Political History

As everyone is getting ready for the Fourth of July weekend, there will be plenty of politicians touting what the founding fathers sacrificed to create the great country we live in today. But if you hear them comparing today’s challenges during the time of the revolution, you might as well believe George Washington chopped down a cherry tree.

Of course it didn’t take long for certain Republican candidates to try and sound smart about their “knowledge” of American history. Today, Michelle Bachmann was on Good Morning America, where she was asked about her dither on Fox News (where Chris Wallace called her a flake) her response only gave more ammunition to those who are calling her, and I’m putting this in the nicest possible way, slow.

“Well if you look at one of our Founding Fathers, John Quincy Adams, that’s absolutely true. He was a very young boy when he was with his father serving essentially as his father’s secretary. He tirelessly worked throughout his life to make sure that we did in fact one day eradicate slavery…”

Now, ever since the movie Amistad came out I have always liked John Quincy Adams. Yes, he was a powerful voice that worked to free the slaves, but no, he wasn’t a founding father. What got me though is; don’t Republican’s like to give Abraham Lincoln credit for ending slavery? During every Republican National Convention they show a video before their nominee for President comes out to give a speech. This video always starts with a picture of Lincoln with his famous top hat, then the voiceover reminds everyone he was a Republican who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. I don’t know if Bachmann knows this bit of history or not, but if I were working on her campaign I would worry about her not knowing standard talking points which could lead to more gaffes.

While sometimes it is hard to tell the two apart, the biggest blooper was by Sarah Palin when she described Paul Revere as a traitor. But I don’t consider this as much of a gaffe as it is a lack of common sense.

Usually around this time candidates/politicians like to emphasize the importance of the founding fathers and criticize their opponents because “they’re not doing what the founding fathers would have.” But as we look back in history, let’s remember what it was like during America’s birth.

There was no real army, only a bunch of young men who were considered renegades by the British. In order to beat the most powerful army in the world they had to develop ways that would catch them off guard. New York City was abandoned by General Washington because there was no way to save it from the massive British Army that had invaded. The British were also known to torture captured soldiers, of face punishment if they showed any mercy.

David McCullough has described American’s birth as its darkest time. There was so much uncertainty as to the future, but the new countries leaders worked hard to gain support from other nations to make sure the soldiers could be supplied and paid.

But I guess you can’t put all the blame on Bachmann or Palin for getting some of America’s history wrong. Even the famous portrait of the founding fathers signing the Constitution, prominently placed in capitol dome, never took place. And the story of George Washington and the cherry tree was made up by a family friend.

I watched a repeat of 60 Minutes on Sunday where they told the story of children going to sleep hungry because their parents lost their job, eventually the house, and couldn’t afford to give them food. You would never believe this story was taking place in America, and I’m sure it’s not what the founding fathers had in mind while they were risking their lives.

But when politicians rile up their base by inflating arguments, or walking out of rooms in a tantrum and refusing to negotiate, it demeans what the members of the Continental Congress built. Whether they thought the federal or state governments were the primary areas of influence, the point was for all sides to come together and debate what is best for all Americans, not just their constituencies. But if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, the country’s debt will be enormous and will only burden families further.

So as we all celebrate the holiday, let’s remember how our countries leaders came together to defeat the most powerful army the world has ever seen, and hope today’s leaders can only agree to disagree.

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