Paperback: 285 pages
Publisher: Prometheus Books (September 18, 2012)
What Michael Austin does so well in That's Not What They Meant! is helps to reclaim the nation's founders from the right wing. He does it in under 250 pages of text, no less.
During the last few election cycles, Republicans--especially those of the Tea Party breed--attempted to rewrite what the founders have said. Sometimes, they succeeded while other times, they got mocked by commentators in the media.
America has a political system that works best when those in it are compromising with each other. That's what the founders envisioned. Congress is a place where people can debate, disagree, and then come together on the issues that they do agree on.
Austin's book comes a year after Glenn Beck decides that the Federalist Papers need a "modern translation" and Texas Governor Rick Perry decides that the founders meant for the states to have more power than the strong central government that is our federal government. Instead of offering real analysis, the right wing has provided out-of-context proofs and given a "collective mythology of the founding era."
What Austin does here is examine the numerous books, articles, speeches, and broadcast of right wingers such as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Larry Schweikart, and David Barton and exposes them for the frauds that they are. In doing so, Austin lets the founders speak. As a result of Austin's work, what we see is an image of the Founding Fathers disagreeing with one another on crucial issues but more importantly, it is in their words and not that of the Tea Party crowd.
The real legacy of the Founders, Austin tells us, is a political process that is a system of disagreement, debate and compromise that has kept the American democracy alive for 200 plus years.
This reading isn't only well-researched and rigorously argued but it is essential for seeking the historical background in all of its accuracy.