Jim DeMint, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation and latest spiritual guru of the tea party, told a Christian radio host last week completely un-ironically that "the conscience of the American people" freed the slaves in the 1860's, not "big government."
DeMint—who, being a former Republican senator from South Carolina, knows a thing or two about the institution of slavery and its role in the South's secession—Dixiesplained his historically bafflegab thesis to Jerry Newcombe, the head of a South Florida right-wing ministry whose last big coup was a documentary about President Obama's socialism starring Michele Bachmann.
Right Wing Watch was johnny-on-the-spot with DeMint's bizarre Civil War revisionism (emphasis added):
DeMint: This progressive, the whole idea of being progressive is to progress away from those ideas that made this country great. What we're trying to conserve as conservative are those things that work. They work today, they work for young people, they work for minorities and we can change this country and change its course very quickly if we just remember what works.
Newcombe: What if somebody, let's say you're talking with a liberal person and they were to turn around and say, 'that Founding Fathers thing worked out really well, look at that Civil War we had eighty years later.'
DeMint: Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to 'all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights' in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.
There are too many hilarious factual inaccuracies in this short passage to count in short measure, so I'll just tackle a few. Feel free to add more in the contents:
- Pretty sure the Union Army counts as "big government."
- Pretty sure Abe Lincoln counts as "big government."
- Pretty sure Abe Lincoln articulated how what we now derisively call "big government" was actually the democratically representative conscience of the American people with which DeMint tries to garb himself here. Pretty sure that's why Lincoln, in his Gettysburg address, defended the war against slavemongers as a "new birth of freedom," a fight to ensure "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
- Pretty sure the consciences of abolitionists didn't end slavery, unless by "the consciences of abolitionists" you mean "U.S. Grant's willingness to throw wave after wave of soldiers at the exhausted Confederate Virginia reserves until they finally, grudgingly, gave up the ghost."
- Pretty sure the pro-slavery South didn't put much stock in the U.S. Constitution, especially when setting up their own. "Let us be no longer duped by paper securities," a leading secessionist from DeMint's home state said of the American founding fathers' crowning achievement just before South Carolina led the mass split from the Union.
- In fact, here's that same secessionist from DeMint's backyard, articulating the conscience of the American people in that backyard, in 1861: "[A]s there is no common bond of sympathy or interest between the North and the South, all efforts to preserve this Union will not only be fruitless but fatal to the less numerous section."
- Actually, it wasn't the Constitution of the founding fathers that ended slavery, although it did set up a nice scheme for white landed Southerners to get federal big-gubment representation for a share of their slaves. The Constitution didn't weigh in until the South was broken and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were passed, according to this link from this place where DeMint used to work.
- Funny that DeMint mentions William Wilberforce, a wealthy elite Briton who sat in Parliament, as a paragon of America's anti-slavery spirit, but he doesn't mention John Brown, the American religious zealot who did some killin' to make his abolitionist viewpoint known.
- Oh, and also, slavery may have ended de jure between 1863 and 1865, but "the conscience of the American people," especially in the South, was sorta slow to catch up, both back then and also more recently.
But hey, these are mere facts. Facts that were probably approved by some Common Core Big Government Socialist someplace. Tyrannical facts! The conscience of the American people knows better.
Which is why DeMint took the rest of his time on the radio show to explain that the conscience of the American people consists in denying same-sex life partners the same financial and social benefits enjoyed by straight couples. Do you hear Jim DeMint, American conscience? Of course you do. He is you: L'amérique, c'est moi!
[Photo credit: AP]