George Washington just got a promotion. Yes, he's still one of the slave-owning oligarchs who, according to liberals, stuck us with a short-sighted Constitution, and whose colleagues were probably having sex with slaves.
But with the 2012 election on the line and conservatives citing the Founders' legacy as a touch-stone of limited government, Time Magazine has found it useful to turn the first president into a proto-liberal.
In a Time Magazine special on the life of George Washington, Mount Holyoke College professor and historian Joseph J. Ellis blasted the Tea Party and the "conservative agenda of the modern Republican party" as antithetical to the vision of the Founders, and claimed that Washington began a tradition of centralizing government that culminated in Obamacare.
In a preface praising Washington titled "First and Foremost," Ellis writes: "He [Washington] began the political tradition that produced a Union victory in the Civil War, the Federal Reserve Board, Social Security, Medicare, and most recently, Obamacare. He had no patience in his own time with a states' rights interpretation of the Constitution and would have found the conservative agenda of the modern Republican Party and its Tea Party allies a repudiation of all he stood for."
Ellis is attempting to reinterpret history to support the liberal fantasy that the Founders, if they were living today, would have supported the liberal agenda of expanding government. No wonder Time Magazine, no friend to Republicans, allowed him to take a gratuitous shot at conservatives in was supposed to be a historical preface.
Ellis' views on George Washington are not shared by all experts on the Founders. Dr. Matthew Spalding, vice president of American Studies at the Heritage Foundation and author of A Sacred Union of Citizens: Washington's Farewell Address and the American Character, was not convinced by Ellis' arguments. He told CMI: "In broad terms, Washington was a nationalist. The problem is Ellis' assumption is that Washington's nationalism is the same as modern liberal nationalism."
Spalding further explained to CMI: "After the Civil War, there was a change in the meaning of the term nationalist. For progressives, nationalism meant a centralized way of governing - separate from the Constitution. The broad principle of Washington - constitutionalism - is much closer to the principles of modern conservatism than progressivism."
This is not the first time Ellis used the Founding Fathers to bash conservative policies and praise liberals. He wrote a piece for the Washington Post in 2010 attacking the philosophy of judicial restraint propounded by Supreme Court Justices Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Roberts as "truly strange," and lamented the "fact that the very justices most disposed toward wrapping their opinions in the protective armor of original intent have consistently voted in support of the conservative political agenda championed by the Republican Party." In the Los Angeles Times in 2008, he praised Barack Obama's "politics of hope" and claimed that "'the better angels' side with Obama."
The idea that the Founders would have subscribed to the left-wing agenda of the modern Democratic Party is ridiculous - almost as ridiculous as Time Magazine and a partisan hack professor trying to pass it off as history.