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On the evening of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the White House released the final report from its “1776 Commission” – a document that excuses America’s history of slavery, derides the legacy of the civil rights movement and equates progressivism with totalitarianism.
The report, which comes after President Donald Trump's explicit condemnation of the New York Times’ 1619 Project in September, was released just two days before Trump leaves office, and on the national holiday honoring the foremost icon of the mid-20th century American civil rights era.
The commission was created by Trump as a response to the Times' 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning collection that focused on America's history with slavery. In creating the commission, Trump condemned the Times' work as "toxic propaganda" and "ideological poison" that "will destroy our country."
The report compiles disparate references and quotations throughout American history to argue that the country must return to “patriotic education” in schools and for American families to “raise up morally responsible citizens who love America.”
The commission does not have the authority to enact any of its recommendations for American education.
Echoing many of the themes and assertions of the report, outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Tuesday morning criticizing multiculturalism. " Woke-ism, multiculturalism, all the -isms — they're not who America is. They distort our glorious founding and what this country is all about. Our enemies stoke these divisions because they know they make us weaker," Pompeo wrote.
The report defends the Three-Fifths Compromise and Fugitive Slave Clause, provisions in the Constitution that counted each enslaved resident of a state as three-fifths of a person and required runaway enslaved people to be returned to enslavers across states lines respectively, as “just that: compromises.”
The document defends the Founding Fathers against accusations of hypocrisy for tolerating slavery by arguing that it was necessary to allow the practice to continue to build a “principle of consent as the ground of all political legitimacy," ignoring the rights of enslaved people in the country's new form of government.
The report laments that “Many Americans labor under the illusion that slavery was somehow a uniquely American evil,” arguing that chattel slavery must “be seen in a much broader perspective."
In an instance of circular reasoning, the authors excuse several of the Founding Fathers' ownership of slaves by citing their installation of universalist principles into the Declaration of Independence and Constitution as planting “the seeds of the death of slavery in America,” despite this being the same observation from critics who call the Founders hypocrites.
The report also contends that when the Framers gave primacy to theprinciple of “separation of church and state” that animates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, they “did not intend to expunge religion from political life but to make room for the religious beliefs and free expression of all citizens."
The report claims that American progressives maintain a “false understanding of rights” that “created what amounts to a fourth branch of government called at times the bureaucracy or the administrative state,” and is more consistent with 20th-century Soviet-style communism or European fascism than ostensive American values.
This authoritarian "shadow government" purportedly operates without democratic oversight and "continues to grow around us."
The report equates the enslavement and racist policies advocated for by notable 19th-century white supremacist Sen. John C. Calhoun with modern “identity politics,” arguing that the civil rights movement led to a “system of explicit group privilege” based on race.
The report contends that “identity politics” ultimately “teaches that America itself is to blame for oppression.”
The report also condemns American universities, which the authors see as “hotbeds of anti-Americanism, libel, and censorship that combine to generate in students and in the broader culture at the very least disdain and at worst outright hatred for this country.”
“Historical revisionism that tramples honest scholarship and historical truth, shames Americans by highlighting only the sins of their ancestors, and teaches claims of systemic racism that can only be eliminated by more discrimination, is an ideology intended to manipulate opinions more than educate minds,” the report reads.
The commission which authored the study does not include any academic historians who focus on American history.
The group was chaired by Larry Arnn, president of the conservative Hillsdale College and a close Trump ally. The commission includes high-profile conservative activists and pundits, as well as several Trump Cabinet officials as ex-officio members.
The report has already been criticized by historians for various historical falsehoods, arguing it promotes a reductive narrative of American history with a nationalist political agenda that, to quote one critic, "few professional historians would consider plausible.''
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump's '1776' report condemns legacy of civil rights movement