Fritz Stern on Last Tuesday’s Elections

Yesterday’s New York TImes included a Letter to the Editor by Fritz Stern, emeritus professor of history at Columbia University.  Although he obviously did not write in response to the Wall Street Journal op-ed piece I linked to in my previous post, the letter bears mentioning here.  If one of our most prominent historians, the author of The Politics of Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1961, rev. 1974), and Dreams and Delusions: The Drama of German History (New York: Knopf, 1987), among other works, at the age of 84 takes the trouble of writing to the Times, there may be legitimate reason for concern:

To the Editor:

It is convenient, perhaps even correct, and certainly exculpatory for Democrats to blame President Obama for the disastrous midterm election results. But the stupefying ignorance that seems to prevail among Tea Party candidates and voters is surely not the president’s fault.

It suggests a failure of civic education, a disturbing inadequacy in teaching the basic facts of America’s history and political development. The Tea Partiers’ simplistic appeals to an imaginary past that has no relevance to the present reverberate in the resulting vacuum.

We now face not only gridlock in the next two years but also a basic question about the governability of our country. And the nation’s responsibility is great. Our friends abroad watch all this in dismay and disbelief, while our opponents rejoice at our disarray.

Fritz Stern
New York, Nov. 4, 2010