This Conservative History Book Will Make You Stupider

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 18 2013 2:59 PM

This Conservative History Book Will Make You Stupider

One of the great perks of working at a magazine is the ever-growing pile of free books that arrive, almost unsolicited, every day. Not all of these books are about the JFK assassination; a quick glance suggests that only half are. A Patriot's History of the Modern World, Vol. II is the final installment in the fast-selling* "Patriot's History" series, with University of Dayton prof Larry Schweikart teaming up with "self-employed businessman" Dave Dougherty to tell the history of things from World War II to 2012. It's one of those tomes that may end up on thousands of conservatives' bookshelves while remaining utterly unknown to liberals. That's a shame, because it's so often wrong that it probably shouldn't wind up anywhere.

I'll just focus on the section that purports to teach us about Barack Obama. No one's asking conservative authors to make the 44th president look good, but the version of him that appears in these pages is sort of wrong, an unfinished voodoo doll. "In the state senate," the authors write of Obama, "his most common vote was 'present' (to avoid taking a stance on controversial issues)." That's not actually true—Obama's (still remarkable) 129 "present" votes represented 3 percent of the votes he took in Springfield.

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In the Schweikert/Dougherty telling, Obama's rise to power can only be explained by the compliance of a biased media. Where was he born? The authors don't say, only noting that his "place of birth continued to be questioned in lawsuits two years after his election." Obama's 2012 re-election is noted as "perhaps one of the most unexpected political events of the last seventy-five years." How did he win, they ask, when he told one Virginia crowd that the small-business owner "didn't build that" infrastructure that allowed him to live his life? "Obama's phrase by then encapsulated the Keynesian and even quasi-socialist views of the mainstream Democrat Party that economic growth emanated from government, not the private sector," write the authors. "Astoundingly, the comment did not sink Obama's campaign."

Astoundingly! How astoundingly? "For the first time in recent memory," we're told, "the losing candidate carried the independent voters and by a solid margin." That depends on how you define "recent," as both Al Gore and John Kerry won self-identified "independent" voters. After the election, we are told that "the media and the Democrat Party" went on "a frenetic crusade in 2012 to eliminate firearms." (Eliminate!) There's no mention of Sandy Hook, which was the impetus for the winter 2012/2013 gun control push, but there is a mention of how "President Obama's own daughters already attended a school with 11 armed guards." There is no footnote for that fact, probably because it's completely false.

*The first book was a #1 New York Times best-seller, and subsequent books have moved plenty of units.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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