Sunday, July 8, 2012

More Historians on the NYT Op-Ed Page: Goodheart Introduces Series on History and Politics

Apparently the growing swell of campaign coverage has historians thinking about politics and history. Hot on the heels of William Forbath's Friday op-ed (which Karen described here), the New York Times has published a piece by Adam Goodheart and Peter Manseau entitled "History Hits the Campaign Trail" that critiques the candidates' use of history. Goodheart & Manseau point out that Obama's recent invocation of the transcontinental railroad and the Hoover Dam ignores the reality that these "epic achievements . . . were often the products more of bitter partisan struggles than of national togetherness." They also note the curious amnesia of a Romney speech asserting that the United States was unique as a nation that "has been willing to lay down the lives of hundreds of thousands of sons and daughters and take no land in return." The speech, Goodheart and Manseau observe, was given in San Diego, on land taken from Mexico in the Mexican-American War.

Goodheart's article is the introduction to a series that "will examine a statement about history made in the course of the campaign and offer commentary from a range of experts, along with primary and secondary sources." This first installment includes thoughts from a variety of historians of diverse political views, including Ted Widmer, Richard White, Anthea Butler, Michael Hiltzik, and Richard Brookhiser. So we'll have something to look forward to in the long slog of campaign coverage to come.

Read the full piece here.