1619 or 1620?

They Knew They Were PilgrimsHistorian John Turner, author of a new book on the Plymouth Colony, helps us sort this out. Here is a taste of his piece at The National Review:

Some of the critics have gone so far as to propose alternative “birth years.” Last fall, the National Association of Scholars launched a 1620 project, a series of videos and essays rebutting the Times project. Why 1620? It was “the year in which the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower Compact was signed,” explains the organization’s president, Peter Wood. Similarly, The Federalist has solicited essays celebrating the “anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth Rock.” This year is, after all, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival on our shores. To those who place religious and political liberty at the heart of the American experiment, that event makes an attractive starting point.

The 1620 proposals are a throwback to 19th-century views of American origins. On the 200th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing, Massachusetts senator Daniel Webster rhapsodized that they had arrived with “intelligence,” “the inspirations of liberty,” and “the truth of divine religion.” Politicians and historians pointed to the Mayflower Compact, a makeshift political agreement forged before the Pilgrims stepped ashore. Once Americans associated the Pilgrims with an annual Thanksgiving feast, their pride of place in the story of the nation’s origins became assured.

Even as Webster lionized them, though, many historians knew that the Pilgrims could not bear the weight of the historical significance placed on them. To begin with, they weren’t first: The less pious and more contentious colonists in Jamestown had arrived in 1607. Even more to the point, the Pilgrims were fewer and more inconsequential than their subsequent place in history would suggest. Plymouth Colony never really thrived. Its settlers eked out a living on land of dubious fertility, and other colonies came to dwarf it in terms of population, economic clout, and military power. Ready to tell new stories about the American past, academic historians eventually kicked the Pilgrims to the scholarly curb.

Nevertheless, there are good reasons to pay attention not just to the Mayflower, the rock, and the feast, but to the chain of events that preceded and followed 1620. Before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth, an epidemic brought by European fishermen and traders had wiped out a previously thriving Wampanoag community there. Like English colonists elsewhere, the Pilgrims and their descendants then stripped Native populations of their land through dubious property transactions and episodic wars. Many Americans have spoken of slavery as the nation’s “original sin,” but conquest and displacement of Natives are just as original to the early history of English colonization — and Plymouth is one of many starting points for these grave sins.

Read the entire piece here.

Kudos to The National Review publishing Turner’s piece. But they could not let it stand alone without a rebuttal.

Read David Randall’s response here. Now that’s more like it. 😉

Senior Editor of Conservative *National Review* Calls for Impeachment and Removal

Trump impeachment

Ramesh Ponnuru says Congress needs to prove 4 things to impeach a POTUS:

  1.  That the facts of the case are true.
  2.  That the facts amount to an abuse of power.
  3.  That the abuse is impeachable
  4.  That is prudent to remove the president.

Read his recent piece at The National Review to see how he responds to these four points.  A taste:

On October 3, Trump was asked to clarify what he had wanted the Ukrainian government to do. “They’d start a major investigation into the Bidens,” he answered. Representative Debbie Lesko (R., Ariz.) nonetheless told a CNN reporter on December 13 that Trump had not asked “a foreign power to investigate a political rival.” Her office later “clarified” that she meant to deny only that Trump had wanted the investigation because Biden is a political rival. The fact that they both want to be president in 2021 was, on her view, just a coincidence.

Take the clarification seriously, and what Representative Lesko was trying to do was to defend that second wall. Sure, the president sought an investigation of Biden, but only as a means of making sure that U.S. aid was not going to a corrupt state. Senator John Kennedy (R., La.) has said that the possibility that Trump was concerned about corruption means that he cannot be proved to have had a corrupt intent.

The argument requires a willful suspension of disbelief. Gordon Sondland, the Trump-appointed ambassador to the European Union, has testified that Trump “didn’t want to hear about” Ukrainian efforts against corruption and that concerns over corruption had not led to the withholding of aid from any other country within his portfolio. The Department of Defense had certified that Ukraine was taking steps against corruption before the administration withheld aid to it.

Fighting corruption would not have required Trump to encourage Zelensky to work with Rudolph Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who has said that he was working in Ukraine to advance his client’s personal interests; it would have counseled against Trump’s doing that. Nor would the effort have required the secrecy with which it was conducted, or have required dropping around the same time it was starting to attract publicity. Kurt Volker, Trump’s envoy to Ukraine, has testified that Giuliani said that official Ukrainian statements against corruption were insufficient unless they specifically mentioned the investigations touching on the Bidens and on the 2016 campaign.

There is essentially no evidence that either investigation is worth conducting. The theory that Joe Biden acted corruptly holds that he leaned on the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor who was looking into a company that had his son on the board. That prosecutor’s former deputy has said that there was no active investigation, and the Obama administration was on record urging the prosecutor to assist a British legal action against the company’s owner.

Read the entire piece here.

This is the Best You Will Get from the *National Review* on “The 1619 Project”

1619

Jim Geraghty writes about everything that is missing from the story of African-American history told in The New York Times 1619 Project.  The National Review writer seems to think that the project is an African-American history textbook that must cover everything.

But David French sees some merit in the project:

The black American argument for liberty is achieving new prominence in part because of the New York Times’s “ 1619 Project” — an ambitious effort to reframe the arrival of the first slaves on America’s shores as our nation’s “true founding.” Many of the accompanying essays are interesting and provocative, though they don’t truly make the case that America came into being as a result of slavery rather than through the ratification of one of the most stirring and aspirational documents in human history. The true founding of our nation resulted in the creation of a series of painful conflicts between the promise of liberty and the reality of oppression, and the promise of liberty has prevailed time and again. But the focus on 1619 should provide modern Evangelicals — many of whom are in a state of near-panic — with a healthy dose of perspective.

I like French’s piece because he draws upon African-American history as an antidote to evangelical political pessimism.  A lot of his thoughts here echo the last chapter of Believe Me in which I suggested that the Civil Rights Movement could serve as a model for white evangelical political engagement today.

Another Conservative Misses the Point of History Education

FraserOver at The National Review, Stanley Kurz claims that U.S. history textbooks are anti-conservative.  Here is a taste:

The most underappreciated political story of our time is the changing content of K-12 textbooks in history, civics, social studies, and related subjects. Yes, I said political story. Why are Millennials so receptive to socialism? Why are today’s Democrats dominated by identity politics? Why have movements on the political right shifted from a constitutional conservatism symbolized by the Boston Tea Party to a populist nationalism? All these changes, and more, are connected to what today’s history textbooks are, and are not, teaching. Yet we’ve barely noticed the link.

Almost any Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. history textbook has more influence on American politics than 90 percent of the books reviewed in our leading newspapers and political magazines. Yet when was the last time you read a review of a high school history textbook? Never, I’ll bet. That’s partly because these thousand-page monstrosities are tough to read, and even tougher to judge for anyone but professional historians. And with growing academic specialization, even historians find it difficult to assess an entire text.

Liberals needn’t bother keeping track of history textbooks because they’re the ones who write them. But conservatives have dropped the ball on this issue so essential to their survival. Conservative politicians, institutions, and donors focus far more on short-term electoral politics and policy than culture. History textbooks don’t even register. Over the long haul, that’s a recipe for political exile and social ostracism.

Conservatives saw the tip of the enormous textbook iceberg earlier this April when a radio host tweeted out pictures a Minnesota student had sent her of an AP U.S. history (APUSH) textbook. The student had photographed pages of the not yet formally released update of James W. Fraser’s By the People, an APUSH textbook published by the international education giant Pearson. Those pages covered the 2016 election and the Black Lives Matter movement. Their blatantly partisan bias set off a conservative media firestorm. (I commented here, and Joy Pullman’s important take is here.)

Read the entire piece here.

I don’t know if Kurtz is correct about Fraser’s textbook because I have not read it.  But it does seem clear to me that Kurtz has no clue about how history is actually taught–or should be taught–in schools.

First, Kurtz’s entire argument rests on the fact that students actually read the textbook.

Second, and more importantly, most students learn history from their teachers.  In other words, Kurtz assumes that American history textbooks are the only way students learn history.  The best teachers know that all textbooks, like all history, are subjective.  They thus use the textbook to teach bias or to show how the textbook matches-up with their students’ work in the primary sources.  Show me a teacher who believes that his or her textbook represents received wisdom from on high and I will show you a bad history teacher.

If You Want to Know Where the GOP is at Right Now, Watch This Video

From the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference:

The woman on the right of the screen is National Review columnist Mona Charen.

Charen was glad she got booed.

Princeton University conservative Robert George praised Charen:

 

“Is there any act of depravity to which the less respectable right-wing media cannot imagine a connection for George Soros?”

Soros

George Soros

Kevin Williamson is fed-up with his fellow conservatives. Here is a taste of his piece at The National Review:

First it was the Holocaust, now Parkland — is there any act of depravity to which the less respectable right-wing media cannot imagine a connection for George Soros?

David Clarke, the sheriff of Fox News, insisted that the Florida students’ reaction to the shooting “has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it,” idiotic capitalization in the original and, one assumes, in his soul. The idiots at Gateway Pundit suggested that one of the student survivors was a fraud because — get this — he’d been interviewed on television before about an unrelated incident. Dinesh D’Souza joined in to mock the students as patsies.

To be fair, D’Souza doesn’t think George Soros is behind Parkland — he thinks George Soros was behind the Holocaust.

About that, a few thoughts.

There are many reasons to dislike George Soros. The slander that he was a Nazi is not one of them.

Read the rest here.

Conservative Magazines in the Age of Trump

national-review-donald-trump

Check out T.A. Frank‘s piece at The Washington Post on conservative magazines.  He discusses what role magazines like CommentaryNational Review, the American ConservativeFirst ThingsNational AffairsThe National InterestAmerican Affairs, and Modern Age play in the age of Trump.

Here is a taste:

As much as their contributors may differ in opinion or even dislike one another, what unites these magazines — and distinguishes them from right-wing outlets like Breitbart — is an almost quaint belief in debate as an instrument of enlightenment rather than as a mere tool of political warfare. “There’s an argument on part of the right that the left is utterly remorseless and we need to be like that,” says Lowry. “That’s the way you lose your soul and you have no standards.”

As the Weekly Standard’s Labash sees it, disinterest — at a time when media outlets on the right “constantly applaud Trump like trained chimps, congratulating themselves that they’re part of some new revolutionary vanguard” — is the new subversion. “You want to be a revolutionary on the right?” asks Labash. “Tell the truth. Call honest balls and strikes. That’s become pretty revolutionary behavior in these hopelessly tribal times.”

With so many Americans today engaged in partisan war, any publication with a commitment to honesty in argument becomes a potential peacemaker. It also becomes an indispensable forum for working out which ideas merit a fight in the first place. This is what, in their best moments, the conservative magazines are now doing. None will realistically exercise much immediate influence on this White House. But perhaps what matters more is whether they’ll manage to influence the political discussion writ large. Ultimately, that won’t be up to Donald Trump but to those, of any political stripe, who have preserved enough modesty and curiosity to allow their views to be unsettled. Serious conservative magazines will matter a lot, if we want them to.

Read the entire piece here.

Quote of the Day

From Heather Wilhelm in The National Review:

I’ll get this out the way: If you’re in Alabama and you want to vote for Roy Moore, vote for Roy Moore. But let’s at least try to keep things real: If you vote for Moore, you’re doing it because he’s not a Democrat, rather than because he’s some holy soldier on a special mission for God.

Bizarrely, many high-profile Christian leaders seem hell-bent on convincing America that Moore is just that. Jerry Falwell Jr. recently threw in his support for Moore. Radio host and author Eric Metaxas has vigorously promoted theological defenses of why Christians can vote for Moore. Franklin Graham, who took the time to rip Matt Lauer for his “sin” on Twitter, is decidedly more sanguine in his defense of Moore: “Whoever is without sin, let them throw the first stone.”

Read the entire piece here.

Is Traditionalism Experiencing a Revival at College and Universities?

PHC

Jeff Cimmino has a really interesting piece at The National Review on the rise of traditionalism (as opposed to free-market, classical liberalism) among conservatives on college campuses.

Here is a taste:

Young Americans are usually thought of as decidedly liberal. This is an oversimplified picture. A sizeable minority of Millennials identify as conservative. Despite some evidence that Millennial conservatives lean left on social issues, it would be wrong to write all of them off as libertarians. Some young conservatives, in fact, hold anti-libertarian attitudes, and their numbers may be increasing. Plainly speaking, these young conservatives hold socially and culturally conservative views. On the other hand, they are wary of individualism and free markets. They are not necessarily anti-capitalist, but fear that laissez-faire economic systems can be excessively cutthroat, prizing individual material gain above the wellbeing of the community.

This strain of conservative thought is closely related to the traditionalism of Russell Kirk, the 20th-century conservative political theorist who authored The Conservative Mind. Kirk identified ten foundational conservative principles. The first principle states that conservatives believe in an “enduring moral order.” Moral truths do not change with the times, and neither does human nature. “Conservatives are champions,” he continues, “of custom, convention, and continuity because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know.” Conservatives value private property because it is “closely linked” to freedom, but argue that “getting and spending are not the chief aims of human existence.” Decisions directly affecting members of a community should be made “locally and voluntarily.” Regarding governance, conservatives recognize that human passions must be restrained: Order and liberty must be balanced. Moreover, a conservative “favors reasoned and temperate progress,” but does not worship Progress as some type of magical force. Young, anti-libertarian conservatives represent a new generation of traditionalists. And they are increasingly prominent on some college campuses.

Read the entire piece here.

If there is an upswing in traditionalism among conservative students on the campus where I teach, I am unaware of it.  That is not to say that such a resurgence is not happening, but I really doubt that most students are aware of these conservative thinkers and their contribution to Western culture.  I think I can confidently say that these works are very rarely ever assigned in classes.  I think that is a shame.