Half-right, in a bad way: David Brooks and the founders’ ugly racial legacy

In his Feb. 26 column, “The Governing Cancer of Our Time,” New York Times columnist David Brooks praised the founding fathers in contrast to today’s tea partiers and other zealots for favoring politics over brute force, and compromise over intransigence. He’s partly right in that solving social conflict through politics and compromise is one of the founders’ legacies. But he’s also wrong in a dangerous way: violence and intransigence on the issue of white racial power are also central to our founding inheritance, and we would be a healthier society for recognizing that. Read more

Question on George Washington’s Birthday: Would He Be a Good Candidate Today?

Happy birthday, George!
Happy birthday, George!

There’s nothing like celebrating February 22, George Washington’s birthday, during a presidential campaign year. Mount Vernon, the historical site comprising George Washington’s home and plantation (oh, and the home of 300+ people legally owned by him and his wife, Martha), has been having fun this election cycle, with a tongue-in-cheek “George Washington for President” website, including videos with an actor playing our first chief executive spliced into primary debates and plenty of campaign gear for sale (among my favorites are the ones that mimic the Clinton logo, and poke at Jeb! (though now, of course, he’s dropped out), and parody Trump hats). Which begs the question: our first president, certainly one of its greatest, was elected unanimously twice. What sort of candidate would he be were he really to run in 2016? Read more

Repost: I plead the 5th! Truths, Lies and a not-so-honest Abe. A President’s Day Quiz

The following was originally posted at From the Square, the official blog of New York University Press.

We celebrate Presidents’ Day this year in the midst of presidential primary campaign season, a season in which not only has nearly every candidate disavowed previous political positions, but some have insisted that they never said things they said.

As it turns out, that’s a very defensible presidential position: of the many presidential quotations circulating the internet, a shockingly large proportion were never actually written or uttered by the men to whom they’re attributed.

Accordingly, as a public service, I offer this quiz. Read more