When Concern Trolling, Always Check For Unintended Uncomfortable Parallelisms

It's always a good idea to reread a text before referencing it, especially if you're a history Ph.D. like Newt Gingrich

There have been a lot of “hot takes” from across the political spectrum about President Biden’s January 6th anniversary speech. Unsurprisingly, allies of Former President Trump were not impressed and they let the world know. One of those takes that stands out was from disgraced Former Speaker of the House and failed Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich:

Newt Gingrich: If you read Lincoln's Second Inaugural and Biden's speech today you will understand the difference between greatness bringing us together and a mean spirited vicious partisan hack trying to drive a deeper wedge in the country he is supposed to lead.

Of the many responses to it, Fletcher School Professor and Washington Post Contributor (not to mention OG political blogger) Dan Drezner had perhaps the most cutting reply:

Drezner’s point underscores something that our own Steven Taylor (also an OG political blogger) recently explored in his post Trumpism: A Photo Essay. Followers of the former President are increasingly becoming bound up with “Lost Cause” culture. It appears that Gingrich is making (intentionally or unintentionally) the same connection. And, if unintentional, it’s an unfortunate parallelism for a History Ph.D. and former History Professor to make.

Leaving that aside his drawing a link between Trump supporters and the Confederacy, it’s also worth examining the core premise animating Gingrich’s concern: why wasn’t Biden as conciliatory as Lincoln in his second inaugural address? For that, let’s go to the brief text of that speech, made in the waning days of the Civil War:

“Fellow countrymen: at this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends is as well known to the public as to myself and it is I trust reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

“On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it ~ all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place devoted altogether to saving the Union without war insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war ~ seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

“One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves not distributed generally over the union but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen perpetuate and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered ~ that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses for it must needs be that offenses come but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which in the providence of God must needs come but which having continued through His appointed time He now wills to remove and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him. Fondly do we hope ~ fervently do we pray ~ that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’

“With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

https://www.nps.gov/linc/learn/historyculture/lincoln-second-inaugural.htm

Significant attention is always paid to the final paragraph (beginning with “With malice toward none with charity for all…”). However, the previous paragraph (emphasis mine) is perhaps more important, in so much as it’s Lincoln again laying out the ultimate reason the war is being fought: the continuation of slavery. And that paragraph, in particular the bolded text, makes it clear there can be no reconciliation until that “peculiar institution” is ended. Lincoln leaves no room for compromise on that topic: that if necessary the war will continue “until every drop of blood drawn with [slavery’s] lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword“).

I suspect that to many in the South at the time, including those in Gingrich’s home state of Georgia, very little about this speech would seem like it’s “bringing them together” with the North. Instead, they would most likely read those words as signaling an end to an era–a social order that had been with them for over 200 years.

All that said, perhaps I’m expecting too much of Gingrich, after all, I just discovered that the Ph.D. in History that he often proudly points to was actually in European History (TIL!). So perhaps he never actually read that address.

[Update 1]

Of course, it’s also possible that Gingrich just didn’t care because he was out to score points. On that note, I give you our illustrious EiC’s (another OG Political Blogger) reply to Drezner:

[Update 2]

In the comments section below, my co-blogger Steven Taylor linked to two articles he wrote from a decade ago examining Gingrich’s academic record: Newt Gingrich, “Academic” & More on Newt Gingrich’s Academic Career. Spoiler alert: Steven was not impressed by what he found.


One other thought on this topic came up as I was drafting the post. In the final paragraph of the speech, Lincoln writes: “let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds.” Following his speech yesterday, President Biden was asked by the press whether calling out former President Trump divides more than it heals.

His response: “The way you have to heal, you have to recognize the extent of the wound.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Capitol Riot, US Politics
Matt Bernius
About Matt Bernius
Matt Bernius is a design researcher working to create more equitable government systems and experiences. He's currently a Principal User Researcher on Code for America's "GetCalFresh" program, helping people apply for SNAP food benefits in California. Prior to joining CfA, he worked at Measures for Justice and at Effective, a UX agency. Matt has an MA from the University of Chicago.

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    I responded to Dan’s tweet noting the irony of being called “a mean spirited vicious partisan hack trying to drive a deeper wedge in the country he is supposed to lead” by Newt Freaking Gingrich.

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  2. Barry says:

    I believe that Newt’s tweet was true, just not in the way he meant it.

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  3. Matt Bernius says:

    @James Joyner:
    I saw that and had intended to include that in the post… I definitely think its worth an edit. 🙂

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  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    Of course, an accurate comparison Biden and Lincoln would be to compare Biden’s inaugural address with Lincoln’s second, for which an objective reading would allow that Biden captured Lincoln’s sentiments. Biden’s 1/6/21 speech was given against the background of R’s continuing to fight a lost cause.

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  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    Followers of the former President are increasingly becoming bound up with “Lost Cause” culture. It appears that Gingrich is making (intentionally or unintentionally) the same connection. And, if unintentional, it’s an unfortunate parallelism for a History Ph.D. and former History Professor to make.

    Unfortunate for a history nerd, certainly, but also a bit encouraging. The great thing about ‘Lost Cause’ culture is that word, ‘Lost.’

    I don’t trust my political antennae as much as I used to because as hard as I try to avoid it, there are algorithms out there desperately insisting on feeding me validation. (YouTube is pretty sure I’m a fan of Indian anti-Chinese propaganda pieces, for example.) But still I feel the ground shifting a little. There are straws in the wind – Trump rallies with poor attendance, slowly rising vaccination rates, some court victories, the failure of even partisan vote counters to find fraud, the momentum of the January 6 committee, Letitia James, and counterintuitively, the heightened frenzy of the Democrat texts and emails I’m deluged with.

    Most of all there’s MAGAt fracturing and infighting, and their rhetoric is more defensive, less optimistic. I may be wrong, but as a practical political matter, ‘Lost Cause’ may be the best off-ramp for the Trump cult.

    At the same time I’m seeing a new level of sobriety among progressives. MAGAts losing momentum and maybe hope? Good thing. Twitter progressives on the defensive about cancel culture? Good thing.

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  6. Matt Bernius says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Biden’s 1/6/21 speech was given against the background of R’s continuing to fight a lost cause.

    That fight was still happening during the Second Inaugural as well if memory serves (though the end was pretty much assured). But that raises a good point and perhaps a better comparison would have been the Gettysburg address:

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    And, like the inaugural address, that last paragraph is again a recommitment to the war effort (though not identifying slavery as the cause).

  7. Matt Bernius says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Unfortunate for a history nerd, certainly, but also a bit encouraging. The great thing about ‘Lost Cause’ culture is that word, ‘Lost.’

    MR, on the one hand, I do find that hopeful.

    And on the other hand, I think there is truth to the adage that in many ways the South ended up losing the war and winning the peace. I know we tend to have divergent views on this, but I think we’re still relitigating a lot of the Civil War when it comes to the role of race (and in particular Blackness) in America.

    I’m not alone in that view and it’s why a lot of public intellectuals have been doing a lot of thinking/writing on Reconstruction in recent years. There was a thread of that which I had thought about diving into this post, but decided that it would have taken things too far of topic.

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  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    I know we tend to have divergent views on this, but I think we’re still relitigating a lot of the Civil War when it comes to the role of race (and in particular Blackness) in America.

    We don’t divert at all on that, I agree. I’m an amateur history nerd and pretty well up on Civil War and Reconstruction history. I was thinking of doing a trilogy set in that era but White authors in kidlit are not currently allowed to write about, well, anything that might be remotely controversial.

    When I have issues with the 1619 piece or CRT it’s about details and emphases, but mostly the political timing, which is not helpful. (I love a good rehash of history, re-examining assumptions, eyeballing heroes to see if they’re the real thing). But I think we need to find a way to get at the truth without kitting everyone out in full-body hair shirts. A little genuine patriotism would help a lot. And maybe a few minutes consideration of the horrors that have come from the concept of collective guilt.

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Multiple re-loads have not given me an edit function, so divert=diverge. It’s one thing making up my own punctuation* but I can’t let bad word choice stand.

    *My eldest is copy-editing some old books of ours that we’re relaunching self-pubbed. Last night there was an anguished cri de coeur on the subject of capitalization following a colon. Dad’s a rebel, he don’t need no stinkin’ rules.

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  10. grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Reynolds: ….but do you use the Oxford comma?

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  11. Modulo Myself says:

    And on the other hand, I think there is truth to the adage that in many ways the South ended up losing the war and winning the peace. I know we tend to have divergent views on this, but I think we’re still relitigating a lot of the Civil War when it comes to the role of race (and in particular Blackness) in America.

    I think it’s way more complicated than that. The south’s way of life did not win…black people fled north into highly-segregated cities and from these cities came new things. White people transgressed and hung out in black clubs, and black music was picked up and sent everywhere, and there you go–R&B and jazz were the basis for about 50% of modern music, at the very least. That would not have happened if everyone lived like southerners.

  12. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds: @grumpy realist:
    If it’s a complete sentence following the colon, I capitalize the first word of it. And I always use the Oxford comma.

    When you don’t use the Oxford comma, you get things like the following book dedication: “I’d like to thank my parents, George Bush and God.”

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  13. Matt Bernius says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    That’s a helpful clarification!

  14. Modulo Myself says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The 1619 Project began with someone talking about an older black relative raising up the American flag. It was plenty patriotic…if you believe patriotism is a work in progress and modern, rather than some insane project to protect the sanctity of your white forebears. The conflict is less about race and more about how one deals with reality.

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  15. Modulo Myself says:

    I think part of Trump’s appeal is an unconscious one. He leaves the purloined letter out in the open. He doesn’t hide it. There’s a spiraling logic in this.

    Someone says, “I’m tired of being judged for things I didn’t do because I’m white so I’m voting for Trump.”

    “So do you support Trump?”

    “I voted for him because I’m tired of being judged for things I didn’t do, not because I support him, and if you keep on blaming me for Trump, I’ll vote for Trump again because I’m tired of being blamed for Trump.”

    The letter, as Poe knew, is just right there, in plain sight, but missed not by the detective but by the criminal who stole it.

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  16. KM says:

    it’s also worth examining the core premise animating Gingrich’s concern: why wasn’t Biden as conciliatory as Lincoln in his second inaugural address?

    Why are you being so mean to me just because I keep being mean to you?

    This is the core of conservatism, both then and right now – how dare you call them terrible human beings when they act like terrible human beings. Both Lincoln and Biden were being clear that what was happening was unacceptable and those that engage in the behavior will not get puppies and kisses as their reward. You are correct that it would not be seen as conciliatory at the time for the same reason Biden’s isn’t – it’s not telling them they were right and we’re just gonna forget about the whole thing, letting them keep being them. Much like how Shakespeare is now considered the height of literature when back then audiences would have laughed at the dirty jokes, Lincoln’s speech has gain an air of “gracious conciliatory tone” for not actively telling them they’re all traitors destined for the gallows.

    Anything short of “Trump was utterly right” is gonna be lambasted as “horribly divisive” by the modern GOP. They can’t admit they are wrong (even if they wanted to) and so pointing out basic facts will lack any “conciliatory tone”. Gingrich knew what he was saying and what it implied – he’s not MTG for god’s sake. Give the man credit due and Drezner was spot on when he noted that associating the Confederacy with the Big Lie was an interesting choice for him. Gingrich isn’t one of the dumb ones but rather old-school dogwhistling and manipulation. He said what he said for a reason.

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  17. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    A little genuine patriotism would help a lot.

    Critics of the 1619 Project should actually bother to read it, but mostly they won’t. It opens with a very patriotic, uplifting story of the author’s father’s American Dream, of ongoing black faith in America despite trials and horrors.

    The bad faith attacks against it and against CRT, the hysteria that — it’s about silencing truth to prevent reconciliation. There’s never going to be a time when the right and its agents of white supremacy find the truth “helpful”: they are dedicated to lies. The left should not trade against its ascendant diverse base, which values authenticity and speaking truth to power, to instead center the guilt of a shrinking demographic of regressives.

    The 1619 Project is patriotic and doesn’t tell anyone to feel guilty. So if they didn’t have the 1619 Project or CRT to lie about, to scapegoat, fearmonger, and race bait about, it would be something else. It’s all about manufactured outrage to keep white votes rolling in so Republican donors can get another tax cut. And it’s not going to work forever.

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  18. Matt Bernius says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    I think it’s way more complicated than that. The south’s way of life did not win…black people fled north into highly-segregated cities and from these cities came new things.

    It’s definitely more complicated than that. And I also want to call out that focusing on this as a “North” versus “South” issue also tends to pave over the different forms of explicit and implicit/structural racism taking place in the North and on the Western Frontier pre- and following the Civil War, up until and including today.

    1
  19. Modulo Myself says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    To track back to Newt Gingrich and his idea of what is divisive, I think the south represents a uniquely closed-off society built on being divisive and then demanding absolute obedience. If you were white in the south you couldn’t rebel and hang out with black people. You could rape every black woman in existence–that was cool. But enjoy? Nah. In northern cities or in LA the taboo was allowed by informal systems.

    And with overall authority, there’s a reason factories went from north to south. Southerners were not good at rebelling against their local authorities. They couldn’t unionize. They were meant to be scabs. Whereas the frontier west was filled with racists who would have also been happy to dynamite the owners of the local mine.

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  20. just nutha says:

    @DK: While I hope you’re right, I find no compelling reason to believe you are. It’s been working for all of my life–coming up on 70 years, and I see no particular evidence of people abandoning it. Some are telling me to look at the young coming up. I hope they will do better than my peers and I did. We failed, spectacularly.

  21. Kingdaddy says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The 1619 Project began with someone talking about an older black relative raising up the American flag. It was plenty patriotic…if you believe patriotism is a work in progress and modern, rather than some insane project to protect the sanctity of your white forebears. The conflict is less about race and more about how one deals with reality.

    There’s always a dividing line between people who treat history as a project requiring constant investigation and adjustment, based on new findings and perspectives, and those who want to defend a preferred narrative to the death. I belong to a few Civil War history groups on Facebook, and the occasional Lost Causers post the same memes (Lee was really anti-slavery, Nathan Bedford Forrest wasn’t a bad guy, Sherman was a bigger racist than anyone in the South) with painful regularity. They’re not playing the same game as people who are dedicated to history as investigation. Their “history” is really the re-invocation of immutable, mythological icons. Same memes, same factual refutations in the comments, followed by the re-appearance of the same memes again.

    The same is true of all history, not just ours. There was (and still is) a contingent of people who insist that the Wehrmacht was somehow untinged by Nazism during the Third Reich, and certain “heroic” figures, such as Rommel, were definitely not favorable to anything the Nazis were espousing. How that sort of aloofness from evil worked, when the Nazis were executing millions in the territory the Wehrmacht had conquered, and people were hung by piano wire for distributing opposition leaflets, let alone objecting to atrocities, was unclear. But facts are less attractive than some malign fantasy that the Rommels of WWII were just not interested in all that fascist nonsense, so let’s just talk about their tactical and strategic acumen, shall we?

    1
  22. Modulo Myself says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    Afaik, the Wehrmacht officers who plotted against Hitler (perhaps with Himmler’s blessing) really did think that they could remove Hitler, install a new leader, sue for conditional peace with the US, and then halt the advance of the Red Army on the East. The goal was to blame it all on Hitler and save Germany from unconditional surrender. If you look at America, Allen Dulles was a huge opponent of unconditional surrender and tried to work with the SS from Switzerland to go around Roosevelt, who had managed to stop this from happening right before he died.

    Point us–what happened to Nazi Germany was pretty rare. We still hear about the ‘heroes’ who tried to kill Hitler, but they were very clearly operating to save Nazi Germany. The aftermath of the Civil War was basically a very conditional surrender which allowed of the perpetrators to survive, and that was the case after Jim Crow. South Africa had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (even though de Klerk had everything burned). America has never had anything like that.

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  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @DK:

    Critics of the 1619 Project should actually bother to read it,

    No one is ever going to read it outside of universities. What’s actually in the damn thing is essentially irrelevant to politics. All that matters is the perception. One of the reasons I wish Democrats would stop listening to academics is because academics (obviously excluding Professors Joyner and Taylor) is that academics exist in a parallel universe well outside of quotidian reality.

    Here’s a rule of thumb: if a retail clerk, waiter, truck driver or real estate salesman can’t understand it, it’s never going to be widely understood. CRT will never be understood. 1619 will never be understood. They will both be misunderstood because misunderstanding is easier and requires less education.

    The fact that this obvious truth is so hard for some Democrats to understand goes to the separation of the party from working people.

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  24. Dude Kembro says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Misunderstood and misunderstanding. More about misrepresentation and lying.

    The 1619 Project opens with a genuinely patrioric, uplifting story about patriotism in the fac e of bigotry. So when it is claimed that “genuine patriotism will help” perception, nah not so much. They’re not misunderstanding, they’re just lying. Which is why trying to play their “timing” games is a waste of time.

    Liars gonna lie. It’s already genuine and it still gets dismissed and smeared as uunpatriotic. And the agents of white supremacy are going to keep lying, no matter the timing.

    The timing is never going to be right according to a certain demographic. So we are going to tell the truth, right now. Cater to brick walls who are determined to misrepresent you no matter what, what for?

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  25. Monala says:

    @DK: I follow the author on Twitter, and she has said that she took the critiques to heart and made some changes between writing the NYT series and publishing the book. Probably not enough for those who want to cancel the whole thing, though…

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  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Dude Kembro:

    But can’t have it both ways: since it’s going be misunderstood, why are we lecturing about timing and genium patriotism? “A little genuine patriotism will help.” How? It’s already genuine and it still gets dismissed and smeared as unpatriotic.

    We are not helpless, we are not unable to communicate patriotism which you say is in the 1619 report but which not 1% of the population is aware of. We are not mute. We are not censored. Step One would be for us to stop saying things like, ‘they haven’t even read the assigned reading.’

    This is POLITICS, it is not a seminar. No one will EVER read the assignment. So if we are smart we will figure out how to, a) ignore academic bullshit that will just cause trouble, and/or b) learn how to frame ideas for people who are not college graduates.

    In reality, try going on Twitter and presenting 1619 as patriotic. Go ahead. See how much that is for you.

    1
  27. DK says:

    @Monala: That’s because Nikole Hannah Brown is a real academic and a nice person who was raised by genuinely nice Americans. She’s acting in good faith. The regressive woke panic right falsely portrays her and her colleagues as some unpatriotic guiltmongers and lies about their work.

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  28. Monala says:

    @Michael Reynolds: a right wing activist named Chris Rufo decided to make CRT in the schools a thing to stir up anger. He has openly admitted to this. No academics who teach CRT, not Democratic politicians, were trying to spread the CRT gospel to the general public. So unless you’re saying that academics should stop studying their various fields of research that right wingers might object to, there’s not a lot Democrats can do to stop them from making hay out of nothing.

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  29. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    In reality, try going on Twitter and presenting 1619 as patriotic. Go ahead. See how much that is for you.

    “In reality” followed by “try going on Twitter” is a non sequitur. Twitter is not reality.

    Out here in reality, nobody cares about the 1619 Project, we want our roads and bridges fixed, student debt relief, women not enslaved with forced birth, and climate disasters mitigated. That’s why out here we know the “timing” of the 1619 Project would not have changed anything except have Fox News targeting literally any other black/woman/queer [insert profession here] with some other phony woke panic bugaboo du jour for “very serious men” like Glenn Greenfraud and Chris Cillizza to hyperventilate about on Twitter.

    At least “CRT” and “1619 project” are giving the “Hillary’s Emailghazigatepalooza scandal” and “anthem protests” fake outrage got a break, wonder what’ll it be next year?

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  30. DK says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    South Africa had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (even though de Klerk had everything burned). America has never had anything like that.

    That’s because American politics can’t stand truth. Truth came before reconciliation for a reason. America cannot have a truth and reconciliation commission because our politics are dishonest. And when you tell the truth, your allies pat you on the shoulder and say, “This isn’t the right time.”

    Look at the lies and hysteria around CRT and 1619 Project. Look at how the media let Glenn Youngkin get away with his unpatriotic, undignified lying and race baiting about Beloved, a classic piece of high school lit by one of our great authors, an American original.

    Look at how we all sit back and allow the press to smear Biden for putting working class families over greedy billionaires and war contractors.

    Look at how we continue to normalize Trump’s nonstop barrage of lies. Look at the genteel delusion here yesterday, when smart, decent people have already fallen for the right’s lies downplaying the Jan 6 terror attack.

    Look at the people still lying about Trump’s Russia collusion, which included publicly calling for Russia to steal emails and his scampaign meeting with Russian spies in Trump Tower to exchange election meddling for ending sanctions. And how even many Democratic voters now pretend this all normal and downplay it.

    Look at how the media still will not report how a nationwide network of Boogaloo Boys, Patriot Prayer, Proud Boys, and Oath Keeper thugs were among those inciting riots and destruction in some neighborhoods in 2020.

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  31. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Monala:
    Yes, the Right jumped in with their message and we didn’t. Surprise! Their message worked, whereas, for some reason, our insistence that people rush home and spend a couple days reading, did not.

    And by the way, it’s just bullshit to pretend that there’s some kind of cordon sanitaire between CRT as theory and elements of CRT going into classrooms. Obviously, unchallenged, CRT was heading for the schools.

    So unless you’re saying that academics should stop studying their various fields of research that right wingers might object to, there’s not a lot Democrats can do to stop them from making hay out of nothing.

    Did Democrats give interviews laughing off CRT as a bunch of pointy-headed intellectuals engaging in speculative theory? No. So let’s not pretend we did. We threw our arms wide and embraced it all until the Right beat us to contextualizing it, and then we retreated to mutter about lazy people not bothering to research history.

    There’s a tendency developing among progressives to rewrite recent history. Suddenly ‘cancel culture’ was never a thing? Really? Because I saw a whole fukton of it in social media, and was repeatedly canceled myself. CRT? Oh, that was just college profs having a chin wag, nothing to see here, why, colleges have no impact on High School curricula. Have you noticed that the term ‘POC’ seems to be disappearing as it slooooowly dawns on progressives that the whole theory behind that was bullshit? Do you notice that ‘LatinX’ has largely disappeared? How about ‘woke?’ Progressives are in retreat on a number of issues, and lying about the negative political impact of their insufferable self-righteousness and condescension. We rail at the MAGAts for rewriting history and we’re doing the same damn thing.

    If the Democratic Party had set out intentionally to divorce itself from the very working people we are meant to be representing, we could not have done a better job. And the defense progressives mount is, ‘well, we’d have been right if only everyone had been to the seminar.’

    The other day there was a message on the Next Door app from a homeless guy begging for tarps because it rained and his tent was being flooded. This is in Los Angeles, the home office for Democratic finances and media messaging. What Democrats need to do is STFU and start doing what we are here on earth to do: feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the sick and save the fucking planet, not gratuitously annoying necessary constituencies with obnoxious neologisms.

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  32. DK says:

    @just nutha:

    It’s been working for all of my life–coming up on 70 years, and I see no particular evidence of people abandoning it.

    It is frustrating, yes. And a lot of progress has been made for a lot of Americans since the 1950s. If between now and 2090 America has made as many leaps forward, it’ll be pretty sweet for folks of that era.

    I imagine as time passes, we all get more frustrated that more change hasn’t happened, especially in times where we take steps back. I’m very irritated about it, I can’t believe so many of these fights are still ongoing. Doubly frustrating when I travel to countries where the urban locals are relatively modern and have less dumb controversies.

    2
  33. FWIW, I wrote about Gingrich’s illustrious academic career over ten years ago here: Newt Gingrich, “Academic” and here: More on Newt Gingrich’s Academic Career.

  34. And allow me to share my conclusion from the second post, which interests with Matt’s post here:

    At any rate, the piece (and all examinations of Gingrich’s academic career) bring forth a portrait of an unhealthily self-confident, intellectually undisciplined individual whose claims to being a historian are shallow at best.

    2
  35. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Twitter, sadly, fills many with anger and even rage.

    Twitter brain causes people to believe Democrats are focused on neologisms and CRT and not on feeding the hungry and saving the planet.

    Twitter brain causes us to pretend it was liberal wokeness, not conservative WASP supremacy, that canceled the Dixie Chicks and Colin Kaepernick.

    In fact, Biden and Democrats are literally already passing laws that poverty in half in 2021. Biden and Democrats have never passed any law involving CRT or LatinX, let alone threw open their arms to CRT, a 50 year old academic theory that is as harmless as Hillary’s emails.

    This is why, just like alternating the 1619 Project’s “timing,” it really doesn’t matter what Democrats do other than turn out its base. The right is always going to invent some fake sky is falling culture war distraction, and the twits of Twitter will let it consume them, like catnip for the insecure and bitter.

    Democrats need to push back on the lies shoot their work, and let Republicans and conservatives stay focused on Big Bird, woke whining, trans panic, defending the Jan 6 terrorists, and culture war division. That’s why they lost control of the White House, Senate, House, Arizona and Georgia in 2020-21 after the very serious men swore Ossof and Warnock were sure to lose without Trump on the ballot.

    5
  36. dazedandconfused says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    I don’t see it as unclear at all, the Nazis convinced themselves the people they were killing weren’t fully human. This is the key to the peculiar institution of slavery.

    The southerners, and most northerners, did not believe blacks were really human beings. Whether or not they arrived at the rationalization due to a profit motive or absorbed it from general society doesn’t really matter. It was a political reality.

    There is a particularly deeper guilt in the south. They lived and worked closely with blacks. At some level they knew the truth, and guilt breeds a particular, ironically peculiar, vehemence in people. Admitting they had enslaved human beings, they had bought into that Big Lie, is too painful.

    Today we have a lot of people in that very same way clinging to another Big Lie.

    2
  37. Modulo Myself says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    CRT was literally brought in by local school boards across the country because they wanted to deal with racism in their schools. There’s no alternate right-wing version of a program which also addresses actual racism. The program is called Fuck You Leftists, Signed Jesus of Christ. It’s like homelessness–there’s no proposed conservative solution to homelessness. Financing affordable public housing and providing good mental health care are not on the Republican agenda. We have a situation is a mess of people who have solutions (some good, some trivial, some bad, some annoying like latinx) and then another mess who just wants to troll people because they’re breaking down mentally.

    Conservatism is just a vibe, a feeling, an emotion which opposes itself to everything liberal.

    3
  38. DK says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    CRT was literally brought in by local school boards across the country because they wanted to deal with racism in their schools.

    “Dem ebil Democrats did it. Every word in the Democratic Party platform is CRT, woke, and LatinX, and Trump cut child poverty by 40% in 2021. [FOX News Twitter personality] said so! Let’s Go Brandon!” – some suburban granddad in the waiting room of his Medicare appointment, talking to a mom in for her first Obamacare appointment in a year (thanks to childcare tax credits finally allowing her break)

    1
  39. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: ” What’s actually in the damn thing is essentially irrelevant to politics. All that matters is the perception.”

    It’s so weird… you understand this, and yet you keep insisting that the fault is in the Democrats for supporting the 1619 Project or knowing what CRT is. It doesn’t matter what Democrats say. The Republicans are in the business of creating perception, and they don’t care what the subject is. If Joe Biden says he likes vanilla ice cream, the entire right wing media bubble will spend all their time talking about how vanilla ice cream is the opposite of freedom and his liking of it is proof that he’s a communist and a child molester. And idiot Republicans will start chanting “let’s go chocolate” because it will mean “Fuck you Biden.”

    And your solution to the problem is for Democrats to stop talking about important issues. Because, you know, Republicans will lie about them.

    For some reason, you can’t quite understand the point of your own quite cogent analysis — people aren’t upset about CRT because Democrats talk about CRT. People are upset about CRT because Republicans told them to be upset about CRT.

    And if your response to that is “well, Dems should stop talking about CRT,” how much are we willing to let the Republicans take away? Because they will use this same tactic with everything.

    15
  40. wr says:

    @wr: And PS, Michael — there’s a word for giving tarps to homeless people. It’s called socialism.

    Or did you think the right wing machine will applaud this act politely? “Oh, look dear, those nasty libs have stopped talking about race and are helping the least among us.”

    Instead of, you know, “fucking libs are stealing your tax dollars and giving them away to bums who are too lazy to work and who are building crime-ridden tent cities in your neighborhood just to ruin your property values.”

    7
  41. Modulo Myself says:

    I don’t see it as unclear at all, the Nazis convinced themselves the people they were killing weren’t fully human. This is the key to the peculiar institution of slavery.

    The southerners, and most northerners, did not believe blacks were really human beings. Whether or not they arrived at the rationalization due to a profit motive or absorbed it from general society doesn’t really matter. It was a political reality.

    Not believing someone who is a human isn’t human is a complicated belief. As Frederick Douglass pointed out, you don’t forbid slaves education if you think they are not capable of being educated. You do it for your own edification and control.

    There is a doctrinaire grimness in the academic left which takes the death toll and history of western European expansion and imperialism as the sole template for European psychology. And this has trickled down into the dumbest versions of what white people think according to CRT or whatever. I’ve been reading the new David Graeber/David Wengrow book during my quarantine and one of the many many many ideas in the book is that the Enlightenment came about via engagement with Native Americans, who were judged by various Europeans as the equals or superior in thinking to Europeans. But if you read the standard colonialist version of European exposure to Native Americans, it’s all these people are just subhuman. I find the Graeber/Wengrow version far more believable, to be honest.

    1
  42. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Just so. I wonder if anyone has ever considered writing to the President of Tulane and suggesting that the university take a close look at how his dissertation got accepted (since I doubt his interest in politics did not bloom until he actually started teaching).

  43. Matt Bernius says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    There’s always a dividing line between people who treat history as a project requiring constant investigation and adjustment, based on new findings and perspectives, and those who want to defend a preferred narrative to the death.

    100% and I find this to be a failing of our K-12 education system. Even as a supposedly “talented and gifted kid” who was in AP classes, History was largely taught as a positivistic and “settled” subject. There was a right interpretation and facts were largely immutable. That does us a deep disservice.

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I had forgotten those and I’ll append them to the article. Thanks!

    @dazedandconfused:

    don’t see it as unclear at all, the Nazis convinced themselves the people they were killing weren’t fully human. This is the key to the peculiar institution of slavery.

    The southerners, and most northerners, did not believe blacks were really human beings.

    I just had a recent realization about this which took me sadly almost 50 years on this earth to get to: we often repeat this very same practice sadly to this day when we talk about our history of slavery.

    Every time someone says “the majority of the US population at the time accepted slavery “what they are actually saying is “the majority of the *white* US population at the time accepted slavery.” Beyond handwaving away abolitionists, that statement forgets that by 1860 approximately 15% of the population of the US were slaves or formally enslaved individuals. On would think all of those folks might have had an opinion on slavery, based on literal first-hand experience, that would be worth taking into consideration.

    And yet the perspective of those 4.4 million human beings is never taken into consideration–reducing them back to non-human objects.

    Heck, I’m told that there are even folks who still believe that chattel slavery was still a preferred state of being to living under socialism.

    3
  44. just nutha says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Just today, I was substituting for a teacher in US history who was teaching the aftermath of the Civil War. The students were comparing what the Reconstruction Amendments promised compared to what black from that time forward experienced. The were noting that the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, but black people experienced share cropping. The 14th granted citizenship, but black people experienced Jim Crow and Black Codes. The 15th promised suffrage, but black people got poll taxes, literacy tests, and terrorism if they tried to vote.

    This is the face of 1619 and CRT in the schools. I think it looks pretty good. I understand why Newt doesn’t want this look. I’m less clear on your position.

    6
  45. Matt Bernius says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:

    I wonder if anyone has ever considered writing to the President of Tulane and suggesting that the university take a close look at how his dissertation got accepted (since I doubt his interest in politics did not bloom until he actually started teaching).

    To be fair to Gingrich, expectations on a humanities or social sciences (depending on how the school classifies History) graduate student in terms of a dissertation have greatly expanded since he earned his degree. Gingrich completed his degree in 6 years. Nowadays 8 is the average (and some schools take longer).

    I am frankly unsure if today’s grad students are the better for that extra time–especially given the academic job market.

  46. dazedandconfused says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    For quite some time after the acknowledgement that really was a new land, a new continent, with new peoples, the Euros indulged in a lot of fanciful notions about the Americas. They idealized the image of the people into something like the dwellers of a new Eden. Perfect innocents. What they thought and reality were far apart. IMO the Enlightenment found them convenient cyphers to write their ideals into.

  47. Modulo Myself says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    The book draws the opposite point about hunter-gatherers. I.e. they lived in complex and intentional societies capable of inequality and hierarchy but chose, or at least some did, to keep power away from a state. It also tries to figure out why the myth originated when it did.

    1
  48. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Matt Bernius: I agree with you that more years don’t necessarily equal better dissertations. I blame it on academic bloat.

    2
  49. SC_Birdflyte says:

    WRT time required to complete a dissertation and how it’s changed over the years. My dissertation director graduated from U of Chicago in 1931 and got his Ph.D. from Cornell (under direction of the estimable Carl Becker) in 1935. Those four years included a full year in France doing research.

    1
  50. Michael Reynolds says:

    @DK:

    Twitter is not reality.

    Yes, it is. In politics, it is quite real. Again, stop conflating your (or my) notions of reality with politics. Politics is not facts, politics is a story, a narrative. People keep asking why Democrats are so bad at messaging, and I’m afraid you’re demonstrating the reason why. It’s amazing to me that the party which contains virtually the entire creative class cannot figure out how to craft a message.

    This is not rocket science. Use speeches and ads and on-the-ground organizations to frame the message. Get in front of potential problems rather than whining that the bad guys absconded with it. And stop doing things which are almost impossible to frame, like Defund.

    If you don’t control your message, you’re still sending messages, just not the ones you want to be sending.

  51. Michael Reynolds says:

    @just nutha:

    This is the face of 1619 and CRT in the schools. I think it looks pretty good. I understand why Newt doesn’t want this look. I’m less clear on your position.

    OK, so we’re no longer pretending 1619 and CRT isn’t in the schools, that’s progress, and ten upvotes, likely from people who were arguing up-thread that CRT had no influence in schools. It’s not my position that’s unclear. By your own admission the Right has reason to fear the stories we’re telling.

    Let me ask you something. Let’s take it out of the relationship between Blacks and Whites. In history classes we teach the ethnic cleansing of Indians, as we should and must. Do we also teach that many Indian tribes reveled in torture? No, of course not, because we are framing the narrative to be morally clear</em. Not factually clear, but morally. Do we talk about the fact that many Indian tribes were victims, yes, but also victimizers? Conquerors? The Comanches to take one example, didn't own the land we found them on, they took it. They were an aggressive, highly militarized empire. But we want neat, clean lines of Good guys and bad guys. Not the nuanced truth, the framed truth. And that is not history, but politics.

    My position? The Truth, the whole truth, not the cherry-picked truth. History is not a lesson in morality. I despise history as propaganda, it degrades history, it distorts and misinforms.

    When we teach WW2 and talk about the suffering of the Soviet peoples, do we also teach Stalin's role in weakening his own country? Do we talk about rebel Republics who aided the Nazis because in their experience the Communists were just as bad? Do we teach Hiroshima and the Rape of Nanjing? Do we teach the famine in India caused by war-fighting decisions Churchill made? Do we, for that matter, even bother to mention any ally other than the Brits, who were manipulating FDR in an attempt to hold onto empire?

    I could go on and list case after case where what we teach is not history, but carefully curated narratives intended to act as moral lessons. Every time we simplify, we subtract, and those subtractions are motivated by a desire to control history in order to a certain predetermined conclusion. That is politics, and if we are going to insert politics into history, how can we expect the Cons to remain silent?

    We don't do that with physics, do we? Or math? Chemistry?

    Get moralizing politics out of history, teach the truth, as much of it as we can, and we would be on firmer ground when Cons start freaking out.

  52. Michael Reynolds says:

    Ooookay, I checked the code assuming I had an open italics, but no. Something weird here.

  53. dazedandconfused says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    Yes, and it’s nonsense. To say stone age peoples, and there were more than hunter-gatherers, intentionally decided not to support a Leviathan state is to assume a great deal. Especially considering that among the most well known (due to the amount of gold the Euros could steal from them) were big states, the Aztecs and Incan empires. Hunter gatherers must live in small groups and move constantly, they can’t have a Leviathan state.

  54. Grewgills says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    We don’t do that with physics, do we? Or math? Chemistry?

    Every science course below the graduate level gives a simplified version of the subject matter that is missing much of the nuance and specifics. More of the specifics and nuance are filled in at each higher stage and things that were seen as the rule or how things are are then understood to be simplifications that get them closer to understanding the phenomena.
    I do my best to point this out when I am in a position that I am teaching. I let them know that when I am explaining the basics of atmospheric circulation or the workings of the endocrine system that what I am teaching them is simplified and relatively surface level. I also try to make sure that they understand what the big underlying drivers are: heat -> density -> convection modulated by the Coriolis effect for atmospheric and oceanic convection and mention that other factors come into play (like the effects of oceans and continents).
    What you are saying history should be (and I don’t entirely disagree) is not something that can be in a K-12 environment where there is an expectation that covers even modern American history in a year, much less over a 1000 years of world history in the same span. What we can do and the schools that are doing what ‘just nutha’ is talking about are trying to do is to equip kids to find and evaluate evidence and give them topics that are personally relevant and engaging to practice those skills on. That will, for most teachers and students, fall short of a full nuanced accounting of most things. On the whole, educators are doing a much better job of teaching history in a more accurate and nuanced way today than they were 20, 50, or 100 years ago.

    1
  55. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Yes, it is. In politics, it is quite real. Again, stop conflating your (or my) notions of reality with politics…This isn’t rocket science.

    No, it is not. Twitter is often out of step with real life political outcomes, like when according to Twitter Bernie was the inevitable Democratic nominee when out here in political reality we knew Biden was running away with the nod.

    You demonstrate this stubborn Twitter brain quite well. None of it is consistent, and it’s rarely accurate, but it is often hypocritical. You shouldn’t scapegoat Defund until you are willing to examine how your own messaging on religion is just as damaging, if not more so. You think liberals insulting religious Americans stupid and crazy is helping win votes? Stop projecting onto others your own errors of strategy.

    And, again, it makes zero sense to insist that the right wing propaganda machine is going to deliberately distort Democratic messaging so it is misunderstood, then claim its some easily-fixable messaging problem. Stop trying to have it both ways.

    It clearly is rocket science. Or do you really think you’re smarter than “the entire creative class” you reference, that no one but you is thinking about best practices for advertising and framing? That you and Twitter have got political reality and solutions all figured out, and all those people on the ground out there in Democratic politics are doing nothing but whining?

    One of the Democrats’ problem is that too many of its so-called allies act just like Republicans: ignoring what Democrats are actually focused on (like cutting childhood poverty by 40 percent and passing bills to fix our roads and bridges) to instead press blatant lies insisting “LatinX” and “CRT” are at the forefront of the Democratic agenda. Blatant, bold-faced lies.

    Some of us should quit pointing fingers from behind our bloated egos and admit we are part of the problem. When Twitter has even Democratic voters refusing to yell the truth about the Democratic Party’s platform and priorities, it’s clear social media is doing to our parents and grandparents what they said video games and rap music would do to us.

    No, the rest of us are not joining their extremely online alt reality. Hard pass.