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Department of Thin Skins

September 11, 2008, 1:36 am

You would never know from this report in the Chronicle of Higher Education that the final decision on who the next president will be will not be up to our New Jersey political history colleague Sean Wilentz. I mean, give me a break. He works on the nineteenth century guys. Why would Ohio, Pennsylvania and — from what I hear today, Nevada — be waiting breathlessly on what a historian of the nineteenth century United States thinks? It’s we twentieth century scholars you need to keep a close eye on to make sure we toe the party line.

Which I am toe-ing relentlessly, despite the fact that I too share Wilentz’s doubts about the claims that are being made in the name of liberalism (if not his desire to do the Chicken Little thing in the middle of what most of us perceive as a life-or-death national moment.) And in better election news, my sky blue Obama ’08 cap arrived today, along with my “GLBT for Obama” bumper sticker. When you want to have a real effect on the outcome of an election in this day and age, get yourself together and buy gear like you never have before.

Why people are so horrified at Professor Wilentz I do not know, unless it is that he gets a lot of air time in the more popular press that the rest of us would like to have. Our colleagues have done worse, after all. It wasn’t so long ago that a lot of prestigious and very respectable historians signed up as consultants to a Disney project aimed (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) at turning a famous Civil War battlefield into a theme park.

Seriously, I know everyone is anxious because the Palin thing is so outrageous and it doesn’t seem to be preventing a convention bounce. But it isn’t a very big convention bounce. So can we just take a deep breath, put on our caps, and get out there to register voters?

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