We all know at least one person that doesn’t know much about history. And we all know that there have been people who have tried to distort history. The Republican Party, however, does both. Over these last two years, Republicans have a made a real effort to distort history as much as possible, to the point where they are now seeking to rewrite school textbooks. The Republican Party has bent over backwards to present their own twisted version of history and it’s starting to look like that one requirement to be a Republican is to be ignorant of historical facts and events. Below is a list of the many historical facts that Republicans have either distorted or have just gotten plain wrong along with corrections of their errors.
1. Did Paul Revere Ride To Warn The British?) Sarah Palin made the dubious claim that Paul Revere actually warned the British instead of the American colonists. Her supporters even made attempts to edit the Paul Revere Wikipedia entry to make her claims sound correct. If she had taken the time to read Longfellow’s poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, she would not have made this error, as the great majority of school children know that Revere made his midnight ride to warn Americans, not the enemy.
2. Was The Shot Heard ‘Round The World Fired In New Hampshire?) Did you know that Lexington and Concord are located in New Hampshire? I didn’t. And the people in New Hampshire and Massachusetts didn’t either. When Michele Bachmann exclaimed to a New Hampshire crowd that “the shot heard ’round the world” occurred in their state, I’m sure that Massachusetts let out a roar of laughter. The sad but hilarious thing is that most American children know that the first shot of the American Revolution occurred in the state of Massachusetts.
3. Was John Quincy Adams A Founding Father?) Michele Bachmann must have failed American History in school. Because she has absolutely no knowledge of early American history. She once claimed that John Quincy Adams is a Founding Father of America when in fact, JQA was just a child when the Revolution began. He was born in 1767 and was just 14 when the war ended. And like Palin’s supporters, Bachmann fans proceeded to edit the Wikipedia page of John Quincy Adams in an attempt to make her claim viable.
4. Did The Founding Fathers End Slavery?) Michelle Bachmann isn’t through yet. During a speaking event she once claimed that the Founding Fathers were the ones who ended slavery. That’s a surprise to me since George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe all owned slaves. In fact, 12 of the first 16 American Presidents owned slaves. But Bachmann’s attempt to paint the Founding Fathers as saints is also a denial of past Republican Party history since early Republicans rose to prominence by fighting against slavery and the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, ended slavery altogether.
5. Was America Founded As A Christian State?) Ever heard of David Barton? He’s the guy that Glenn Beck goes to when he wants to distort history. David Barton claims that the Founding Fathers intended the United States to be a Christian state. Many Republicans have since picked up on this claim and have been shamelessly using it to court the Christian right-wing, and as a reason to end the separation of church and state that has been part of this country since its founding. His claim can be trounced with one question. If the Founding Fathers wanted America to be a Christian state why did they not say so in the Constitution? Instead, the Founders placed this in the document.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
~First Amendment, Bill of Rights of the Constitution
In other words, there is to be absolutely NO state religion.
6. Did Benjamin Franklin Reject Evolution?) We continue with the lack of knowledge of the Founding Fathers among the right-wing. Many Republicans have been making the claim that Benjamin Franklin rejected evolution. There are two problems with this claim. First, the theory of evolution wasn’t around until Charles Darwin published the theory in 1859, nearly 70 years AFTER Franklin died in 1790. And secondly, Franklin was a man of science above all else. It is unlikely that he would have rejected a scientific theory in favor of creationism. Franklin in fact, rejected the dogma and divinity of Christianity.
7. Was The American Revolution Fought To End Slavery?) Yet another claim that David Barton makes in an attempt to present the founding generation as perfect, is that the American Revolution was waged to end slavery. Once again, Barton makes a claim that is completely false. The American Revolution was fought to win American independence from Great Britain. And as I recall, the slaves were certainly not freed before, during, or after the war. They remained as slaves and would be slaves until the Civil War.
8. Was The Civil War Fought Over State’s Rights?) Republicans claim that it was all about state’s rights and not about slavery. The truth is, state’s rights only played a small role. The South feared that President Lincoln would end slavery, so they took preemptive measures by seceding from the Union and attacked Fort Sumter without any provocation. Slavery was, without a doubt, the main cause of the war between the states. Without slavery, white plantation owners would have to pick their own cotton, or, pay people to do it for them. They also believed Africans to be inferior and would not tolerate their freedom. We should all keep that in mind as the South/Republican home base continues to make claims that they aren’t racist.
9. Do States Have The Right To Secede?) After President Obama took office, many Republican legislators and governors, particularly in the South, began threatening secession. They say secession is a right but is it really? The answer is absolutely not. Not only did the Civil War settle this dispute, James Madison and Andrew Jackson (both Southerners) also rejected this claim. Nowhere in the Constitution will you find the right to secede. The Constitution was created by the people “in order to form a more perfect union” and by seceding, a state breaks up the nation, thus breaking a legally binding contract. And Andrew Jackson once threatened to march an army to South Carolina after that state threatened to secede. In fact, Jackson felt that secession was treason. The Supreme Court has also weighed in on this issue. In Texas v White, the court held that the Constitution did not permit states to secede from the United States, and that the ordinances of secession, and all the acts of the legislatures within seceding states intended to give effect to such ordinances, were “absolutely null”.
10. Was D-Day All About Health Care?) Republicans have been very vocal about the Affordable Care Act and Rick Santorum is no exception. He has made the claim that Americans stormed the beaches at Normandy on D-Day because they opposed Obamacare. He said, “Almost 60,000 average Americans had the courage to go out and charge those beaches on Normandy, to drop out of airplanes who knows where, and take on the battle for freedom … Those Americans risked everything so they could make [their own] decision on their health care plan.”
This is absurd. The men that stormed the Omaha and Utah beaches were fighting to liberate Europe from Nazi rule. They weren’t thinking about health care 67 years into the future. They were thinking of their families and whether they’d ever see them again. Santorum also fails to realize that military personnel and their dependents have government-run health care. And the soldiers aren’t complaining about it either. And as a matter of fact, many World War II veterans and their families also have Medicare which is also run by the federal government. That blows Santorum’s claim out of the water.
11. Did Ronald Reagan Only Lower Taxes?) Worshiping Ronald Reagan means you also have to believe that Reagan never raised taxes during his Presidency, but this constant right-wing claim is false. While he did cut taxes in 1981 and again in 1988, Reagan actually raised taxes every year from 1981 to 1987 including The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 which, at the time, had been the largest peacetime tax increase in U.S. history, the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984, a higher gasoline levy, a higher payroll tax, and a 1986 tax reform deal that included the largest corporate tax increase in American history.
12. Was Joseph McCarthy A Hero?) Another idol of the Republican Party is Joseph McCarthy. Republicans are now rewriting school books to present McCarthy as a hero who did no wrong. In reality, where the rest of us live, Joseph McCarthy was nothing more than a witch hunter who accused innocent Americans of being communists. He had no real evidence that people were communists and he should have recognized that people have the right to be part of any political party they choose. He violated the Constitution and ignored the values of freedom that we hold dear.
Just like Republicans today.
13. Was Martin Luther King Jr. A Republican?) Republicans claim that Martin Luther King was a Republican. So they can explain this part of a speech by King, right? In one speech, he stated that “something is wrong with capitalism” and claimed, “There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.” So, by claiming King as one of their own, I’m assuming Republicans are also adopting his philosophy.
14. Who Signed The Smoot-Hawley Act?) Many Republicans still have anti–New Deal views. Michele Bachmann blamed FDR for turning a recession into a depression by passing the “Hoot-Smalley Tariff”. Except that FDR didn’t pass it. Hoover did, three years before FDR took the oath of office. Oh, and it’s Smoot-Hawley, NOT “Hoot-Smalley”.
15. Did 9/11 Happen On George Bush’s Watch?) How many times have we heard a Republican or right-wing talking head on Fox say that no terrorist attacks happened when George W. Bush was President? In July, Fox News host Eric Bolling said “we were certainly safe between 2000 and 2008 — I don’t remember any terrorist attacks on American soil during that period of time.” Other Republicans such as Rudy Guiliani and Dana Perino also “misremember” that period of time. I seem to recall sitting in a 20th Century History course at my high school on September 11, 2001 when terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York City. And as I also recall, George W. Bush was President at the time.
16. What Did The Founding Fathers Think About Corporations?) Corporations are people according to Republicans. They even believe the Founding Fathers loved corporations. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The truth is that the Founding generations distrusted corporations with a passion. That’s why corporations were regulated rather harshly compared to the pampering Republicans give them today. Corporations were limited to an existence of 20-30 years and could only deal in one commodity, could not hold stock in other companies, and their property holdings were limited to what they needed to accomplish their business goals. And perhaps the most important facet of all this is that most states in the early days of the nation had laws on the books that made any political contribution by corporations a criminal offense. If the Founding Fathers were still alive and reinstated these regulations, Republicans would be accusing George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the rest of the founders of being evil, un-American socialists.
17. What Is The Constitutionality Of Federally Mandated Health Care?) Is federally mandated health care unconstitutional? According to Republicans it is. But that’s not what the Founding Fathers thought. Congress passed and John Adams signed, a mandatory health care insurance law back in 1791. The mandate required sailors to pay a tax and in the event they needed care, they could get medical care from the government. If it was unconstitutional as Republicans claim, why didn’t Thomas Jefferson or James Madison repeal it? The fact is, they didn’t, and I’d say James Madison knew more about the Constitution than any Republican does, considering he’s the primary author of that sacred document.
18. Is Social Security A ‘Ponzi Scheme’?) When Rick Perry called Social Security a “ponzi scheme” in the first GOP Debate, he not only made a political mistake of epic proportions, he was also dead wrong. Social Security was created to keep senior citizens out of poverty and it has done a wonderful job of doing just that. When people put money into a ponzi scheme, they don’t get it back. Social Security, however, gives the money back plus more to every person who puts money into the system. It’s far from being a ponzi scheme. The real ponzi scheme is the private health insurance business which takes money from you and then drops you when you need medical care.
19. Did The Founding Fathers Support A Strong Federal Government Or A Weak One?) This is an easy one. Republicans are dead wrong when they claim that the Founding Fathers wanted a weak federal government. And that is simple to prove. Before we had the Constitution, America was a loose alliance of states under the Articles of Confederation. Under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government was weak. So weak in fact that it didn’t have the power to levy taxes, could not regulate commerce, and relied on the states to provide money for defense. The states had all the power and the federal government had virtually none. This was a chaotic system that threatened to tear apart the new nation. So the Founders wrote the Constitution which created a strong central government capable of levying taxes, regulating commerce, printing money, and forming a military. Most importantly, under the Constitution, the federal government was given the power to provide for the general welfare and the states were given far less power. Republicans will often cite the Tenth Amendment as proof of state supremacy but they’re wrong about that too. After the Constitution was ratified, some wanted to add an amendment limiting the federal government to powers “expressly” delegated, which would have denied implied powers. However, the word “expressly” ultimately did not appear in the Tenth Amendment as ratified, and therefore the Tenth Amendment did not reject the powers implied by the Necessary and Proper Clause. In other words, the federal government has the power to make laws about things that are not found in the Constitution such as health care.
20. Were The Founding Fathers A Group Of Right Wingers?) Republicans have been crisscrossing the country trying to convince Americans that the Founding Fathers were conservatives. But were they really? The answer to this question is absolutely not. If the Founding Fathers were conservatives they would never have revolted against England. One can hardly call breaking away from the most powerful nation on Earth at the time a conservative act. Plus, the Founding Fathers supported a strong federal government, believed in civil rights, supported separation of church and state, despised corporations, and believed the government had the power to provide health care and levy taxes. This is why the Supreme Court throughout American history has rarely ruled laws unconstitutional using the Tenth Amendment.
Republicans and Americans in general need to get a firm grasp of history. The Republicans understand that the lack of education is the key to controlling the electorate. All they need to do is distort and re-write history in their favor to win the votes of the ignorant. We must learn our past history so that we do not go down the backwards road that Republicans are leading us down.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”