Sabato to Colleges: Be Nicer to Republicans

Larry Sabato

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.”

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19 responses to “Sabato to Colleges: Be Nicer to Republicans”

  1. Independents vote R/D 90% of the time?

    Not true at all. He certainly got the wrong end of the stick this time.

    1. Why do you think he’s wrong?

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I think what Sabato was saying on the “lean” was this:

    The actual true – “no lean at all ” independents are a small number

    but I think the GOP is on the verge of splitting into two factions.

    and I shudder to think what UVA would look like if Conservatives were put in charge – Liberty Lite?


  3. Liberal colleges will be nicer to republicans? That’ll happen when hell freezes over. . .

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      But most Republicans graduated from “Liberal” colleges, right?

  4. Yes. I was really joking about the renowned Sabato’s “hell freezes over” comment about the chances of Doug Wilder being elected governor in Virginia.

    In this case, I think he makes a good point. Colleges have a liberal bias compared to the general population and state governments and legislatures. That isn’t going to change, but, as he indicates, colleges aren’t even making the effort to “reach out” to Republicans, and that can undermine their effort to get more support.

    1. Which begs the question, would Republicans be inclined to fund higher education to any greater extent even if they felt well received on campus?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Well sure they would.. if they cut course on Climate Science and substituted Creationism… oh.. and all Economics courses would have to teach supply-side economics and other foolishness…

        hmmm.. let’s see.. they’d have to promise to stop being politically correct and allow the KKK to be able to exercise their free speech on campus.

        anything else?

        1. C’mon, Larry. This kind of snarky crap doesn’t have a place on this blog.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Good Lord Crazy.!!! I did not know that “snark” was not allowed.

            you better spread the word – there are others…

  5. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Most professionals (Democrats and Republicans alike) have their own political beliefs, but work regularly and without conflict with colleagues, customers, clients, patients who may have significantly different political views. Professionals tend to keep their “political” mouths shut while dealing with others. It’s just good business. It also shows respect for others.

    Many, but certainly not all, entertainers, reporters/media personalities, athletes and educators do not do this. They think their colleagues, audiences, fans and students need to hear the speaker’s political views. Some believe they have a right to disrespect other people’s views.

    Example, my wife wanted to see the Late Show when we were in New York in May. We got tickets. Stephen Colbert had some funny lines about Trump, but generally came across as an obsessive and bitter man and a very sore loser. Our parents try to teach us to be good losers and accept failure as a part of life. Colbert’s parents obviously failed in their effort or their son has deeper problems. He isn’t alone in this area.

    What does this say about America’s entertainers, media, athletes and educators?

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” What does this say about America’s entertainers, media, athletes and educators?”

    geeze.. got a broad brush there TMT?

    good to differentiate between what is truly bad/wrong behavior and political viewpoints, eh?

    I recently had a visit to the auto repair place and had the un-pleasure of discussing what I thought was a repair until we got to the part where he shared his view of Muslims… and immigrants.. and.. .. you get the picture…so I’ll ask TMT – what does that say about THESE folks parents?

    Or for that matter – those football players at that Henrico Middle School – what does that say about THEIR parents?

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      You missed the broader point. Professionals (be they people with advanced degrees or trained technicians) generally don’t share their political beliefs with the customers, etc. I’d feel uncomfortable with your repair guy and might well find a different shop.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        re: “sharing political beliefs with customers”.

        that’s an interesting subject.. maybe need to ponder it but
        to be honest, I expect most of my doctors to be Republicans but hope
        they are not far right idiots!

        1. As you would say, “Geez”

          Larry, Did you get out of the wrong side of the bed this morning?

          I believe TMT’s point was well put another way by Michael Jordan, or someone like him, when he said, “Well, Republicans buy sneakers, too”

  7. Win Barber Avatar
    Win Barber

    The end of the article’s second paragraph, has a typo. It should read “Republican who is”, not “Republican who isn’t.”

  8. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Can I trade in Larry the G for Larry the S? Please? The Great Sabatini. Let’s go down memory lane 32 years, to the first ever Republican Advance in 1985. I attended for the Roanoke Times. Sabato was invited to tell Republicans what he thought went wrong for them in the Democratic sweep that year, and how they might reverse course. (That was back before he got 50K per speech, shameless capitalist he has become.) I think it is fair to say that the Trumpian world we live in now was not what the good doctor ordered… as I posted elsewhere, the results next week will be very interesting….

    Larry the S is dead right that there are few true independents, but many people with weak attachments to their usual party of choice. The magnets were reverse polarized in 2016 on both sides! He is also dead right in his advice to his industry about how it is unnecessarily alienating too many people with M-O-N-E-Y. He will probably be listened to just like he was in 1985.

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