*images include explicit language
Outside the doors of Langford Auditorium, a small group gathered in protest of the Jan. 17 Chancellor’s Lecture with former Senator Jeff Flake. The talk, entitled “The Conscience of a Conservative: Returning to Civil Discourse in American Politics,” focused on Flake’s vocal opposition to the president and his hope for a return to more traditional conservative principles and bipartisan conversation.
Despite his outspoken criticism of Trump, Flake has voted in line with the president 81 percent of the time. Alex Korsunsky, a graduate student in anthropology at Vanderbilt organized the protest, saying that Flake’s hypocrisy made it unclear what the senator has to teach students.
“So Jeff Flake is invited here on the premise that he is uniquely moral and civil and has a really great conscience–that’s the title of the talk–but the most notable things he’s done over the past two years since Trump got elected is say that he’s a threat to world stability, he’s a threat to democracy, he’s authoritarian, that he’s oh so uncivil, but then he votes for his policies over 80 percent of the time. That doesn’t display conscience to me, that displays cowardice and double talk.”
The stated aim of the Chancellor’s Lecture series is “to connect the university and the Nashville community with intellectuals who are shaping our world.” The talk, which also feature This American Life producer Zoe Chace was well attended, with students and people from around the city filling the Langford auditorium.
One of the signs the protestors carried cited Flake’s decision to vote yes on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. While Flake did delay the confirmation in order to allow the FBI to investigate the allegations of sexual assault brought against Kavanaugh, Flake ultimately voted to confirm Kavanaugh after reviewing the results of the four day FBI investigation.
“I think that the Kavanaugh hearing particularly should have totally burst everybody’s bubble that maybe he stands for something or is going to resist Trump,” Korsunsky said. “To say that you stand for decency in politics and then put a man who at a minimum who obviously lied and probably is a rapist on the Supreme Court, I can’t imagine any world in which that is representative of decency. The idea that this guy would come to a college campus and there wouldn’t be someone to unwelcome him seemed wrong to me.”