It is significant that ignorance plays a large role in the politics of conservatives. I wish I could define that as â€œof ultra conservativesâ€, but ignorance has spread beyond the extreme right.
Gross ignorance, for instance, is at the heart of the tea party movement. It is not always as obvious as, for example, when someone in a recent tea party protest against health reform held up a sign that said, â€œGovt, keep your hands off my Medicare.â€ (Someone should have told that moron that Medicare is a government program; without government, there would be no Medicare.)
There are many other indicators of ignorance. Tea Partyists like to see themselves as reincarnations of the original patriots who founded this country. But dressing up as them is as close as they ever get, for the founding patriots were not at all like the tea partyists. They were about unity, stability and working together; they were not about disunity and destabilization. Above all, they did not protest taxation. In Boston, after the real historic tea party, they continued to pay their taxes to the colonial government. What they were opposed to was â€œtaxation without representationâ€, a different matter altogether. The present day tea partyists are actually the antithesis of the real tea party patriots.
The tea partyists do not want to accept the results of the last election. They are stridently anti-Obama, but to call him a Nazi and make him a latter-day Hitler is nothing short of absurd. Obama is the opposite of the extreme right wing that Nazism represents, and of the white race supreme leader of the Third Reich, whose minions set out to purge the land of non-white races, to destroy democracy, and to raid and smash homes and offices of opposition leaders. Uh oh! Itâ€™s beginning to sound like the behavior of some of the tea partyâ€™s very own members.
Other commentators have noted the racism that is at the heart of the tea party movement, so Iâ€™ll leave this one to them. â€œTake back America,â€ means in effect, â€œTake back America from a black president.â€
Away from the tea party, conservatives are on the move to rewrite the history books in their own image, especially in Texas, but also on radio and TV and in written publications. This is not simply an exercise in cynicism. It is a genuine exercise of ignorance. In this Right version, Franklin D. Roosevelt caused the Great Depression. (He didnâ€™t, but he was a Democrat, so letâ€™s blame him.) Theodore Roosevelt, one of the great Republican presidents, turns out to be a socialist. (He wasnâ€™t.) Jamestown in 1607 was a socialist experiment that (naturally) failed â€“ ignoring the fact that Jamestown was the result of a capitalist venture that set out to make a profit; it did come close to failure, but eventually made it. Joe McCarthy, who led the anti-communist witch hunts of the early 1950s, was actually an American hero and should not have been censured by the Senate. (The censure, incidentally, was led by Republicans.)
More details on the conservative effort to rewrite history are to be found at http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/04/01/91478/some-conservatives-rewrite-history.html.
Of course, to some extent, history can be interpreted in different ways. For instance, one might debate the extent to which Ronald Reaganâ€™s policies contributed to the breakup of the Soviet Union. The circumstances around this event are complex; some are open to interpretation, while others do not provide clear indications of significance. What are not open to interpretation are facts and first person statements. But these are exactly what the conservatives are fudging, glossing over, ignoring, or simply misrepresenting (that is, simply lying about) to make the case for their new version of history.
By politicizing history into their own image, they are doing what the very ideologies they most oppose do. These are precisely the activities that non-democratic totalitarian governments (such as Nazism and communism) indulge in to twist history into a model that supports and justifies their ideologies.