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The Ridiculous Attacks on the 1776 Report

Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull (John Parrot/StockTrek Images/Getty Images)

This week, the White House released its 1776 Report, a much-needed corrective to the historical revisionism that’s infected not only our media, but, far more destructively, our high schools and universities. It’s a straightforward patriotic document; the kind of reading that would be a useful civics lesson for the average citizen, immigrants taking a citizenship test, or certain professors in Princeton’s history department.

These days, anyone or anything that refuses to depict the American founding as anything but a wholly racist enterprise will be cast as a tool of white supremacy. And so it was.

Maegan Vazquez, a reporter at CNN, asserted that the “Trump administration issues racist school curriculum report on MLK day.” Vazquez offers only one specific instance to buttress this claim: The report notes that the civil-rights movement had turned un-American when championing policies such as affirmative action. This, indeed, is debatable. It would be more accurate to say that the Left has long given up on MLK’s dream of an America where people are judged on the content of their characters rather than the color of their skin.

Then Vazquez contends, quite amusingly, that the report is a “rebuttal to schools applying a more accurate history curriculum.”

By “more accurate,” she means the New York Times’ 1619 Project, a work that argues patriots of the American Revolution had only picked up their muskets to preserve the institution of slavery. This reading of history been rebuked by numerous historians — and not just panelists at some Heritage Foundation symposium, but by a wide range of ideologically diverse historians. Vazquez never mentions this fact, nor that the “more accurate” project was forced to append a substantive correction and use stealth edits after historians pointed to more fundamental errors. Or that the New York Times simply ignored other apprehensions from historians. The lead author of the project was forced to admit that the project was simply an “origin story,” not history.

You might disapprove of a positive appraisal of the American founding, but the notion that the 1619 Project is “more accurate” than the 1776 Report doesn’t hold up, either. In fact, CNN offers not a single factual mistake in the Trump commission’s paper, only philosophical disagreements. Sometimes you get the sense reporters can’t comprehend the difference.

While CNN’s attack was silly, it was expected. The New York Times, however, had the temerity to complain that “no professional historians,” only “conservative activists, politicians and intellectuals,” authored the report. First of all, Victor Davis Hanson has a Ph.D. in classics from Stanford University, and has written numerous excellent histories; Larry Arnn, the chair of the project, has a Ph.D. in government; Carol Swain, the co-vice chair, has a Ph.D. in political science; Matthew Spalding, the executive director, has a Ph.D. in government, and so on. It’s your prerogative to argue that only working academics should chime in on history. But it is quite odd for the Times to take up the credentialist case when the 1619 Project’s lead writer was Nikole Hannah-Jones, a polemicist who earned a master’s degree in journalism and has no relevant training as a historian.

I think what the Times really meant to say was that no professional identitarians worked on the 1776 Report. That is certainly true.

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