Tea Party history 101: the Herman Cain edition

Herman Cain, one of the declared candidates for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, said this:

We don’t need to rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America, we need to reread the Constitution and enforce the Constitution,” Cain said. “And I know that there are some people that are not going to do that, so for the benefit of those that are not going to read it because they don’t want us to go by the Constitution, there’s a little section in there that talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“Because that’s when it says when any form of government becomes destructive of those ideals, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it,” he added.

Cain needs to reread the Constitution. Why is it these Tea Party patriots throw the Constitution in your face when they’re trying to make a point, but end up quoting the wrong piece of parchment? What Cain is talking about is the Declaration of Independence, a completely different document written 11 years earlier.

And why is it Tea Baggers harp endlessly on the need for today’s laws to be in adherence with what the founding fathers intended?

Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the founding fathers, wrote this:

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

Contrary to what this may sound like, I don’t spend countless hours poring through American history books looking for obscure quotes to show that Tea Baggers and the Republican politicians who enable them haven’t the slightest idea of what they’re talking about. I rode my bike over to the Jefferson Memorial today. That quote is written on the wall.

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Tea Party history 101

Rep. Michelle Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who’s planning to run for president under the Tea Party banner (trust me, it’s gonna happen), had this to say about the founding fathers and slavery, according to Talking Points Memo:

Speaking at an Iowans For Tax Relief event, Bachmann (R-MN) also noted how slavery was a “scourge” on American history, but added that “we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.”

“And,” she continued, “I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbearers who worked tirelessly — men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.”

Where do I begin?

The founding fathers wrote the Constitution. They put slavery in it. A black person counted as three-fifths of a white person. George Washington had slaves. Thomas Jefferson had slaves. Thomas Jefferson got his slaves pregnant. The founding fathers didn’t work “tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” The Civil War ended slavery. The founding fathers weren’t alive when slavery ended. (You remember any speeches by Washington and Jefferson in 1860? No, because they were dead.)

It’s true, John Quincy Adams worked tirelessly against slavery (I saw “Amistad,” too), but he wasn’t a founding father. He was the son of a founding father. If anything, that makes him a founding son. Does that count? And he died in 1848. He didn’t make any speeches during the Civil War either. He was dead. Abraham Lincoln ended slavery. He wasn’t a founding father. I’m not a history expert, but I don’t think he ever met a founding father.

Back to Bachmann: This is the person that CNN is putting on the air tonight to give a speech rebutting President Obama’s State of the Union address. Her journeys into history represent a typical Tea Party tactic. Make crap up about how idyllic things were in the days of the founding fathers, when everyone was equal and there was no discrimination and everyone had “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And that isn’t in the Constitution. That’s in the Declaration of Independence, which was also written by the founding fathers. The same guys who put in slavery, left out the rights of non landowners and didn’t even bother with anything on women’s rights. The document that pseudo-patriotic Tea Party advocates say we should go back to and follow its original intentions.

Oh, and Bachmann also said this in her Tea Party speech in Iowa:

America’s first European settlers … “had different cultures, different backgrounds, different traditions.”

“How unique in all of the world, that one nation that was the resting point from people groups all across the world,” she said. “It didn’t matter the color of their skin, it didn’t matter their language, it didn’t matter their economic status.”

“Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable?” she asked.

OK, class. Does anyone have anything to say about this?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

(That last part, I stole from reading Brad DeLong. But Ferris would say: Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the walrus.)