08 August 2011

The Decline Of The American Republic


". . . Obama is overseeing, and in some respects engineering, the decline of the American republic . . . the downgrading of our credit rating isn’t an isolated event; for many people it will be seen as the nearly inevitable outcome of an extraordinarily reckless set of policies, implemented by a man of unusual incompetence."
More here.

And let's not forget *many academic historians, and not just a few Civil War bloggers, publicly endorsed this guy (and his policies)--all the while reminding us of their "expertise" "as historians" and while simultaneously looking down their collective noses upon the Tea Party types - who they view as "anti-intellectual" and "politically motivated" butchers of history who aren't "sophisticated" enough and who don't know how to "properly interpret" history. What a joke. The Tea Party has been right about a lot more than these self-proclaimed experts and members of the ruling class.

So, the anti-American Exceptionalism crowd now has egg on their face. Do they possess enough brains to wipe it off? Do they even realize how much they've damaged their credibility and how they are tied, inextricably, to Obama's incompetence and recklessness?

I once caught heck for simply endorsing a book (supposedly because it was "bad history" and because I was motivated by politics), yet this same crowd is silent about all the professional historians and bloggers who endorsed the man who very likely will go down as the most incompetent and dangerous President in modern American history. That, alone, should tell us much of what we need to know about many modern academics and "professional" historians.

I am, once again, reminded of the words of Paul Johnson:

"Beware committees, conferences and leagues of intellectuals. Distrust public statements from their serried ranks. Discount their verdicts on political leaders and important events." ~ Historian Paul Johnson (Intellectuals, page 342) 

*That post just serves as a convenient sampling - there are literally scores, if not hundreds, of other examples one could cite.

  

22 comments:

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Is the silence from these folks due to their embarrassment or their inability to admit their error? Quite telling, is it not?

Cue the crickets.

Michael Lynch said...

From whom are we awaiting a response, and what response is it that we're awaiting? I'm not sure the folks who signed the Obama endorsement are aware that you're expecting a response.

--ML

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Michael - Oh, I'd never expect a response from any of these fine folks. I did think, just maybe, one or two of those great guardians of apolitical interpretation and those who laud "properly trained historians" might want to post a comment. But, then again, I can understand how difficult that could be for them. Reality trumps everything, doesn't it?

Michael Lynch said...

I guess where I'm coming from is that I'm not going to dismiss a historical interpretation just because I don't like the politics of the interpreter. I try to judge arguments based on things like accounting for all the evidence at hand, internal consistency, and so on. Arguments I take the same way I take people--one at a time, and on their own terms. A sound interpretation is a sound interpretation, regardless of who presents it or why.

I don't share the liberal proclivities that are common in academia either, but I expect specialists in nineteenth-century history to be right about nineteenth-century history, since that's where their expertise lies. I don't really care who they endorse for president. I'm not reading their books for insights into twenty-first century public policy. I've gone to a lot of doctors with whom I've disagreed strongly about scientific issues, and it didn't bother me; I just wanted my kidney stones taken care of.

--ML

Michael Lynch said...

I guess where I'm coming from is that I'm not going to dismiss a historical interpretation just because I don't like the politics of the interpreter. I try to judge arguments based on things like accounting for all the evidence at hand, internal consistency, and so on. Arguments I take the same way I take people--one at a time, and on their own terms. A sound interpretation is a sound interpretation, regardless of who presents it or why.

I don't share the liberal proclivities that are common in academia either, but I expect specialists in nineteenth-century history to be right about nineteenth-century history, since that's where their expertise lies. I don't really care who they endorse for president. I'm not reading their books for insights into twenty-first century public policy. I've gone to a lot of doctors with whom I've disagreed strongly about scientific issues, and it didn't bother me, as long as they knew their way around the human body.

--ML

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"I'm not going to dismiss a historical interpretation just because I don't like the politics of the interpreter."

No, and neither would I. But I am going to keep it in mind. If someone can be so wrong on recent history, the possibility certainly exists that they could also be very wrong on more distant history. It raises a red flag - no pun intended. The other point is that there are quite a few folks who will criticize conservatives for supposedly allowing their politics to color their perspective, while they themselves are guilty of that same thing.

Thanks for your comment Michael, I do appreciate it.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael - allow me to clarify a bit more. I won't accept the premise that someone who simply possesses an advanced degree in history, (but who can't get the analysis of recent history correct), is any better at analyzing history than a well-read layman. There is a definite relation and connection here - the example of a Doctor and his political views are not related. Political science and history are in the same fields of study - the social sciences. Biology is quite a different topic.

Michael Aubrecht said...

Richard you are calling out those who quote: "can't get the analysis of recent history correct."

Looking at this past week's history (and the worldview of us as a result), can we finally agree that the concept of American Exceptionalism is now officially dead?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Calling out? Not sure what that means Michael. Just pointing out the inconsistencies noted in the post.

"can we finally agree that the concept of American Exceptionalism is now officially dead?"

No, we can't. Do you even understand it?

Michael Aubrecht said...

Well...American Exceptionalism implies that our country is exceptional or beyond others in its origins and operations. By "recent history" I am referring to our credit-debacle and the resulting downgrade. Under both parties the most powerful nation on Earth has now witnessed its credit rating downgraded to AA-plus from AAA, putting us on the same level as Belgium and New Zealand. We are therefore, economically speaking, NOT exceptional, therefore in the eyes of the rest of the world, we are NOT exceptional, hence we have no right to refer to ourselves as such. Correct?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

BTW Michael, if you're referring to the downgrade, Glenn Beck (who embraces American Exceptionalism) predicted that exact thing would happen back in 2008. The Tea Party (who also embraces AE) has been warning against this type of thing as well. As a matter of fact, just about everyone you've criticized for their historical analysis, and what we can learn from it, has been right while just about everyone you've now embraced has been wrong.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"Well...American Exceptionalism implies that our country is exceptional or beyond others in its origins and operations"

That's right. It is.

(See my previous comment about the downgrade.) But it happened because, rather than embrace our exceptionalism - free markets, individual liberty, etc, the ruling class has, like you, rejected it and embraced socialism and an entitlement mentality - which is precisely what led to the economic debacle.

Despite the downgrade, we are still exceptional. Hopefully, our exceptionalism will cause us to rise above what the rejection of AE has caused.

"If it wasn't for the Tea Party, they would have passed the debt ceiling thumbs up, we would have been rated BBB."

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2011/08/08/rick_santelli_if_not_for_tea_party_us_would_be_rated_bbb.html

Michael Aubrecht said...

Glenn Beck and the Tea Party prove that even crazy people can get 'not as' crazy people to follow them. BTW.. Check out the cover of Newsweek...the Queen of Crazy.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Great comeback Michael. The last refuge of those who can't refute an argument - ad hominem attacks.

BTW, check out the current administration - Masters of Disasters.

13thBama said...

So Glenn Beck is crazy and Cloward/Piven and George Soros are not?

It was not capitalism that caused this but the three named above who have had followers in key positions.

Michael Lynch said...

I referred to doctors with whom I disagreed about science, not social science. Evolution is the governing principle of modern biology, but I've entrusted my health to doctors who don't even believe in it, simply because they knew what made my mortal coil tick.

I would agree that a well-read layperson can do good interpretation, but I'd also note that being well-read in history is what a graduate degree in history is meant to certify. Intensive reading and research is what you do in graduate seminars.

I just don't think endorsing Obama is a great indicator of historical sensibility. I don't condemn somebody for muddling current politics when what they're supposed to know is a previous century. Heck, when they endorsed him, his disastrous policies weren't even recent history--he hadn't been elected. Most voters made the same mistake the signatories of the endorsement made.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"Most voters made the same mistake the signatories of the endorsement made."

Most voters don't have advanced degrees in history. Whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. They're supposed to be "the smartest among us." They should be held to a higher standard.

But you made my point, they're really no more intelligent or discerning than the average American. Case closed.

David Rhoads said...

The Obama administration has for the most part simply continued the disastrous policies of the Bush administration, so at the very least it seems to me that blame for our current predicament ought to fall to two unusually incompetent presidents, not to mention the several incompetent Congresses--Republican and Democratic, both--that have abetted them both over the past decade.

For me, the notion of American exceptionalism bit the dust for good when we undertook a policy of secret "renditions", overseas prisons, and torture, all deliberately designed to be carried out beyond the effective reach of American due process. Our present corruption is an unfortunate culmination of the American experiment, but it is certainly not atypical of the historical fate of empires.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael A. -

You suggested that my son was a sexist for wanting to attend an all-male school. You then voiced your approval of Newsweek's characterization of Michelle Bachman as the "Queen of Crazy." It appears that the National Organization of Women consider Newsweek's characterization as sexist. What say ye NOW Michael?

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/08/09/bachmann-newsweek-cover-goes-for-insult-but-gets-criticism-in-return/#ixzz1UZgjf2GJ

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

David - I would agree with much of what you've said. Obama is Bush on steroids regarding the budget and war. However, I think you'd have to agree that the energy (The Tea Party) to put the brakes on at least some aspects of this madness is much more welcome w/in the Republican Party (even if they do hold their nose in the process), not the Democrat Party - which has become little more than soft communists.

"Our present corruption is an unfortunate culmination of the American experiment, but it is certainly not atypical of the historical fate of empires."

Again, I would not, in general, disagree with that statement. But, again, I think the impetus and hope (if there is any) lies with the grass roots of the conservative movement - certainly not with the socialists and progressives now running things.

Thanks for a great comment.

Michael Lynch said...

But my point is that I *don't* think they're supposed to be "the smartest among us." I just think they're supposed to be adept practitioners of their specific fields of study.

I think if you're going to try to demonstrate that academic historians are incompetent at doing history, the best thing to do is to start taking apart their historical work. Pick a name from the list of endorsement signatories and show us how that historian's political inclinations have caused him or her to make faulty interpretations in a book or article. Spend a post or series of posts engaging their work, rather than reminding us who they voted for. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

--ML

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Michael -

"show us how that historian's political inclinations have caused him or her to make faulty interpretations"

I've already done some of that in other posts. For example:

http://oldvirginiablog.blogspot.com/2010/08/response-to-professor-david-blights.html

This is a separate, though related, topic. And the issue was not simply "who they voted for." It is the fact many professional historians publicly endorsed him "as historians" and used some recent historical perspective in doing so. That perspective is demonstrably wrong. I think I made my point, though I'll be posting more examples soon.

I do appreciate your input.

Best,
RGW