The Republicans Skipped American History 101

How is it that Americans can be so ignorant of American history? We all go to public school where we ostensibly learn something about American history – beyond George Washington and his cherry tree, that is – and there is a veritable smorgasbord laid out before us when you add libraries, bookstores, and internet together. It’s all there for the taking. All you need is a desire to know.

To judge from the result, most people lack this, and it is a lack felt severely on the Right. Let’s face it, in today’s political climate we love to beat each other over the head with the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson said this, Ben Franklin said that, but what’s behind those quotes? How many of them are accurate? What was their context? Does the quote accurate portray the lifelong viewpoint of the man in question? Not likely. Peoples’ views change over time. The Founding Fathers changed over time. Republicans love to quote an anti-federalist Jefferson but ignore the President Jefferson who became the strong Executive he feared all his life up to that point.

I’m certain that deficient education in American history is responsible for many of our problems today. The situation in Texas will only make matters worse by privileging ideology over fact. It’s true that history is more than just a collection of facts; it is the interpretation of those facts as well. It is also true that a complete lack of bias is impossible. We all have points of view, we all operate out of a context just as did the authors whose writings we are discussing. But we ought to at least try to be impartial and unbiased in our interpretations, and more important still, intellectually honest enough to admit when the facts don’t fit our thesis.

That’s the scientific process. Abandon your thesis and find a new one, because that’s all you can do when the facts don’t match up. Don’t invent a false narrative and populate it with false quotes or quotes taken out of context; don’t simply continue to insist the Founders intended this or they intended that, without offering any proof.

Look at Sarah Palin, whom FOX calls a Constitutional Expert despite her inability to name even a single Founding Father (George Washington on continued prompting from Glenn Beck and maybe a hastily scribbled message off camera), or her insistence that America was founded on Biblical principles and the Constitution on the Bible…has she even read the Constitution or does she have only a vague awareness that a document called “the Constitution” is floating around somewhere?

Conservative think-tanks are as guilty as conservative candidates. Look at the “Claremont Institute” for example:

The mission of the Claremont Institute is to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. These principles are expressed most eloquently in the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” To recover the founding principles in our political life means recovering a limited and accountable government that respects private property, promotes stable family life, and maintains a strong national defense.

Seriously? According to the principles of the “American Founding” the “all men are created equal” enshrines the idea essential to liberal democracy that all are equal before the law. But that is not the case. It is demonstrably not the case that conservatives want this to be true. The LGBT community can attest to continuing bias. I’m going to have to point out here that the Founders were speaking of more than the right to bear arms or the states having certain rights, which seem to be the complete contents of the new Republican version of the Constitution. And where in either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution (which you significantly fail to mention) is any stress laid on “stable family life”? And have you picked up a history book recently? The young republic had no standing army, let alone a “strong national defense.”

You have to wonder how all these folks can take 1+1 and get anything other than “2” – but they do, all of them, pundits, candidates, and think tanks alike. Ideology has become so central to their narrative that facts can be dismissed at a whim. The narrative need bear no resemblance to what actually took place, despite that smorgasbord of evidence all around us.

There is an old expression that not reading when you know how is worse than not being able to read and you wonder where the shame is. If you want something central to the “Founding principles” you have only to look at education. Yet the Republicans are as anti-intellectual as they come, crying for the abolition of the Department of Education; it’s almost as if they are at war with the Enlightenment, and in truth it seems they are, even if they’re unaware intellectually that such a thing existed or took place (they don’t read, after all).

So I’m with them – absolutely – let’s get back to founding principles, but let’s get back to the real founding principles, not the ones you make up and support with non-facts or invented facts, but the founding principles supported by the evidence. At least be honest enough to admit that you want something because you want it to be true, not because it was ever true, or ever intended to be true.

25 Replies to “The Republicans Skipped American History 101”

  1. Hraffy, this article is daffy.

    The small leftist minority, which somehow tricked Americans into electing a Kenyan teleprompter reader with no leadership skills, will be crippled next month, and then ejected in 2012.

    Thanks for playing.

  2. Ginny, what has always struck me as significant about conservative responses to this sort of argument is the complete lack of argument in response – nada, zip. No facts, no counter-arguments, no evidence of any kind – simply ideologically-based assertions and talking points. It’s sad. The Republican Party used to be a party that stood for something…

  3. At first I thought your comment was just sarcasm. But when I realized you were serious it was even better. It was like the cherry on the top! This was a great article with a well articulated and reasoned point. A point, which you have clearly missed.

  4. When citizens treat people with differing opinions like an “Us” and “Them” football game we all lose.

  5. You’re right, Smarg, we don’t stand a chance. Can we just concede the elections and get it over with?

  6. Yes, that argument was equivalent of “neener neener my dad can beat your dad up!”

    I remember these same people saying the same stuff back in 2008 before they got beaten down badly. Never heard them admit they were wrong or acknowledge the President like a decent citizen would do. Nope. Instead, it’s 3rd grade insults and tin foil hats.

  7. Yes, why vote at all when the GOP can tell us how we feel and who we voted for? Gosh, Smarg has really changed my view on being an informed citizen of a democracy……I guess I have zero responsibilities. Turn on Fox and tune out mind.

  8. there are so many ways in which the Republicans contradict themselves over the Constitution. To them the Constitution is something that they read and interpret their way.

    Being against people being gay and then saying that the Constitution grants equal rights to all is just plain hypocrisy. I seem to remember the last time the Republicans were in power, they certainly didn’t take away the states rights to take away your property for a minor arrest. They certainly didn’t give you the right to habeas corpus. You can bet your bottom dollar that if the Republicans were in power today the people who are outstanding smaller government would be astounded at how things stay the same

  9. It was a jedi mind trick. Actually only 15 of us voted for Obama by our own choice, we just told you that he was elected the next day and you went back to Fox who was crying.

    BTW, almost all politicians use teleprompters. McCain did. I see the baggers got their talking points memo from Dick Amery today. The same one he has been sending for 2 years now.

  10. Democrats and Republicans study the same history and form different views and i’ve studied the same history and formed another view..History is propaganda

  11. Did you not know that teleprompters were invented in Jan of 2009 as a tool of the devil? I mean, honestly, it’s as if you didn’t read any of your Texas history books in school. :-)

  12. That’s true, of course, but then there are facts that are not up to interpretation. For example, the Nazis did kill Jewish people. This is not up for debate, though you will hear plenty of Tea Partiers deny this along with some fundie Christians and your basic far right extremists.

  13. I disagree with your categorization of history as propaganda. The idea that we can’t know anything is postmodernist nonsense. Yes, people interpret history to suit their needs but we can know things and we do know things. Propaganda is something you do to history to make it serve ideology; that does not make them the same.

  14. Pretty much could be said for their interpretation of their Bible….twist the words to allow for hate and exclusion. So sad.

  15. In your statement, every 3-5 words complete a time worn “Sound-bite” or “Talking-point” that THE Media has filled your “unable to state original thought” mind with….it’s THEIR ideas!

    Remove the Puppet Disguise and tell us all, what is REALLY provoking you & in your own words & thoughts. Being an “American” means standing tall on your own 2 feet, walk away from that Media addiction, focus your thoughts & write them here. Take the opportunity to possibly change a perspective or a life by being honest to yourself (and us) & express that which affects you & that you find unfair or intolerable or immoral.
    WE actually want to understand you…!!

  16. What allmost everyone fails to recognize is that THE Republican Party is a name, a MARQUE that is SOLD to the highest bidders every 4 years!
    Really, look at how the NoeoCon’s infected & killed it, the Oil Racist’s in Texas, the history over the last 50 years supports the fact that extremist factions of America have found out that if they assemble the money & mass’s they have power UNDER the banner of “THE Republican Party”, now the “Tea Party” has IT’S eyes on buying the “prize” & the credibility that the MARQUE brings with it in the minds of people not yet aware of how the game is played.
    Why to you think all of this outrageousness goes on?
    Those that claim the mantle know they are temporary occupants,” leave it to the next -renter of the name- to clean it up” is the present Standard Operating Procedure…and it HAS BEEN for 30 or more years!!
    There IS NO REPUBLICAN PARTY…there is a name but it has NO consistency, historical platform nor direction, only those of the over investment in fear, power, deception & false patriotism.
    They’re “conservative” in their abilities to think & reason, more than in their stewardship of this great land and people & their educated concern for our future.
    America is the PEOPLE’S HOUSE and “Republican’s want to change that into “Their” house so they can sell it to Corporate America & do nothing, the one thing they are truely GOOD at!

  17. Don’t forget their goal…
    “The BIBLE does not forbid the use of slaves anywhere & this country is found on the writing found in God’s word , THE BILE”
    and my favorite…”Women are property..!”
    I wish we could banish them to their land of fantasy for a week and then CHARGE them for the RIGHT to RETURN when they discover (in about an hour) that something is terribly wrong here!..and want to run home to Kansas.

  18. HISTORY only serves to give us a “glimpse” into a past

    and it should also serve to pique interest in what the actual TRUTH revealed.

    example: the only person who stood to gain by JFK’s death was LBJ, & there was no recently or directly attributable gunpowder residue on Lee’s face or hands & the shell casing marks on those left behind at the Tippet murder FAILED to match the gun Lee was carrying when arrested in 3 FBI tests.
    Who did what to whom..???

    History is a CLUE not a fact…
    and that’s the fact that’s most important to remember!

  19. …..a more accurate historical observation is…
    “TelePrompTer’s”(copywrited name) have been used CONTINUOUSLY since the mid-50’s by EVERY POTUS, the loud & uninformed who do what they are told, just discovered them this past year when FOX SPEWS disingenuously brought their usage to THEIR viewers attention. As is stated at Wikipedia-“Occasionally there is criticism regarding the use of teleprompters by speakers who only appear to speak spontaneously and fluently to the crowd of listeners, while in reality they read a premade speech.”

    The people crying about the use of TelePrompTer’s are publicly admitting “I’ve been FOOLED since 1960 and I’m mad about it NOW!!!”
    It’s like they discovered that SOME of us “Elites” use tires with AIR in them…! OMG!!

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