Trump’s 1776 Commission and the San Francisco Board of Education Have a Lot in CommonRoundup
tags: memorials, San Francisco, monuments, public history, 1776 commission
Max Boot, a Post columnist, is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a global affairs analyst for CNN. He is the author of The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam, a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in biography.
The far right and the far left — the MAGA brigades and the uber-woke progressives — violently disagree about most things. But they share a common passion for rewriting U.S. history to fit their ideological preferences.
Shortly before President Donald Trump left office, his now-disbanded 1776 Commission unveiled a tendentious report that denounced “political agendas in the classroom” while promoting — you guessed it — its own political agenda for the classroom.
The commission began by trying to absolve the United States of its original sin of slavery. It falsely claimed that George Washington “by the end of his life . . . freed all the enslaved people in his family estate” (only one enslaved person was freed immediately after Washington’s death) and that “the movement to abolish slavery … first began in the United States” (Britain and other European countries banned slavery decades before we did, and they did it without a war). The report then astonishingly attacked the constitutional amendments abolishing slavery and granting equal protection under the law by claiming that “the damage done by the denial of core American principles and by the attempted substitution of a theory of group rights in their place proved widespread and long-lasting.” The commission made no attempt to grapple with the mistreatment of Native Americans; the “Trail of Tears” went unmentioned.
The commission was much more exercised about the Progressives — the early 20th-century reformers such as President Theodore Roosevelt who sought to curb political corruption, child labor, pollution, corporate monopolies, tainted food and medicine and other social ills. In the commission’s perverse telling, the Progressives “rejected the self-evident truth of the Declaration” and paved the way for Italian fascism: “Like the Progressives, [Benito] Mussolini sought to centralize power under the management of so-called experts.” This is part of the Trumpist propaganda against the (nonexistent) deep state: The commission blamed the Progressives for creating a “shadow government” that “today operates largely without checks and balances.”