Liberal Democrats have always looked to the future with hope and embraced marginalized groups. When they look back, even to the deeds of their own former leaders, they see trails of tears like the one over which Andrew Jackson drove out the Cherokee. Blemishes on past presidents, even those who pointed the way toward future progress, tend to stain them wholly for at least some key elements within the Democratic coalition.I'd say that, generally, that's about right. Conservatives believe in preserving the good things from the past and liberals believe in creating good things in the future. Then what happens is too many liberals throw the baby out with the bathwater in the name of "progress" while conservatives don't realize that changing the bath water every now and then is a healthy thing to do.
In contrast, conservative Republicans look to the past for inspiration but often to the future with trepidation. Originalists at heart, they tend to see only the shining city on a hill of earlier times and not its darker neighborhoods. George Washington's slaves are forgotten along with Adams's Alien and Sedition Acts. For some Republicans, both Lincoln and Robert E. Lee become models of Christian virtue as if they never ordered millions of men into battle against the other.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
This column by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward Larson is pretty much in the Spinning Clio wheelhouse. In it, Larson attempts to answer the question, "Why do conservatives like history more than liberals?":