Erasing Jefferson

  • 20 May 2019
  • NormanL

In our ongoing look at the ever-expanding field of Democratic presidential candidates, we turn this week to Pete Buttigieg. The South Bend, Ind. mayor and media darling appeared on a radio program where he sought to keep his momentum going by tossing shade on Thomas Jefferson:

The South Bend mayor appeared on The Hugh Hewitt Show, where he was asked to weigh in on the name of the annual Indiana Democratic dinner, which was formerly named after party founders and former presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. Indiana Democrats changed the name of the annual dinner in 2016.

"Well, let's go to policy now—a very blunt question because you talk about going to every Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Indiana when you were running statewide. Should Jefferson-Jackson dinners be renamed everywhere because both were holders of slaves?" Hewitt asked.

"Yeah, we're doing that in Indiana. I think it's the right thing to do," Buttigieg said. "Over time, you develop and evolve on the things you choose to honor … Jefferson is more problematic. There's a lot of course to admire in his thinking and his philosophy, but then again if you plunge into his writings, especially the notes on the state of Virginia, you know that he knew slavery was wrong."

Buttigieg said, "We are all morally conflicted human beings." While he said Democrats aren't deleting him from the history books or saying he's not a founding father, Buttigieg said naming events after him is a different story.

"The real reason I think there is a lot of pressure on this is the relationship between the past and present that we're finding in a million different ways that racism isn't some curiosity out of the past that we're embarrassed about but moved on from," Buttigieg said. "It's alive. It's well. It's hurting people and it's one of the main reasons to be in politics today is to try to change or reverse  the harms that went along with that."

That's a very long, waffle-filled way to say the author of the Declaration of Independence was a passable public thinker, but really just a racist who is best erased from memory. We agree Mr. Jefferson was a flawed, fallable and deeply conflicted human being. All of us are. But Jefferson is also irreplaceable, as the author of the nation's liberty, and unforgettable, as a leader, philosopher, educator, inventor, and so much more. His name and his work will endure long after the South Bend mayor has faded from the scene.