On Friday, President Donald Trump nominated 18 conservative leaders to serve on the “1776 Commission” to promote American patriotism in education, countering the Marxist critical race theory promoted in The New York Times‘ “1619 Project.” Among others, Trump named: Hillsdale College President Larry P. Arnn; Alliance Defending Freedom CEO Michael Farris; Claremont Review of Books Editor Charles R. Kesler; classicist author and professor Victor Davis Hanson; and former Vanderbilt Professor Carol Swain.
“Our mission is to defend the legacy of America’s founding, the virtue of America’s heroes, and the nobility of the American character. We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms, and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country,” Trump declared when announcing the 1776 Commission in September.
The president signed the executive order creating the commission on September 17, Constitution Day. He hailed the Constitution as “the fulfillment of a thousand years of Western civilization. No political document has done more to advance the human condition or propel the engine of progress. A radical movement is attempting to demolish this treasured inheritance. We can’t let that happen.”
Trump’s list of 1776 Commission members reads like a who’s who of prominent conservative minds. Larry Arnn, the commission’s chairman, is the president of Hillsdale College, a small conservative liberal arts college in Southern Michigan that has launched a nationwide classical school movement. Hillsdale College requires all graduates to study the Constitution along with the Western Heritage and American Heritage. (This author graduated from Hillsdale in 2012.)
According to Hillsdale, Matt Spalding, the vice president for Hillsdale’s operations in D.C., will serve as the commission’s executive director.
Today @POTUS announced that Dr. Arnn will be appointed to serve as the chair of the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission. Dr. Matt Spalding, VP for the College’s D.C. operations and dean of the School of Government, has been appointed executive director of the Commission. pic.twitter.com/BRYwK8lb6n
— Hillsdale College (@Hillsdale) December 18, 2020
Carol Swain, the commission’s vice-chair, is a prominent black conservative whose influential works on the true threat of identity politics have been cited by the Supreme Court. A former Vanderbilt professor, Swain has also served as an advisor to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and as a member of the National Council on the Humanities. She has also suffered attacks from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Victor Davis Hanson, a professor emeritus of Classics at California State University-Fresno and the author of numerous books, also made the list. Hanson serves as a senior fellow in classics and military history at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and as a visiting professor at Hillsdale College.
Charles R. Kesler, a distinguished professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and editor of the Claremont Review of Books, also merits special mention, as does Michael Farris, a founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College. Farris currently serves as CEO and general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.
Phil Bryant, a former governor of Mississippi who left the governor’s mansion this year, also serves on the commission. Gay Hart Gaines, the first chairman of the National Review Institute, also joined the commission. The commission also includes current Trump staffers such as Brooke Rollins, acting director of the U.S. Domestic Policy Council, and John Gibbs, a HUD official.
Activists like Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk and American Majority CEO Ned Ryun also joined the commission.
President Trump will likely leave office on January 20, but the members of the commission serve for two-year terms.
Trump was right to oppose the anti-American ideology behind the 1619 Project.
When vandals toppled a statue of George Washington in Portland, they spray-painted “1619” on the statue. When Claremont’s Charles Kesler wrote in The New York Post “Call them the 1619 riots,” 1619 Project Founder Nikole Hannah-Jones responded (in a since-deleted tweet) that “it would be an honor” to claim responsibility for the destructive riots. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) called for the “dismantling” of America’s “economy and political system,” in order to root out supposed racist oppression.
Portland activist Lilith Sinclair provided a chilling example of Marxist critical race theory and its ability to inspire an aimless revolution. “There’s still a lot of work to undo the harm of colonized thought that has been pushed onto Black and indigenous communities,” she said. As examples of “colonized thought,” she mentioned Christianity and the “gender binary.” She said she organizes for “the abolition of … the United States as we know it.”
The riots this past summer proved the most destructive (in terms of insurance claims) in U.S. history. While leftists repeat claims of “institutional racism,” the riots have victimized the black community. The destruction disproportionately hit black communities in Kenosha, Wisc., Minneapolis, and Chicago. The riots destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 26 Americans have died in the riots, most of them black.
For these and other reasons, many black leaders have denounced the official Black Lives Matter movement, the founders of which have described themselves as “trained Marxists.” Over 100 black pastors recently condemned the Black Lives Matter movement and urged Nike to distance itself from it.
Trump is right to champion American patriotism in contrast to Marxist critical race theory and the 1776 Commission has its work cut out for it.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.