That's Not What They Meant!

That's Not What They Meant!

Reclaiming the Founding Fathers From America's Right Wing

Book - 2012
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Essential reading for anyone seeking the accurate historical background to many of the hot-button political debates of today. A true historical picture of men who often disagreed with one another on such crucial issues as federal power, judicial review, and the separation of church and state.
Publisher: Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 2012
ISBN: 9781616146702
Branch Call Number: 973.3 Au772t 2012
Characteristics: 253 p. ; 23 cm
Alternative Title: That is not what they meant


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spl_merley Mar 21, 2018

Anyone interested in gaining some understanding of modern political discourse in the US would be served well by reading Austin's book. He highlights the inherent dangers that lie within the argument that America was great and has only to return to being so. Instead, Austin presents the story of a group of politicians with deeply diverse opinions and ideas about what "America" could be collaborating in a grand game of conviction and concession-making to arrive at a constitutional machine for moving a nation forward - and most importantly moving forward together. Useful for developing a critical eye for historical inacuracy, political prooftexting, and a good dose of hopefulness for the US political system.

scott_b1 Apr 13, 2016

Austin's fatal flaw is that he refers to America as a democracy. It is in fact, a representative constitutional republic. It's not in any way "nit-picking". There is a huge difference between the two styles of government. While I do agree that there should be debate, conflict and, resolution in matters of legislation I cannot agree with his premise.

serob Apr 13, 2016

4/15 - Response to scott_b1: The notion that America is a democracy derives form the first three words in the constitution, "We the People". The basis for forming a "republican form" of government, not a republic per se, i.e. a government with a constitution, was to ensure "certain inalienable rights " to the people, not just the ruling elites of a formal Republic. While it is true America is not a direct democracy, neither is it a true republic. In many ways our government is both a republic and a democracy, or neither. For discussion on the nature of America's unique form of government see

4/13 - Book commentary: I don't agree at all with It's comments below. Austin clearly states that he uses conservative pundits inaccurate portrayals of the founding fathers merely as a platform to provide examples for the points he wants to make. He also clearly states that the far left is just as guilty of distorting the founders image for their own purposes. At the time of the writing of this book, the conservatives were more vocal and pervasive in getting their views out and, therefore, potentially more recognizable to the politically minded audience Austin targets. But the points Austin makes in the book are both valid and valuable. Well worth the reading.

Jan 21, 2016

Michael Austin - Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Newman University, Wichita, Kansas.
description from Goodreads :
“This book is essential reading for anyone seeking the accurate historical background to many of the today's hot-button political debates. In 2011, Glenn Beck released a "modern translation" of the Federalist Papers and a new biography of George Washington. In the same year, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, published a book in which he argued that the Founding Fathers intended the individual states to be more powerful than the federal government. Each of these books, and many others published over the past few years, presents the Founding Fathers as a group of wise, philosophically indistinguishable statesmen who spoke about timeless issues with a unified voice. In the place of rigorous history, the authors substitute out-of-context proof texts; in the place of real analysis of the remarkable individuals who created America, they offer us a collective mythology of the founding era. This book examines dozens of books, articles, speeches, and radio broadcasts by such figures as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Larry Schweikart, and David Barton to expose the deep historical flaws in their use of America's founding history. In contrast to their misleading method of citing proof texts to serve a narrow agenda, Austin allows the Founding Fathers to speak for themselves, situating all quotations in the proper historical context. What emerges is a true historical picture of men who often disagreed with one another on such crucial issues as federal power, judicial review, and the separation of church and state. As Austin shows, the real legacy of the Founding Fathers to us is a political process: a system of disagreement, debate, and compromise that has kept democracy vibrant in America for more than two hundred years.”
further reading:
“Wrapped in the Flag: What I Learned Growing Up in America's Radical Right, How I Escaped, and Why My Story Matters Today” by Claire Conner
“Wrong and Dangerous: Ten Right Wing Myths about Our Constitution” by Garrett Epps
“One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America” by Kevin M. Kruse

Dec 14, 2015

Haven't probably seen more stupid book in my life.

The author obviously have an agenda and arrogance to pretend his statements are accurate.

His point is that founders and their ancestor fled England to actually start new and bigger government to better control nation and its populace. Farce.

When his arguments start failing, he resorts to shouting and emotional out bursts.

English "professor" with no historical background.

Do not bother, waste of time.


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