Bad History: Essays toward the Crisis (2008-2018), #1

Starting with the post linked at the bottom here, I’m creating a “collected essays”: sixteen things I’ve written, beginning in 2008 and ending in 2018, on various failures in American history, as that history is presented to the non-specialist public (I’m a member of that group), by everybody from professional historians to political candidates to museums and newspapers and broadcasting and other cultural institutions. I think toxic effects of those failures are now manifest in our current national crisis, or at the very least in public discourse about the crisis. So I’m looking back at the stabs I’ve taken over the past decade, preparatory to moving on. Some were essays originally posted on this blog. Others were published elsewhere.

There’s no neat arc: these are essays linked by their general subject; they range from commentary on TV shows and politics to historiography of postwar U.S. history scholarship; they refer critically to figures from Sarah Palin to Gordon Wood, from Barack Obama to Ron Chernow. Some people who have been long forgotten will show up (Christine O’Donnell? wha?). And yet I think — actually, I know — that some themes will develop as we move from the Obama years to the Trump years through the trial by fire for founding history and its relation to modern politics known as “Hamilton: an American Musical.”

OK, if the project is clarified, then here’s the entry point, from March of 2008, on candidate Obama’s fantastical constitutionalism in the “More Perfect Union” speech: Barack Obama on the U.S. Constitution.

Number two in this collection is here.


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