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The left has finally begun to eat its own. Woodrow Wilson, the first Progressive Democrat president of the United States, who started all the bad ideas of administrative experts ruling over citizens, has been erased from Princeton, where he was president before a very short stint as the Governor of New Jersey, springboard to the White House. President Trump should not be opposing this too much. Rather, he should be pointing out leftist hypocrisy, especially their support for real butchers and mass murderers. He should also hammer on the fact that Wilson was a PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRAT, just like the current “progressives.”
Ricochet member Dr. Bastiat wrote on June 18, 2020, “call me when you’re serious.”
How the party of Woodrow Wilson, Bull Connor, Robert Byrd, etc etc etc has escaped the ire of the Black Lives Matter movement is a mystery to me.
And until they do go after Democrats with the same viciousness that they are going after statues and pancake syrup, it will be difficult to take this movement seriously.
The next day, Ricochet member Bucknelldad asked “What Will the Mob Do with Woodrow Wilson?”
This particular historical figure re-segregated the military. He infamously chose “Birth of a Nation” as the first motion picture (silent) to feature at the White House. Never seen it? It glamorized the Ku Klux Klan, the militarized wing of the Democratic Party from the end of the Civil War to the Great Depression. Look up the 1924 Democratic Convention, infamously known as the “Klanbake.”
Wilson was famously reelected in 1916 under the motto, “He kept us out of war.” How did that work out? Like much of the Progressive movement of the day that infected both major political parties, he was a big fan of Eugenics.
It did not take long for the first answer, as Princeton finally did, in the Trump era, what they refused to do in the Obama era. Consider these two posts on the issue back in 2015:
Now, when it serves the electoral interests of the radical leftists controlling the Democrat Party, President Eisgruber has suddenly seen the light. Mind you, his contrary view in 2015 did not earn him condemnation by the first black president of the United States, even though it was safely after his reelection.
When I wrote to you on Monday morning, June 22, I noted that the Princeton University Board of Trustees was discussing how the University could oppose racism and would soon convene a special meeting on that topic. The meeting took place yesterday, June 26. On my recommendation, the board voted to change the names of both the School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College. As you will see from the board’s statement, the trustees concluded that Woodrow Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students, and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its forms.
As most of you know, the board previously considered whether to remove Wilson’s name after a group of student activists occupied my office in November 2015. The Wilson Legacy Review Committee conducted a thorough, deliberative process. In April 2016, it recommended a number of reforms to make this University more inclusive and more honest about its history. The committee and the board, however, left Wilson’s name on the School and the College.
The board reconsidered these conclusions this month as the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks drew renewed attention to the long and damaging history of racism in America. Board Chair Weezie Sams ’79 and I spoke individually to members of the board, and it then met on June 26.
The board continues to respect, as do I, the Wilson Legacy Review Committee’s process and report, including its description of Wilson’s historical record and its “presumption that names adopted by the trustees after full and thoughtful deliberation … will remain in place, especially when the original reasons for adopting the names remain valid.” The board nevertheless concluded that the presumption should yield in this case because of considerations specific to Wilson’s racist policies and to how his name shapes the identities of the School and the College.
Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time. He segregated the federal civil service after it had been racially integrated for decades, thereby taking America backward in its pursuit of justice. He not only acquiesced in but added to the persistent practice of racism in this country, a practice that continues to do harm today.
Wilson’s segregationist policies make him an especially inappropriate namesake for a public policy school. When a university names a school of public policy for a political leader, it inevitably suggests that the honoree is a model for students who study at the school. This searing moment in American history has made clear that Wilson’s racism disqualifies him from that role. In a nation that continues to struggle with racism, this University and its school of public and international affairs must stand clearly and firmly for equality and justice. The School will now be known as “The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.”
The University had already planned to close Wilson College and retire its name after opening two new residential colleges currently under construction. Rather than ask students in the College to identify with the name of a racist president for the next two years, the University will accelerate retirement of the name. The College will instead be known as “First College” in recognition of its status as the first of the residential colleges that now play an essential role in the residential life of all Princeton undergraduates.
These conclusions may seem harsh to some. Wilson remade Princeton, converting it from a sleepy college into a great research university. Many of the virtues that distinguish Princeton today—including its research excellence and its preceptorial system—were in significant part the result of Wilson’s leadership. He went on to the American presidency and received a Nobel Prize. People will differ about how to weigh Wilson’s achievements and failures. Part of our responsibility as a University is to preserve Wilson’s record in all of its considerable complexity.
The Black Justice League isn’t buying what Princeton President Eisgruber is selling, nor should they:
In your statement, you mention that you lionized Woodrow Wilson in part due to “ignorance” regarding his beliefs. This is hard to believe given how strongly the University holds to every other aspect of Wilson’s legacy at Princeton, and how much BJL, students who came before us, as well as historians and alumni from all over the world worked to reveal the egregious viewpoints and actions of Wilson to roll back racial progress at Princeton and beyond. In 1904, years after most other Ivy League schools had admitted Black students, Wilson stated: “The whole temper and tradition of the place are such that no Negro has ever applied for admission and it seems extremely unlikely that the question will ever assume a practical form.” As another example of Woodrow Wilson’s hostility toward Black people, he also claimed: “It was a menace to society itself that the negroes should thus of a sudden be set free and left without tutelage or restraint,” clearly indicating that he not only disapproved of Black progress, but he also disapproved of Black people’s freedom beyond “restraint.”
[. . .]
[I]n 2015, you strongly defended Wilson and the idolatry of his legacy at Princeton. In communication with the BJL, you wrote: “[I] agree that [Woodrow] Wilson was racist.” However, you further qualified your statement by quoting A. Scott Berg, a Wilson biographer in saying: “[at] the beginning of the 20th century…Wilson’s racial views were fairly centrist in America.” This stands in stark contrast to the June 27, 2020 announcement which states: “Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time…Wilson’s segregationist policies make him an especially inappropriate namesake for a public policy school.” It is hard to believe that you so specifically quoted from Wilson’s biographical texts, yet continued to be ignorant to the extent of his racist and vitriolic behavior until recently, a moment in which anti-Black racism has come into stark relief.
As Paul Mirengoff observes, “Princeton’s president isn’t fooling the Black Justice League:”
How could one event, unrelated to Woodrow Wilson, have transformed Eigruber’s thinking about Wilson and caused him suddenly to perceive an “urgent responsibility to stand firmly against racism and for the integrity and value of black lives”? Hasn’t he long perceived this responsibility?
Suppose Chauvin had called in sick the day he confronted Floyd. Would Woodrow Wilson be less of a racist? Would Eisgruber have found it less urgent “to stand firmly against racism.”
Of course not. But if Chauvin had called in sick, angry Blacks might not have vociferously demanded the the purging of Wilson’s name from Princeton. Surely, that’s what made the difference for Eisgruber.
I called this particular subject of leftist lying out back in March of 2019, urging that we must all “make them own it.” I mean it all the more now. Republicans must fight the fight before us and win by making the left own their lying propaganda, their convenient claims and chants.
[A] Washington Post story on 10 March 2019 inadvertently raised quite another issue in our current racial politics [emphasis added]:
Wilson, a Southern Democrat and two-term president who moved to the White House in 1913, was a staunch supporter of segregation, setting back African Americans in their quest for civil rights.
So far we are clearly dealing with just the symbolic act of renaming a school. But then the story takes another turn.
When Wilson took office, the District had a large black population and the federal government provided these residents well-paying jobs and careers. But Wilson impeded the progress of the District’s black population by further segregating the federal workforce and making it harder for black residents to land public-service jobs.
Wilson’s policies contributed to the decimation of vibrant African American neighborhoods in Northwest Washington, according to Alcione Amos, curator at Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum.
But starting in the 1920s, the federal government began using eminent domain to acquire much of this prime real estate from residents, Amos said. At the time, D.C. did not have local governance, so the federal government controlled real estate.
This process continued for decades until the black communities were gone. Wilson, which opened in 1935 as an all-white school, was built on land adjacent to these neighborhoods. Lafayette and Alice Deal, which feed into Wilson High, also opened as all-white schools.
“Woodrow Wilson created the ideal environment to destroy African American communities,” Amos said.
Think that through. Here we have a clearly defined, compact, geographic area in which federal policy was exercised to destroy, to ethnically cleanse, a black community. Surely it is only proper to now exercise that same federal power on this same defined area of the District of Columbia to make things right. Housing is incredibly expensive. Well-made, affordable housing is needed.
[. . .]
My point is that the Wilson High situation lets us turn the left’s rhetoric on itself. Responding that you and I don’t owe X diverts the focus back where the left wants, so resist that urge and consider the greater effectiveness of making them own it. If the left believes its own talk, it is time to pay up, and here is the perfect case. Exercise eminent domain *again* and turn the parlor pink leftists’ fancy digs into affordable housing units.
Maybe we could even take a page from Mao—send the displaced apparatchiks and nomenklatura to offices in a farm state.
There is no Marxist arc of history. There is no fate but what we make. We have a country to save. Make. Them. Own. It.Published in