The Tea Party Flunks History

So says an academic who specializes in the Founding era. She is profiled by Craig Fehrman here:

Academic historians rarely mix it up with modern political movements. They even more rarely do so by walking into Boston bars, notebook in hand, and interviewing local Tea Partiers. But that’s what Lepore did first for a long story in The New Yorker, where she is also a staff writer, and now in “The Whites of Their Eyes.” What she found, and what she dedicates much of her book to arguing, is that the “Tea Party’s Revolution...wasn’t just kooky history; it was antihistory.”

Lepore admits that the Tea Party movement belongs to a long tradition of squabbling over the Revolution’s meaning, a tradition that began before the Revolution had even ended and continued through the Civil War, the Civil Rights debate, and up to today. But the Tea Party has outdone its predecessors on both the left and the right, Lepore suggests, in fashioning a nostalgic and inflexible version of that history. The Tea Party simplifies the Founding Fathers it turns them into an orderly (and angelic) choir when, in fact, they were a confusing and contradictory group. And Lepore sees this as an error not just of historical fact, but also of historical method. “The study of history requires investigation, imagination, empathy, and respect,” she writes. “Reverence just doesn’t enter into it.”