10 Historical 'Facts' Only a Right-Winger Could Believe
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7. The Founding Fathers really tried to end slavery.
Even in the exceedingly forgiving musical 1776, the Founding Fathers are shown willing to table the issue of slavery in order to win a consensus for the Declaration of Independence. (It also shows Jefferson "resolved to release my slaves," which he never did.)
That's not patriotic enough for Tea Party princess Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who told a sympathetic audience that "the very founders that wrote those documents [the Declaration and Constitution] worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States." The one "founder" Bachmann cited was John Quincy Adams, who was actually the son of the founder John Adams.
That's no shock; Bachmann's theme was right in line with a traditional conservative method of reconciling their fairy-tale vision of American history with the founders' self-evident hypocrisy. Fundamentalists, for example, frequently cite the founders' verbal objections to the practice as the inspiration for abolitionism.
The basic idea seems to be that because the Founders were embarrassed by slavery, that meant they were in some secret way fighting against it. Author Paul Gottfried, for example, has argued that "Presbyterian theologians spilled rivulets of ink doing what Cicero and Pliny never felt obliged to do, showing how in their society slavery was being elevated to solicitous education for a backward people. The fact that such arguments had to be provided... underscores the perceived need to humanize a 'peculiar institution.'" So, like very young children in permissive households, the founders' dim awareness of guilt excuses them from blame.
It's hard for most of us to imagine that men who, shortly after the Revolution, countenanced the military suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion would have endorsed John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, or that George Washington, who tried to solve his dental challenges by having implanting in his gums teeth extracted from his slaves, was a precocious abolitionist. But when you hang out with people in tricorner hats and knee-breeches who think the Founders were guys just like themselves, it's a little easier to suspend disbelief.
6. Teddy Roosevelt was a socialist.
Theodore Roosevelt was a naval theorist and war aficionado, a lawman in both the Dakota Territory and New York City, and a cheerful imperialist. You'd think conservatives would appreciate him better. But Glenn Beck has helped turn that around, lambasting TR at last year's CPAC and denouncing his words as " a socialist utopia" which "we need to address ... as if it is a cancer."
In an essay at Beck's site, R.J. Pestritto, a professor at the conservative Hillsdale College, said that while "the progressives were elitists; they looked down their noses at the socialists, considering them a kind of rabble," nonetheless "the progressive conception of government closely coincided with the socialist conception." Pestritto was given room to defend his and Beck's views in the Wall Street Journal. And the Ashbrook Center's Ken Thomas concluded that Roosevelt "pushed centralization of power far further than circumstances justified."
Now even when conservatives defend Roosevelt, they qualify their enthusiasm, saying while he went wrong with his statism, he did do some good things, like subjugate foreigners and so forth.
You might wonder why conservatives have chosen to start picking on the guy from Mt. Rushmore. One explanation may be that they were sick of hearing liberals say, oh, if progressive taxation is socialist, then what about TR, was he a socialist too? Now, instead of sputtering, they can just say yes.