Join me in my Fighting over the Founders featured

RP and GW
Rand Paul, George Washington (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/Wikimedia/Photo montage by Salon)

On today’s front page of Salon, for Presidents Day, above the fold: an excerpt of my Fighting over the Founders.  Enjoy!

3 thoughts on “Join me in my Fighting over the Founders featured

  1. Hi, Dr. Schocket:

    I’ve recently been reading “Fighting Over the Founders,” and was quite surprised to find no mention of “Dr.” David Barton. This is particularly striking since Barton has been so prominent in shaping the revisionist view of the founding fathers and the Revolution over the last 30 years, by pitching it to “Christian conservatives” as “America’s Godly Heritage.”

    I’m sure you must be aware of Barton, his “Wallbuilders” website, his many appearances on Glenn Beck’s shows, his high-level positions in Republican Party circles, his being named one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals” by Time magazine in 2005, etc. I’m curious about your editorial decision to omit Barton from “Fighting Over the Founders” ?

    Thanks so much,

    Steve Hicks

    1. Thanks for reading, and a great question. As you point out, Barton is a fascinating figure. On the one hand, he’s very prominent in the conservative evangelical Christian movement as one of its intellectuals, and on the other, almost sub rosa for the rest of the country. He could have gone in just as easily as did the passages on Cleon Skousen, and, unlike Skousen, has the virtue of being alive and active. It really came down to space and what chapter he would fit in, and I opted for Skousen rather than Barton because of the former’s connection both to Beck (and his bestsellers) and to the seminars based on his book (for the section on the Tea Party). I see Barton as a more sophisticated version of Skousen, someone who parlays a sheen of learning to make himself into someone indispensable for rhetorical and intellectual fodder despite what are actually often shoddy and sometimes completely logically and evidentially untenable positions. In other words, Barton plays an excellent historian in terms of using footnotes and other forms of respectability, but his refusal to see nuance and complication, his insistence on selective rather than full reading of texts, and his always finding a past that happens to bolster his present positions are more the political use of memory rather than an effort to understand the past (not that any of us are fully innocent of this, of course). But you’re right, Barton is an excellent example of someone who very much invokes the American Revolution in current ideological debates. So many examples, so little time!

      1. Thanks for your reply, Dr. Schocket. That “his present positions are more the political use of memory rather than an effort to understand the past” is spot-on. Quite clearly “Dr.” Barton’s use of history is skewed to serve his political and “religious” factions’ agenda.

        I understand that (sadly) you have an over-abundance of such manipulated (or blatantly-falsified) Revolutionary “history” from which to choose. Truth be told, ignoring Barton is probably the response his “research” most deserves. My only concern is that he seems an especially prominent (and in my faith-community, successful) deceiver: and that there seems an almost-prophetic mandate to publicly call out those whose political use of history is intended to misguide us in steering the nation’s current and future course.

        Thanks again for your reply (at what must be the least-opportune time of the academic year).

        best regards, Steve Hicks

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