In her recent book The Whites of Their Eyes Jill Lepore argues that today’s conservatives’ embrace of the founding is not just another example of citizens using the Revolution for political purposes—which generations of Americans have done—but instead an attack on the very idea of history. Tea Partiers, she concludes, practice a form of “antihistory.”
“In antihistory,” Lepore writes, “time is an illusion. Either we’re there, two hundred years ago, or they’re here, among us.” To Tea Partiers, there is no distance between the past and present; the past is not a foreign country. To believe that the founders can speak to us directly, not mediated by the mists of time, “is to subscribe to a set of assumptions about the relationship between the past and the present stricter, even, than the strictest form of constitutional originalism.” It is to be, Lepore argues, a historical “fundamentalist.”
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Published by Johns Hopkins University Press
Neem, Johann N., "Taking Historical Fundamentalism Seriously" (2011). History. Paper 53.