Historians are not merely fact-checkers. We try to encourage kids to get excited about doing history by telling them that it is more than just the memorization of names and dates. History, of course, is an act of interpretation.
But in this political cycle, historians need to be getting back to basics as they speak to public to and write for public audiences. We need to remind people that a proper reconstruction of the past requires, first and foremost, that we do our best to find out what happened in the past. At the most fundamental level historians are truth-tellers. We are not the only thinkers in society who care about the truth, but finding out what happened is a pretty important part of our job description.
Historians will ultimately be the ones who will explain this crazy election cycle to future generations. But it is going to take some time before we gain enough perspective to interpret it fairly.
As we wait for perspective we can still remind the public about the importance of empirical facts. Historians make arguments based on evidence. Our POTUS candidates and those who follow them still need to learn a lesson that they should have learned in their 5th-grade history class.
Please WATCH THIS VIDEO featuring CNN anchor Jake Tapper. (Can’t seem to embed it). Historians have a responsibility to counter the “Jedi mind tricks.”