Does It Matter That the President Knows Nothing About History? We Asked 3 Historians.Historians in the News
tags: historians, history, Trump
We are frequently reminded that the most powerful people in our country have no knowledge of or interest in history. In fact, they frequently demonstrate outright disdain. Front of center, of course, is the president, whom nobody ever accused of reading a book.
Donald Trump has suggested that Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist icon who died in 1895, is "someone who has done an amazing job" and "is being recognized more and more."
He weighed in on Abraham Lincoln: "Great president. Most people don't even know that he's a Republican, right? Does anyone know? A lot of people don't know that."
He marinated on the conflict that defined Lincoln's presidency: "The Civil War, if you think about it, why?"
He even installed a monument to a Civil War battle called "The River of Blood" on one of his golf courses, despite local historians saying, "Nothing like that ever happened there."
But we know by now that the president is no freak accident. He is the product of 40 years of conservative politics, a movement that has increasingly relied on anti-intellectualism and a disdain for expertise, which has steadily become conflated with Elitism. Conservatives can frequently be found producing "history" books, but some of the most prominent authors have issues with accuracy (Bill O'Reilly) or operate in complete bad faith to begin with (Dinesh D'Souza). It's not history if it didn't actually happen.
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