The 1776 Report
|Fiction over fact|
|How it didn't happen|
The 1776 Report is a propaganda piece written by the 1776 Commission, published in the last few days of the Trump administration. Its purpose is to facilitate "patriotic education", that is to help brainwash American students with white supremacist and rabidly anti-liberal/anti-communist version of US history in line with the conservative correctness agenda.
The 1776 Commission was an advisory committee established by Trump. Trump had referenced "patriotic education" as a priority of his several times in the autumn of 2020, and likely established the commission within months of the end of his term. The establishment of the Commission (and the eventual publication of the Report) was seemingly a response to the Black Lives Matter movement in general and The New York Times' 1619 Project in particular; the latter being a collection of essays that frame American history in the context of Black slavery and civil rights movements.
Members of the Commission
The Commission did not have any professional historians who specialized in United States history. A few members are tangentially qualified - a few academics here, a constitutional lawyer there - but most are pundits or politicians. The Commission included:
- Larry Arnn, committee chair and president of Hillsdale College (a private conservative Christian college)
- Carol Swain, committee co-chair and former professor at Vanderbilt Law School
- Matthew Spalding, committee executive director, professor of Constitutional Government at Hillsdale College
- Phil Bryant, former Republican Governor of Mississippi
- Jerry Davis, president of College of the Ozarks, a Christian college
- Michael Farris, constitutional lawyer and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom
- Gay Hart Gaines, chair of a GOP PAC
- Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation
- John Gibbs, pundit turned HUD official under Trump
- Victor Davis Hanson, Classical and military historian (i.e. specializing in ancient Greek and Roman warfare)
- Charles R. Kesler, professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College and conservative book reviewer
- Charlie Kirk, co-founder and director of Turning Point USA
- Peter Kirsanow, labor lawyer and member of the US Commission on Civil Rights
- Thomas Lindsay, former president of Shimer College and current think tank executive
- Bob McEwen, former Republican Ohio Congressman
- Scott McNealy, co-founder of a number of tech companies
- Brooke Rollins, former director of the U.S. Domestic Policy Council under Trump
- Ned Ryun, founder and CEO of the conservative activist organization American Majority
- Julie Strauss, lawyer and former Trump appointee
The Report included no scholarly citations, and it was not stated which of the commission members were the primary author(s).
Chapter IV: Challenge to America's principles
|The "report"||RationalWiki response|
|The report dismisses accusations that owning slaves made the Founders hypocrites, by pointing out that other civilizations throughout history also engaged in slavery. It also points out that George Washington freed his slaves.||Washington freed his slaves after his death, through a will, when they no longer would be useful to him. He also mistreated his slaves and placed them in inhuman conditions. In 1798, a Polish visitor once remarked that, while Washington treated his slaves kindly by the low standards of the US, Polish peasants lived happier lives and that the most miserable of peasants had better cottages than the slaves.|
"In the decades that followed the Civil War, in response to the industrial revolution and the expansion of urban society, many American elites adopted a series of ideas to address these changes called Progressivism. Although not all of one piece, and not without its practical merits, the political thought of Progressivism held that the times had moved far beyond the founding era, and that contemporary society was too complex any longer to be governed by principles formulated in the 18th century. To use a contemporary analogy, Progressives believed that America’s original “software”—the founding documents—were no longer capable of operating America’s vastly more complex “hardware”: the advanced industrial society that had emerged since the founding.
More significantly, the Progressives held that truths were not permanent but only relative to their time. They rejected the self-evident truth of the Declaration that all men are created equal and are endowed equally, either by nature or by God, with unchanging rights. As one prominent Progressive historian wrote in 1922, “To ask whether the natural rights philosophy of the Declaration of Independence is true or false, is essentially a meaningless question.” Instead, Progressives believed there were only group rights that are constantly redefined and change with the times. Indeed, society has the power and obligation not only to define and grant new rights, but also to take old rights away as the country develops.
Based on this false understanding of rights, the Progressives designed a new system of government. Instead of securing fundamental rights grounded in nature, government—operating under a new theory of the “living” Constitution—should constantly evolve to secure evolving rights.
In order to keep up with these changes, government would be run more and more by credentialed managers, who would direct society through rules and regulations that mold to the currents of the time. Before he became President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson laid out this new system whereby “the functions of government are in a very real sense independent of legislation, and even constitutions,” meaning that this new view of government would operate independent of the people.
Far from creating an omniscient body of civil servants led only by “pragmatism” or “science,” though, progressives instead created what amounts to a fourth branch of government called at times the bureaucracy or the administrative state. This shadow government never faces elections and today operates largely without checks and balances. The founders always opposed government unaccountable to the people and withoutconstitutional restraint, yet it continues to grow around us.
|Accusations by right-wingers that progressives do not believe in objective truth are ancient, going back at least to Atlas Shrugged. Ironically, it is usually right-wingers leading the assault on truth with methods including the use of "alternative facts" and attacking fact-checking. Right-wingers regularly form alternate realities when claims of theirs such as widespread voter fraud are debunked. The vast majority of Republican voters still refuse to accept that Joe Biden won the 2020 U.S. presidential election. As early as 1964, racist whites had already developed much of the rhetoric used to avoid needing reform on racial issues, such as the friend argument, claims of reverse racism, and blacks "receiving everything on a silver platter". The claim that "American elites" supported progressivism simply doesn't make any sense. Of course, there were those who were wealthy that supported it and those who were poor that didn't (just like with any political movement), but the biggest enemies of the progressive movement were men like John D. Rockefeller, the famous oil businessman who was one of the richest men the world had ever seen. Furthermore, many progressive reforms were dedicated to putting power in the hands of the common person, with the most famous example being the seventeeth amendment, which made it so Senators were chosen by the people as opposed to state legislators.|
|RACISM AND IDENTITY POLITICS:
The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, passed after the Civil War, brought an end to legal slavery. Blacks enjoyed a new equality and freedom, voting for and holding elective office in states across the Union. But it did not bring an end to racism, or to the unequal treatment of blacks everywhere.
Despite the determined efforts of the postwar Reconstruction Congress to establish civil equality for freed slaves, the postbellum South ended up devolving into a system that was hardly better than slavery. The system enmeshed freedmen in relationships of extreme dependency, and used poll taxes, literacy tests, and the violence of vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan to prevent them from exercising their civil rights, particularly the right to vote. Jim Crow laws enforced the strict segregation of the races, and gave legal standing in some states to a pervasive subordination of blacks.
It would take a national movement composed of people from different races, ethnicities, nationalities, and
religions to bring about an America fully committed to ending legal discrimination.
The Civil Rights Movement culminated in the 1960s with the passage of three major legislative reforms affecting segregation, voting, and housing rights. It presented itself, and was understood by the American people, as consistent with the principles of the founding. “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir,” Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his “I Have a Dream” speech. “This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would beguaranteed the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
|Substantial majorities of white Americans during the Civil Rights Era opposed the efforts of reformers such as Dr. King, especially with regards to educational and residential segregation. Large amounts of whites of the time similarly believed that civil rights organizations were collaborating with communists, echoing segregationist rhetoric.|
|It seemed, finally, that America’s nearly two-century effort to realize fully the principles of the Declaration had reached a culmination. But the heady spirit of the
original Civil Rights Movement, whose leaders forcefully quoted the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the rhetoric of the founders and of Lincoln, proved to be short-lived.
The Civil Rights Movement was almost immediately turned to programs that ran counter to the lofty ideals of the founders. The ideas that drove this change had been growing in America for decades, and they distorted many areas of policy in the half century that followed. Among the distortions was the abandonment of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in favor of “group rights” not unlike those advanced by Calhoun and his followers. The justification for reversing the promise of color-blind civil rights was that past discrimination requires present effort, or affirmative action in the form of preferential treatment, to overcome long-accrued inequalities. Those forms of preferential treatment built up in our system over time, first in administrative rulings, then executive orders, later in congressionally passed law, and finally were sanctified by the Supreme Court.
Today, far from a regime of equal natural rights for equal citizens, enforced by the equal application of law, we have moved toward a system of explicit group privilege that, in the name of “social justice,” demands equal results and explicitly sorts citizens into “protected classes” based on race and other demographic categories.
Eventually this regime of formal inequality would come to be known as “identity politics.” The stepchild of earlier rejections of the founding, identity politics (discussed in Appendix III) values people by characteristics like race, sex, and sexual orientation and holds that new times demand new rights to replace the old. This is the opposite of King’s hope that his children would “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” and denies that all are endowed with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.Identity politics makes it less likely that racial reconciliation and healing can be attained by pursuing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream for America and upholding the highest ideals of our Constitution and our Declaration of Independence.
To call this report "scholarship" is to insult the word itself by comparing it to the 1776 Commission. The document is only forty-five pages, which is absurdly light for a document that proports to be about over two centuries of history. When people started looking at what was in the report, many found it to be a sloppy copy and pasting of the other works of those involved with little effort put into their placement.
- The 1776 Report (January 2021) Trump White House Archives.
- NBC News: "Trump pushes for 'patriotic education' in schools" (Updated: Sep 2, 2020 / 06:38 AM EDT) NBC4i.
- Proclamation on the Birthday of Founding Father Caesar Rodney Trump White House Archives.
- AP News: "Biden revokes Trump report promoting 'patriotic education'"
- Trump's 1776 Commission Critiques Liberalism in Report Derided by Historians: The report charges that Americans are being indoctrinated with a false narrative of the nation's founding and identity, including the role of slavery in its history. by Michael Crowley & Jennifer Schuessler (Published Jan. 18, 2021; Updated Jan. 20, 2021), The New York Times.
- Matthew Spalding Hillsdale College.
- College of the Ozarks leader named to White House's advisory 1776 Commission by Claudette Riley (Published 4:46 p.m. CT Dec. 20, 2020; Updated 10:12 a.m. CT Dec. 21, 2020) Springfield News-Leader.
- Gay Hart Gaines NNDB.
- White House to Appoint Heritage's Mike Gonzalez to President's Advisory 1776 Commission Heritage Foundation.
- Julie Strauss U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad.
- Julie Alexa Strauss Prabook (archived from May 7, 2022).
- NYT Dissection (via Internet Archive)
- Encyclopedia Virginia, George Washington and Slavery
- Neil steinberg, Chicago Sun Times, "Both facts and fact-checking a threat to GOP"
- Probably the first use of the term
- good article on the emergence of an alternate right-wing reality after the 2020 election
- Good article on the subject from FiveThirtyEight
- 1964 NYT Article, Poll Shows Whites in City Resent Civil Rights Drive; Majority Queried in Times Survey Say Negro Movement Has Gone Too Far, but Few Intend to Change Votes
- "Trends in white attitudes toward Negroes", 1967 report by Mildred Schwartz
- Public Opinion on Civil Rights: Reflections on the Civil Rights Act of 1964