Historians for Obama, Clinton, and Now Paul
I have to admit to being just a bit perplexed over the recent public declarations of support for various presidential candidates by historians. This started (as far as I can tell) over at HNN with a statement in support of Obama in which roughly fifty historians "signed". Since then we’ve seen additional statements of support for Ron Paul and one lone historian who has come out against Obama. I assume we should expect additional statements in support of other candidates and perhaps even a few retractions as the primaries get under way. That’s fine with me, but I would like to know why I should care about any of this. To be more specific, I would like to know why the respective allegiances of any of the individuals who have signed these declarations as historians ought to matter. For example, I noticed that James McPherson signed the Obama statement. I’ve never met McPherson nor do I know anything about his voting history or specific political beliefs and I have to admit that I don’t really care. The same holds true for all the signers. The statement is fairly clear as to why these historians are casting their lot with Obama and I actually agree with a few of the points. That said, there is nothing beyond a few references to previous presidents that distinguishes this statement from other public declarations of support.
Beyond the fact that all of the signers make a living from teaching and writing about the past I don’t see anything that renders their identification as historians salient. So I am left with the question of why I should care about any of these statements.