Steve Thomma at McClatchy writes about the conservative movement to rewrite history:
The most ballyhooed effort is under way in Texas, where conservatives have pushed the state school board to rewrite guidelines, downplaying Thomas Jefferson in one high school course, playing up such conservatives as Phyllis Schlafly and the Heritage Foundation and challenging the idea that the Founding Fathers wanted to separate church and state.
The effort reaches far beyond one state, however.
In articles and speeches, on radio and TV, conservatives are working to redefine major turning points and influential figures in American history, often to slam liberals, promote Republicans and reinforce their positions in today’s politics.
Some conservatives say it’s a long-overdue swing of the pendulum after years of liberal efforts to define history on their terms in classrooms and in popular culture.
“We are adding balance,” Texas school board member Don McLeroy said. “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.”
They’re adding “balance” by changing empirical facts? Apparently so: Dr. Steven Taylor points to a section in the McClatchy piece in which Dick Armey told an audience that today’s Tea Partiers are following the principles set forth in the Federalist Papers. When someone in the audience pointed out that Alexander Hamilton, the primary author of the Federalist Papers, “was widely regarded then and now as an advocate of a strong central government,” Armey scoffed, “Widely regarded by whom? […] Today’s modern, ill-informed political science professors? . . . I just doubt that was the case, in fact, about Hamilton.”
He “just doubts that was the case”? Right there, in that phrasing, is the tip-off that Armey is talking through his hat:
I don’t know if Armey is being disingenuous, forgetful, or ignorant here, but that Hamilton was a hardcore supporter of not only a central bank, but a strong central government is incontrovertible and is not an invention of “ill-informed political science professors.” Indeed, one of the first major political battles in the young republic was between Hamilton and his supporters and Jefferson and his over the question of things like a bank and other areas of economic policy (like the debt that the states had accumulated prior to the installation of the Constitution of 1789).
It is somewhat shocking that someone with a Ph.D. in Economics wouldn’t know about the basic early debates over political economy at the early goings of the country’s history. And one doesn’t have to take the word of political scientists or historians on these counts, as one can easily see the views of persons from that era in their own writings.
I am all for more people reading the Federalist Papers, but the notion that they will reveal a perfect correlation with the Tea Party is misguided at best. Indeed, it is worth noting that part of the purpose of the Federalist Papers was to argue for a stronger not a weaker central government (quite frankly, the populist anger and lack of a clear message sounds more like the Anti-Federalists than the Federalist Papers). Of course, they were also written in a specific context and I am not sure the degree to which they provide the exact kind of guidance that Armey says they will (which seems to be read X and you will think Y). It frequently seems like admonitions for people to read the Constitution or the Federalist Paper are hollow because the admonishers don’t actually expect people to do it (and sometimes one wonders if said admonishers themselves follow their own advice).
Steve Benen has a great insight:
… Reading this, it’s hard not to think of the Ron Suskind classic when a senior adviser to then-President George W. Bush dismissed those who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality…. That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”
If today’s conservative Republicans reject reality, it stands to reason that they’ll reject history, too.
Eli at Firedoglake riffs on this point:
I used to think of all these stories about the crazy Texas School Board trying to alter history and science as separate from the right’s media takeover, and from the steady drone of climate denialism, but now I’m thinking they’re each just one side of the same four-dimensional coin. The right views information itself as a threat, and they’re doing everything they can to combat it and co-opt it.After all, informed voters might decide to vote for sane candidates over crazy dishonest hatemongers.
Informed students might grow up to be favorably disposed to the successes of progressivism over the failures of conservatism. And informed policymakers might decide that the survival of the planet is a lot more important than Exxon Mobil’s profit margins… or at least their constituents would.
It’s quite audacious when you think about it. Rather than accepting reality and adapting their ideology to it, the right instead embarked on a massive multi-decade coordinated effort to adapt reality to their ideology. Instead of asking reality what it could teach them, they decided to fight it to the death. And if they win, everyone loses.
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