When she’s not spending her time with Utah’s Ken Ivory trying to privatize public lands or promoting the militia movement, State Senator Jennifer Fielder seems to enjoy spending time at right wing conferences deepening her lack of knowledge. Her latest foray? Posting excitedly about having spent the weekend learning from the discredited, extremist “historian” David Barton at his Pro Family Legislators Conference in Dallas, where she learned about topics like the dangers of “homosexual indoctrination” and just how much Jesus loved concealed carry and the Second Amendment.
Who is David Barton? Well, the Southern Poverty Law Center explains him well. After publication of a book about Thomas Jefferson that was so riddled with errors and outright lies that the History News Network called it “the least credible history book in print” and a coalition of evangelical ministers asked for it to be taken out of print, Barton seemed to fade back into the fringe:
Barton still retains some influence, but only in the most extreme and uneducated segments of the Christian Right. Virtually all serious conservatives have repudiated him, and his chances of making a comeback seem remote, to be kind, although he sounds just as glib and sure as himself as ever.
It doesn’t take much time searching to uncover just how terrible a historian and person David Barton is. One of my favorite pieces comes from the Atlantic, which discussed his belief that the religious faith of the Founders has been hidden by a conspiracy of godless historians and his belief that John Randolph was a secret Muslim:
In a sane era, Barton would be peddling hand-typed manifestos on a street corner in his hometown of Aledo, Texas. But in our time, his deviant “history” has been assiduously mainstreamed by politicians eager to use religion as a divisive force.
Indeed, Mr. Barton has become a major force in the reactionary, fact-free world of today’s Republican Party. Mike Huckabee said that every American would be better off if forced at gunpoint to listen to Barton expound on his theories, which include the belief that:
- the American Revolution was fought to end slavery.
- that the Founding Fathers debated and decided evolution wasn’t true, despite Darwin not writing his works until well after the Founders were dead.
- HIV and AIDS are the manifestations of God’s will and anger about homosexuality.
- Martin Luther King should be removed from the Texas history books.
- borders between countries were ordained by God.
Don’t believe those liberals in the press? Well, evangelical historians have denounced Barton, too, saying that his works are “guilty of taking statements and actions out of context and simplifying historical circumstances” and that “he misses or omits obvious signs” that don’t agree with his preconceived notions.
Former Republican Senator Arlen Specter describes Barton’s work as “pseudoscholarship would hardly be worth discussing, let alone disproving, were it not for the fact that it is taken so very seriously by so many people.”
And, of course, Barton has been linked to the white supremacist movement, speaking at events hosted by the Christian Identity movement, “which “asserts that Jews are ‘the synagogue of Satan’; that Blacks and other people of color are subhuman; and that northern European whites and their American descendants are the ‘chosen people’ of scriptural prophesy.”
Not satisfied? Perhaps you’d like to listen to Barton explain that carbon dioxide is a biblically proven “coolant” to prevent global warming or that the story of the Tower of Babel from the Bible is a critique of modern socialism and a stirring condemnation of bricks.
That Barton is a bigot, xenophobe and huckster seems not to matter to fringe Republicans like Fielder. Barton, who holds no advanced degree and who has never taught at a legitimate academic institution is called “Professor Barton” by his followers and has been appointed to boards that write history curriculum across the country, according to Sourcewatch.
And this is what we’re dealing with in Montana and across the country. As the Republican Party abandons reason for madness, logic for idiocy, and lies for facts, the ability to have meaningful dialogue and discussion simply vanishes. Mrs. Fielder is certainly entitled to her own views, but she’s not entitled to her own facts; nor is she entitled to impose her ahistorical vision on the people of Montana she’s supposed to represent.
As the gulf between rationality and the Republican Party grows, so does the hope of ever finding any common ground on the issues that do matter to the people of this state.
It matters when the dominant political party in our state has been taken over by people who not only don’t understand history and the law but who believe that their incorrect understanding is the incontrovertible truth. It matters when they get their history from people who support and endorse discrimination. And it matters when this takeover of the Republican Party has largely been ignored.