Bachmann, Tea Party Caucus Chair, Gets Revolutionary History Way Wrong in Gaffe
Tea Partiers love those Founding Fathers -- not to mention muskets, tricorn hats, and all things symbolic of the American Revolution. But when it comes to actual revolutionary history, they're often found a bit wanting.
Take Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who, at a maybe-campaign stop in New Hampshire this weekend, cited the Granite State as the place where the "shot heard around the world" was fired at Lexington and Concord. From Politico's Ben Smith:
"What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common is our extreme love for liberty," the potential GOP presidential candidate said. "You're the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord. And you put a marker in the ground and paid with the blood of your ancestors the very first price that had to be paid to make this the most magnificent nation that has ever arisen in the annals of man in 5,000 years of recorded history."
The only problem with that is that the famous green at Lexington and Concord is in Massachusetts -- a fact that graces every elementary-school social studies textbook. (I think I learned this one, like, in the second grade -- taught by a unionized teacher in a public school.)
Bachmann was making the rounds in New Hampshire to test the waters for a potential presidential bid. While it's unlikely she'd be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, her candidacy could serve two other purposes: positioning her as a vice presidential contender, or simply as an advocate for Tea Party movement positions, which would make others in the field have to respond to those positions.
The gaffe Bachmann made, however, speaks to a fundamental characteristic of the Tea Party movement: It's a particular idea of the Founding Fathers and the Revolution that spark the movement, not America's actual history.
In the Tea Party version of American history, the founders were as gods -- all virtue, no vice, despite the fact that a number of them owned slaves. (Tea Party revisionism often has it that none of these slaveholders ever took sexual advantage of the women they claimed to own, despite the existence of a whole African-American branch of the Jefferson family known as the Hemings.)
Although the 'Founding Fathers,' as they're called, are treated as deities in Tea Party rhetoric, they are not overtly designated as gods, because they were all hard-core Christians, of course -- except that at least two, Jefferson and Franklin, were hardly Christian at all. Jefferson did not believe in a single miracle ascribed to Jesus in the Bible, believing the man from Galilee to be more ethicist than Savior. (As an ethicist, though, Jesus was revered by Jefferson.)
Once you unmoor the founders from the facts of history, then history becomes a fluid sort of thing, allowing for the kind of gaffe uttered by Bachmann. Upon entering New Hampshire, she probably saw a road sign pointing in the direction of the city of Concord, the state capital, and made the leap that it was one and the same with the Revolutionary birthplace. The irony is that Bachmann's lack of a fact-check on such a critical point -- where the Revolution that created this country began -- shows a profound disrespect for American history.
But the Tea Party's willful ignorance isn't limited to history: facts of any kind that contradict the Tea Party agenda are simply declared to be untrue. The media had some fun with Bachmann's flub, eagerly pointing out her misstatement. If only they would give as much play to the movement's denial of any form of science that would cut into the bottom line of its foremost funders, the oil magnates Charles and David Koch. Climate change, anyone?