Who the hell is David Barton?
You may not know him, but he promises to be a big behind-the-scenes influence in the 2012 Republican presidential race. David Barton is an ordained minister and self-taught Christian historian, whose ambition, according to a remarkably soft profile in The New York Times, “is to use America’s past to remake its future.”
From his headquarters in Aledo, TX, Barton is on a campaign to prove that the Founding Fathers set out to create a Christian nation, one which amazingly looks a lot like the religious’ rights idea of Heavenly Paradise. Barton claims the Bible opposes the minimum wage law and the estate tax, but (you know it) supports DOMA.
Among those who say they value his advice (which includes claiming a 1792 debate about codfish proves James Madison opposed a federal stimulus) are Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachman—or about half of the Murderers’ Row of Tea Party presidential wannabes. The Times quotes Huckabee as calling Barton “maybe the greatest living historian on the spiritual nature of America’s early days,” which will probably come as a surprise to anyone with a graduate degree in history.
“We present American history, and we do so with a Providential perspective,” says Barton. “In short, history not only shows God’s workings and plans but it also demonstrates the effectiveness of biblical principles when applied to church, education, government, economics, family, entertainment, military or any other aspect of life.” According to Barton, the Founding Fathers had a direct pipeline to the Almighty, which is pretty amazing because many of them were Deists who wouldn’t cut the mustard with the religious right if they were walking around today.
No dicredited right-wing historian would be complete without a big antigay component. According to a recent report from People for the American Way, Barton believes the government needs to get into gay bedrooms because the government should regulate what’s bad for your health and (you can see this one coming) “homosexuals die decades earlier than heterosexuals,” a canard based on a thoroughly discredit study of 20 years ago by anti-gay activist Paul Cameron. And Barton also trots out the old chestnut that civilizations that “rejected sexual regulation” collapsed. Sure it was too much sex that brought down empires–certainly not horrible combinations of war, famine, corruption and evil regimes.
Can you imagine the right-wing fury if a prominent Democrat paid homage to a socialist historian? Think about what this means for a second: The GOP has moved so far to the right that few even bother to bat an eye when the party’s leading presidential candidates quote a man who would literally replace the U.S. Constitution with biblical law, a man who does not believe in democracy as it is practiced in open societies. If George W. Bush was the first religious conservative president, will Gingrich, et al be the first openly theocratic candidates?
One thing you can count on with someone like Barton: much as he likes to dish out vile lies, he can’t take any criticism. “If there’s a group in America that is hypersensitive, it is homosexuals,” Barton whined last fall. “I mean, they got a short fuse on everything. You’re a homophobe, you’re a whatever and anything you say or do, they interpret as coming after them.”
How did we ever got that idea?
Photo credit: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times