The Bigger Picture: Democracy in Dialogue, on a Day of Crisis

The Bigger Picture: Democracy in Dialogue, on a Day of Crisis


In the hours that preceded Wednesday night’s previously scheduled debut of the University of Virginia’s “Democracy Dialogues” series, pro-Donald Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, where members of Congress were gathered to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

As news rolled in by the minute, politics professor, Center for Politics director and event host Larry Sabato quickly pivoted to confront the historic and tragic events of the day and still host the event on schedule from the center of UVA’s Rotunda, addressing an audience of thousands online (and about a half-dozen masked staff in the Dome Room). It was more timely than anyone could have imagined; in one case, Sabato even spoke to an ABC News journalist, chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, as Karl strode across the Capitol grounds on his way to do more live reporting for ABC.

Sabato, a longtime political analyst, bluntly described Wednesday’s events as an attempted “coup,” and his guests, from both sides of the aisle, uniformly denounced what they were seeing in Washington.

UVA President Jim Ryan, introducing the event via video, expressed anger and sadness, calling Wednesday’s events “an attack on our democracy and a painful reminder of just how fragile our system of government can be.”

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Civic engagement and civil debate, Ryan said, are more important than ever and are areas where UVA can provide leadership. The Democracy Dialogues events will address topics and challenges facing American democracy and democracies around the world, with guest experts representing at least two different perspectives on key issues. The events are part of broad, University-wide effort exploring the most critical questions facing our democracy, through UVA’s Democracy Initiative and other projects.

Read more about Wednesday night’s event here.

Media Contact

Caroline Newman

Associate Editor Office of University Communications