thank PCC for banging the drum for free speech. It is imperative that the defense of this civil liberty is not left solely in the hands of assh*oles and bigots.

      Seriously, this is one of my biggest fears: that we let the kooks and nutters so pervert the idea of freedom and liberty that liberals are afraid to touch them.

  13. CJColucci
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Having read the full story, I would agree that it is rather small beer as a piece of journalism, and reasonable people could disagree about whether it was worth running, but I see no factual inaccuracies or any unfair accusations. Indeed, I see no accusations at all. If this is a “hit piece,” we must be involved in a pillow fight.

  14. Posted January 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    How does the student reporter even know how the guy in question voted? It seems at best that it is public record that he is a registered Republican.

    (IMO this shows a problem, but one can go about exposing this in better ways, by far – the piece will not convince anyone of this – nor will my post.)

  15. Posted January 10, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Like others here, I have often voted in a Republican primary. Sometimes it is because the Democratic primary is uncontested (I’m in a red district in a red state), sometimes it’s to try for some damage control by voting for the least evil Republican, and, rarely, it’s because I like one of the Republican candidates. As it was a near certainty that Clinton had the Democratic nomination, Zimmer crossing over might have been better than wasting a vote on a settled issue.

  16. yazikus
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m no fan of Republicans, as every reader here knows, and I find it curious and a bit depressing that President Zimmer voted for one in 2016 (though he went Democratic in 2008).

    Honestly, if he were a responsible and civic minded republican, voting in the primaries is exactly what he should have done – in light of the Trump running.

  17. phoffman56
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Are these Maoroners (oops, ‘ro’, not ‘or’) actually not bright enough to realize that unregistered D’s can sometimes cunningly ‘pretend’ to be R’s for tactical reasons? Where I worked, it was true that the student newspaper people often seemed pretty dull; but then later, some became successful politicians, and even decent adult newspaper editors. But in a place as prestigious as U. Chicago, one might expect better.

  18. Posted January 11, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    There should be many millions of decent people voting Republican. I am sure that, if there were more people like Zimmer, we wouldn’t have Trump sitting on our heads. (I say “we” because the US president influences the entire world.)

    • phoffman56
      Posted January 11, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      “..if there were more people like Zimmer, we wouldn’t have Trump sitting on our heads.”

      Quite right I’m sure. But there won’t be many such people.

      Zimmer is a very accomplished pure mathematician as a researcher (earlier I guess), presumably as a teacher, and surely as a university administrator. Anyone ‘merely’ getting tenure in the Chicago math department in the past century would be the first of those, with no end of top class international ‘stars’ gracing that department for decades (despite the disincentive of comparing living in Chicago to Princeton, Cambridge (both), Paris, etc.–sorry, Jerry!) I’ve had a (slight) connection with them way back, and so might be a bit un-objective, but I doubt that any time in the past 80 years that department would have dropped out of the top 15 places in the world for pure mathematics research.

      You can find Zimmer’s ‘pedigree’ and a list of his Ph.D. students on the site called Mathematics Genealogy. Note that abstract math (also theoretical physics) doesn’t produce Ph.D.’s in the ‘vast’ quantities that e.g. chemistry and biology do, quite appropriately.

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