The evangelical Virginia university founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell has invited Democratic candidate for president and socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont to speak at a convocation. The university is, of course, known for its conservatism, particularly on social issues and is therefore a common stop for Republican candidates. But Democrats don’t usually venture there.
I’m mildly surprised Liberty invited Sanders to speak and mildly surprised Sanders accepted. He may have accepted back when he wasn’t the improbably ascendant Bernie Sanders who should probably be spending all his time in New Hampshire spooking Hillary into spending money on TV ads. I’m not sure there’s going to be a high conversion rate for Bernie voters in the Liberty audience. But I’m glad these two ideological poles shall meet for a day.
I imagine there will be protests of Sanders in some capacity, but I’m hopeful the good students of Liberty will teach the Ivy League a thing or two about having the courage, maturity, and respect to countenance differing viewpoints without needing a safe space, a body pillow to cuddle, and hounding the speaker off campus.
For his part, Bernie Sanders seems to address would-be liberal critics who will say he shouldn’t dare speak to these people who the left generally believes are irretrievably monstrous and morally corrupt. Sanders’ message:
“Liberty University was kind enough to invite me to address a convocation and I decided to accept,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement his spokesman provided. “It goes without saying that my views on many issues — women’s rights, gay rights, education and many other issues — are very different from the opinions of some in the Liberty University community. I think it is important, however, to see if we can reach consensus regarding the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in our country, about the collapse of the middle class, about the high level of childhood poverty, about climate change and other issues.”
He added: “It is very easy for a candidate to speak to people who hold the same views. It’s harder but important to reach out to others who look at the world differently. I look forward to meeting with the students and faculty of Liberty University.”
The Left will likely believe him tainted for even setting foot on campus. I’m not sure this appeal to the spirit of free-wheeling debate and respect for adversaries will work with his base, but it works for me. Good for both Liberty and Sanders for showing the rest of academia how college is supposed to work.