One of the great debates of the 2020 campaign will be whether the key date in defining America is 1619 or 1776.
The Left will assert that America is a terrible country whose defining moment was the introduction of slavery.
Most Americans will see that as a racist definition of history in its own right and will continue to believe in the exceptionalism created in 1776 by the Declaration of Independence and implemented in 1787 by the Constitution.
This debate is being created by The New York Times‘ determination to replace its failed crusade about President Trump and Russia with a new effort to define President Trump as a racist—and racism as the greatest problem in America.
The New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet, in a remarkable townhall meeting with his reporters, admitted that the two-year effort to destroy President Trump through the Russian collusion story had failed. The collapse of the Mueller investigation had closed off that line of attack.
Baquet admitted that, “Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought, ‘Holy shit, Bob Mueller is not going to do it,’… We built our newsroom to cover one story, and we did it truly well. Now we have to regroup, and shift resources and emphasis to take on a different story.”
After the Times‘ readers had rebelled over the headline “Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism,” it was clear that The New York Times had to pander to its left. As Baquet admitted, “our readers and some of our staff cheer us when we take on Donald Trump, but they jeer at us when we take on Joe Biden.”
In pursuit of the political passion of their left-wing base, The New York Times has now told everyone it intends to make sure the 2020 campaign is about race and racism. Here is its explanation:
“The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”
This is a huge undertaking with deep propaganda purposes. It will require massive networking in much of the entertainment and academic left. The Times will seek to distribute it to schools, so young people can be taught to think of America as defined by slavery. The entertainment world will start making movies and TV series focusing on slavery.
It is a terrific set up for a later demand for reparations.
It is also an obvious follow-on to the two generations of growing anti-American hostility in the education community and in Hollywood.
Nikole Hanna Jones wrote the opening salvo of the 1619 project for The New York Times Magazine. She is a brilliant writer, and her essay is worth reading. For most Americans, a lot of the facts will be sobering and thought-provoking.
Much of the pain of the African American experience has never been communicated to the average American. It is an important part of the American experience and is a significant reminder of how far we have come—and how far we have to go.
However, the 1619 Project is seeking to do much more than educate Americans about the reality of slavery, the tragedy of segregation, the violence against Blacks which enforced segregation, the long slow process of extending civil rights, and enforcing the law against racial discrimination.
The 1619 project feels compelled, in good left-wing standard, to go much further.
Slavery can’t simply be a major part of American history. Slavery must be the central fact of American history. It must be, as The Times wrote, “the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”
This is much too great an assertion. We need a debate about the nature of America and the dynamic forces of American history. We do not need left-wing propaganda masquerading as “the truth.”
The fact is: America was defined much more in 1776 and 1787 than in 1619.
The 1776 assertion “we have been endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was a universal statement of rights which has resonated across the planet and is having an impact today in Hong Kong, Ukraine, Venezuela, and virtually everywhere.
Jones is just plain wrong when she asserts, “[o]ur democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.”
First, the founding ideals were real, revolutionary, and morally compelling. They set the basic framework for freedom both in America and in much of the world. They were implemented only partially in 1776-1787, but that implementation was real and began moving America toward the exceptional country it has become.
Jones asserts “[f]or the most part, black Americans fought back alone.”
African Americans constituted about 10 percent of the Union Army by the end of the Civil War. That meant some 90 [percent] of the Army fighting to abolish slavery was white. Furthermore, it was the combination of white Republicans and African Americans that sustained the Reconstruction of the South along the democratic lines Jones describes. She admits that when the Republicans were finally exhausted, the African American community could not sustain freedom against the resurgent white southerners.
In the 20th century, there were many white Americans who campaigned for civil rights—and a number who lost their lives going into Mississippi and elsewhere in defiance of the local segregationist power structure.
When Jones writes “[t]he truth is that as much democracy as this nation has today, it has been borne on the backs of black resistance,” she uses a racist measure to eliminate the contributions of millions of non-Blacks who believed in a more just and more open America.
The implicit racism in Jones’s analysis leaps out when she writes: “It is a truly American irony that some Asian-Americans, among the groups able to immigrate to the United States because of the black civil rights struggle, are now suing universities to end programs designed to help the descendants of the enslaved.”
In a long essay, which tells us the goal is to establish civil rights for all Americans, she now critiques Asian Americans who want their civil rights protected.
This implicit racism is captured even more clearly when she writes: “We were told once, by virtue of our bondage, that we could never be American. But it was by virtue of our bondage that we became the most American of all.”
Isn’t every American entitled to work to be “the most American of all?”
Isn’t the Vietnamese refugee who fled Communism entitled to work hard and study and become “the most American?”
Isn’t the seventh generation German, Irish, or Italian eligible to serve the country, risk his or her life, and become “the most American?”
The debate between the racism implicit in the 1619 project and the exceptionalism growing out of 1776 and 1789 will be a major part of the 2020 campaign.