By Andrew M. Schocket
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Additional resources for Fighting over the Founders: How We Remember the American Revolution
Still, this flyer was striking. It featured a colorful shot of Mount Rushmore with an American flag in the foreground. ” The photo had been altered to highlight a sunlit George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln but cast Theodore Roosevelt in shadow—no need for the conservative group that financed the mailing to remind voters of the ambiguity of a Republican president who believed in a vigorous federal government. The whole thing seemed curious to me, especially considering Washington and Jefferson.
Sidharth’s film of the incident went viral on the Internet in a matter of days. What had seemed like an easy reelection bid eventually resulted in Allen’s narrow defeat. Half a dozen years later, Allen’s career remained defined by the incident. This is not to suggest overt racism on the part of conservatives. That many voters in Virginia switched sides, and that such language is generally unacceptable in public discourse, indicates otherwise. But as sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has demonstrably noted with his elaboration of “racism without racists,” it does suggest that American conservative language, of which essentialism is a part, retains to many of its practitioners and much of its audience an implicit racial tinge.
A more complete picture comes from looking at individual references, how they were used, and in what context. During the 2008 presidential election cycle, candidates of both parties invoked the Truths That Are Not Self-Evident â•…>>â•…25 American Revolutionary era in nearly one-third of their speeches, Democrats in a quarter of their speeches, and Republicans in over a third of theirs. They tended to do so in several modes. Most obviously, speakers cited the nation’s founding generation in an appeal to authority.