Recently, we’ve seen a spate of news stories—and news incidents—involving conservative politicians and activists getting details wrong about American history.
There was, most infamously, Sarah Palin saying that Paul Revere, on his famous midnight ride, rang bells and “warned the British.”
There was Michele Bachman, claiming that the founding fathers “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” Actually, the constitution explicitly treated slaves as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of apportioning representatives to different states.
And then was David Barton, conservatives’ go-to guy on history, suggesting that Tom Paine was, basically, a supporter of creationism.
To try to figure out what’s going on lately with conservatives and history, we turn to a historian, Rick Perlstein. Perlstein is the author of several books including Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of American Consensus, and Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. He’s also a regular contributor to a variety of publications including The American Prospect and Mother Jones.