If Virginia’s colleges and universities want to make inroads with the General Assembly, they might consider being more friendly to Republicans on campus, renowned University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato told the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) today.
The United States is as polarized today as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, said Sabato, arguably the best known political scientist in the country, who had been invited to speak on any topic he chose. The difference is that in the ’60s and ’70s, the nation was polarized over issues such as Civil Rights and the Vietnam War. Today the country is divided by partisan loyalty. In the past the political parties allowed for a diversity of viewpoints on issues such as gun control. Today, he said, “You can’t find a Democrat who isn’t in favor of gun control and a Republican who is.”
Pew Research Center research has found that the divisiveness is driven largely by negative emotions, Sabato said. “People hate the other party more than they like their own.” And hardly anyone is immune to the phenomenon. Scratch an independent, and the odds are he or she votes for either Democrats or Republicans ninety percent of the time.
Traditionally, higher education enjoyed the consensus support of Democrats and Republicans. Everyone bought into the goal of making college affordable and accessible. Then colleges got sucked into the culture wars. College employees tend to vote for and donate to Democrats in much larger numbers. Some college campuses became hostile to conservative speakers. In today’s polarized climate said Sabato, “Democrats support what they think is the prevailing ideology in higher ed and Republicans oppose what they think is the prevailing ideology.”
Republicans feel increasingly alienated from the higher ed community, he said. They feel universities are a “bulwark” of the Democratic Party. “You can’t have liberal after liberal after liberal as graduation speaker and be perceived as fair to both sides.” Universities should continue “speaking truth to power,” he said. But if they want a friendlier response in state legislatures, they should “reach out to the party that is not as represented.”
It doesn’t take much to reach out to Republican legislators, he said. Encourage more diverse perspectives on campus. Invite them to speak. He even invited Senator Ted Cruz to address his class, he said. “We’re not Berkeley.”There are currently no comments highlighted.