After Donald Trump’s upset victory last Tuesday, University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan sent out a campus-wide email including a quote from the school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, reminding the elite students of their special responsibility for the country’s future.The response? A petition asking Sullivan to scrub Jefferson from future communications because of his views on race.The Cavalier Daily reports:
Several groups on Grounds collaborated to write a letter to University President Teresa Sullivan against the inclusion of a Thomas Jefferson quote in her post-election email Nov. 9. […]Some professors from the Psychology Department — and other academic departments — did not agree with the use of this quote. Their letter to Sullivan argued that in light of Jefferson’s owning of slaves and other racist beliefs, she should refrain from quoting Jefferson in email communications.“We would like for our administration to understand that although some members of this community may have come to this university because of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, others of us came here in spite of it,” the letter read. “For many of us, the inclusion of Jefferson quotations in these e-mails undermines the message of unity, equality and civility that you are attempting to convey.”
This episode is a portrait in miniature for why Americans repudiated the Left so decisively on Tuesday. It’s not just the academic silliness—the way that American intellectual centers have spent the last few years agitating about statues and safe spaces and speech codes—or even the way these habits have trickled out into the media and broader elite. It’s the fact that, as the New York Times‘ Jonathan Martin notes today, the Democrats have made boutique cultural liberalism aimed at college educated voters the core of their agenda, while severing ties with their working class populist tradition. This shift has been consummated over the last year as local Democratic parties across the country have renamed their “Jefferson-Jackson” dinners, rebuffing two figures who were once seen as central to the party’s legacy.For the Democrats to win back power, many things will need to happen. Changing the culture and priorities of the Left so that the president of the University of Virginia can quote Thomas Jefferson without causing an uproar would be a good start.