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That's Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America's Right Wingby Michael Austin
Synopses & Reviews
This book is essential reading for anyone seeking the accurate historical background to many of the today's hot-button political debates. In 2011, Glenn Beck released a "modern translation" of the Federalist Papers and a new biography of George Washington. In the same year, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, published a book in which he argued that the Founding Fathers intended the individual states to be more powerful than the federal government. Each of these books, and many others published over the past few years, presents the Founding Fathers as a group of wise, philosophically indistinguishable statesmen who spoke about timeless issues with a unified voice. In the place of rigorous history, the authors substitute out-of-context proof texts; in the place of real analysis of the remarkable individuals who created America, they offer us a collective mythology of the founding era. This book examines dozens of books, articles, speeches, and radio broadcasts by such figures as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Larry Schweikart, and David Barton to expose the deep historical flaws in their use of America's founding history. In contrast to their misleading method of citing proof texts to serve a narrow agenda, Austin allows the Founding Fathers to speak for themselves, situating all quotations in the proper historical context. What emerges is a true historical picture of men who often disagreed with one another on such crucial issues as federal power, judicial review, and the separation of church and state. As Austin shows, the real legacy of the Founding Fathers to us is a political process: a system of disagreement, debate, and compromise that has kept democracy vibrant in America for more than two hundred years.
"Austin (Reading the World), English professor at Newman University, condemns the way right-wing figures such as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, David Barton, and Larry Schweikart use the founding fathers to promote their own politics. He addresses the issues of original intent, federal power, judicial review, and church-state relations, padding his commentary with 46 pages of founders' documents. Though Austin rightly distinguishes between the views of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the talk-radio 'conservative fringe,' he rails against an incoherent version of America's past and the 'right wing's anti-judicial rhetoric,' ignoring the same on the left, from historian Howard Zinn to court review of health legislation. Dropping any pretense of scholarly objectivity toward the end, Austin gives a thumbs-up to facts and narratives 'to beat up our ideological opponents.' He concludes with a shout, 'Mr. Levin and Mr. Beck: I'm sick and tired of YOU putting down my country.' Austin's self-righteous disdain will appeal to readers for whom 'right wing' denotes imbecility or evil. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Michael Austin (Wichita, KS) is the author or editor of six books, including Reading the World: Ideas That Matter. He is provost, vice president for Academic Affairs, and professor of English at Newman University.
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