The result of that conservative rebuttal to history itself, unimaginatively called “The 1776 Report” because all modern conservative thought consists of rebuttals to specific non-conservative things they didn’t like, was released on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, because of course it was. It consists of a thin 20-page book report compiled by an assembly of whoever Trump’s team could round up, none of whom are historians, and is mostly a collection of the usual conservative grievances stapled together in the usual way and leavened with the usual dishonesties. It’s not even worth reading for mockery purposes, so save the 15 minutes and do something else.
There has been significant hullabaloo on the internet over portions of it being plagiarized: This is not quite true, however. It contains bucketloads of uncited quotes, and one of the report’s authors simply lifts an entire bit complaining about the nation’s colleges from one of his prior works.
Here’s a summary: According to the assembled best minds of the Team Trump era, “Progressivism” stands as a “challenge to America’s principles” alongside slavery and fascism, and is “based on” a “false understanding of rights.” Racism and “identity politics” are seen as equal dangers; certainly, racism was bad but in its place we have “moved toward a system of explicit group privilege” seeking “social justice,” which is also bad.
Along the way we learn that the United States was a leader in defeating slavery, because our slaveholding founders did enshrine slaveholding into our national documents but truly felt bad about it the whole time, and that the infamous defender of slavery John C. Calhoun was Actually an inventor of “identity politics.”
The section denouncing fascism is short, which is to be expected because the rest of the document teases at the edges of explicitly fascist principles. There is an entire section devoted to “national renewal,” along with the robust use of religion to declare the inherent rightness of take-your-pick, and the condemnation of academia and of colleges that “peddle resentment and contempt” for our homeland rather than proper “reverence” for it.
That there are appendices devoted to each of these attacks in succession, tacking on a full 10 pages of grievances on top of the 20 pages of actual “report,” shows where the authors’ personal obsessions lie. Celebrating our history is one thing, but the most pressing national need is to root out the godless, the equality-demanders, and the elitists who cast doubts on our national greatness. Only then will we achieve the renewed America our forefathers intended for us.
So, then. Twenty pages of grievance filled with contextless quotes, half-truths, revisionism, and papering-over, all revolving around a history that historians are specifically disinvited from weighing in on because they are mean. That is the response to the 1619 Project that could be mustered after months of conservative teeth-gnashing over the indignity of it all. That sounds about right.
More than anything else, this document is again a testament to the complete hollowing-out of the conservative movement, a transformation that has in recent months purged from its ranks anyone with intellectual heft above a Dinesh D’Souza in favor of broad pamphleteering and demands for absolute loyalty regardless of facts or consequence. The reason no genuine historians were included is because genuine historians would immediately point out the false statements and flawed assumptions involved, as they do every time the same conservative arguments have been made in the past, and indeed historians near-immediately (it’s a quick read, after all) weighed in with mockery and disgust at the shoddy effort.
After decades of throwing out anyone in conservatism who would value rigor over ideology, this is what you are left with. A slapdash report assembled in the last days of a fading, incompetent administration, one with roughly as many supposed authors as it has pages and which primarily concerns itself with the dangers posed by liberals, by academia, by “identity politics,” and by whichever other whistles might sound good during a Tucker Carlson or Father Coughlin faux-populist diatribe. One with the entire Declaration of Independence stapled on to help boost the page count.
Whatever. The real shame is that it did not take longer to produce. It at least kept a collection of insincere faux thinkers off the streets and busy for a week or two, which is better than just letting them wander college campuses shouting about oppression or whatever it is they do when left unsupervised.