In These Truths, Jill Lepore laments that while “the United States is founded on a set of ideas,” nonetheless “Americans have become so divided that they no longer agree, if they ever did, about what those ideas are, or were.” She undertakes to write “an American history from beginning to end across that divide.”
Presumably, Lepore’s hope was to help us bridge our divisions. If that was her goal, she has failed. Unfortunately, she does not seem to be capable of understanding the arguments across the aisle, preferring instead the Progressive conceit according to which one side represents reason and the other, well, something else.
Lepore is not as biased as are many others on the Left. She recognizes, for example, that Alger Hiss was, in fact a spy, although she does try to downplay his importance, and that the Tea Party protesters were not racist, nor were they simply paid Astroturfers. She does sometimes note misdeeds by Democrats such as Woodrow Wilson’s racist policies, and she laments Clinton’s character defects. Sometimes Lepore’s literary background serves her well. To describe republican politics, she pulls a Fisher Ames quote from Emerson: “a republic is like a raft, which would never sink, but then your feet are always in the water.”