by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Classical architecture is not a partisan issue.
President Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic Party, was an enthusiastic champion of the Greek Revivalism thankfully still visible in both the capital and his Mount Vernon home. When he designed the University of Virginia in Richmond, he took great care in the landscaping and architecture, knowing their likely effects on generations of young minds.
Fifty years later, President Abraham Lincoln insisted that construction of the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol continue despite the bloody and costly war taking place sometimes just 50 miles from the seat of government. Public beauty in civic buildings, he believed, was crucial to the future of the Union.
Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt drew inspiration from the great Republican of the Civil War, championing the classical and moving ahead with Washington construction as he sought to prepare the country for the world war he saw descending on our fragile peace.
Democrat Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan played an interesting role in Washington’s architectural history, both helping to craft the 1962 General Guidelines that undid more than 50 years of ordered-classical government buildings, then later criticizing the modernism that took its place. …
… But in academia and among elite art and architecture circles, the preferences of the American people and its leaders past and present are passe at best, and fascist at worst. On Monday, President Joe Biden broke with a century of precedent by demanding the resignations of four members of the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts, including Chas Fagan, Steven Spandle, Perry Guillot, and Commission Chairman Justin Shubow. His reason? He doesn’t like the classic aesthetic.
“The counsel’s office,” Bloomberg reports, “advised that President Joe Biden has the authority to remove the commissioners, whose staunch support for classical architecture does not align with his values.”