Re the Robert Kraynak lecture Jonathan Rowe links here, Dr. John Fea, eminent historian, author of the universally well-received “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation”, friend of my history groupblog, professor at Messiah College, and all-around good guy opines:
“I am not so sure the founders, as products of a world that was very different from our own, should serve as such a definitive guide for so many of the modern problems we face today. I am always a bit skeptical when someone tries to suggest how the founders would react to 21st- century developments that would have been foreign to their 18th- century world.
I like his point that both conservatives and progressives appeal to the founders for support.”
I don’t know if John would be insulted to be identified as a gentleperson of the left, but I do think that this points up the contemporary contradiction of the left—modern progressives alternately 1) disavow the relevance of the Founders and then 2) turn around and claim them.
Modern liberalism is only 100-150 years old, and not at all the same thing as the “classical” liberalism of the Founders.
If we’re going to dump the Founding principles, fine–the Constitution permits amending them. But let’s start being more honest about what we’re doing. Modern leftism has a weak claim on the Founding, if any, and we need to start telling it like it is, or there’s no point in studying our history at all.