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Spirit of ’76

Mike Church is a rarity in talk radio. In a world where cheering Republicans and bashing Democrats is not only standard but almost expected, Church bashes both, taking on not only the obviously bad Left, but the often equally bad-yet unequally addressed-Right. Whereas some talk hosts clamor for “conservative victory” in 2010 and 2012, by selling their audience on the supposed right-wing virtues of George W. Bush relics like Karl Rove, Church gleefully casts such imposters aside, cleverly declaring them to be “Decepticons” who did nothing to limit government while in power and even less likely to do so in the future. Church is better than just a breath of fresh air-he’s air-in a hermetically-sealed medium resistant to anything beyond partisanship and pandering.

Eschewing Republican cheerleading and the alleged virtues of the two-party system, Church consistently tries to redirect his conservative audience toward examining first principles and his movie “The Spirit of ’76” is an entertaining and unique contribution in that effort. Church believes that the true, federal nature of the U.S. Constitution is illustrated best by studying the ratification process, something the talk host does by using actual illustrations of Patrick Henry, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton accompanied by the narration of Emmy-award winning actor Jay Thomas and Church. The late historian Mel Bradford made a similar case in his book “Original Intentions: On the Making and Ratification of the U.S. Constitution,” with a particular focus on the adoption of the Bill of Rights and Henry’s insistence on it. Not-so-coincidentally, Henry is Church’s primary focus and the talk host is an admitted Bradford fan. Also not-so-coincidentally, the Spirit of ’76’s Jeffersonian leanings are due in no small part to bestselling author and Constitutional historian Kevin Gutzman, who served as a technical adviser on the project.

History can be boring for many. Church not only makes it entertaining for a wider audience but teaches viewers important lessons about America’s founding document-Washington, DC was never meant to be so powerful and the states so powerless, the Bill of Rights was supposed to limit the federal government, not the states. We also learn that Madison and Hamilton had desired a more powerful, even monarchical government, but were roundly defeated by Henry and his allies. Henry is unquestionably the star of the Spirit of ’76 and his victory in the film leaves viewers with the impression that his Constitution, the true, ratified and original Constitution, is today, a dead letter. This is obviously Church’s intention. I don’t know of any other production that presents the ratification process in quite the same, thoughtful way Church has, and certainly nothing that takes such a decidedly Jeffersonian stance, presenting the somewhat-heady constitutional view of historians like Bradford and Gutzman to a mainstream audience in a popular, popcorn-friendly format.

As the host of the oldest conservative political talk show on Sirius satellite radio (Sirius Patriot 144), Church has likely made a few new enemies by constantly bashing “phony” conservatives, but arguably even more fans, who appreciate his more substantive, less partisan approach. It could be said that in talk radio most hosts give themselves too much credit and their audiences too little, but with the Spirit of ’76, Church has engaged his audience in a grown-up manner, presenting serious food for thought about the current state of their government by shining a much-needed light on the document that established it. A conservative victory, indeed.

In addition to being a regular contributor for The American Conservative, Jack Hunter is a frequent guest host for the Mike Church Show.

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