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Over the weekend, in a speech delivered to the Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann caught those in attendance off guard when she informed them that New Hampshire was “the state where the shot was heard around the world at Lexington and Concord.”

Rather than own up to her mistake (both Lexington and Concord are in Massachusetts) and move on, Rep. Bachmann instead blamed the media for blowing her ignorance of American history out of proportion. “This is just what we get,” said Rep. Bachmann, when “the 3,400 members of the mainstream media are a part of the Obama press contingent.”

Respectfully Rep. Bachmann, I disagree. This is what we get when the most vocal “patriots” focus on political gain rather than honoring our political traditions and shared history. This is what we get when our elected leaders throw unsubstantiated rhetoric at the opposing party rather than make intelligible arguments based on fact and policy.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a new development. In the lead-up to and aftermath of the 2008 election, anti-intellectualism and the general dumbing-down of political discourse was one of many factors pointed to as a cause of the Republican party’s disastrous results. Unfortunately, rather than attempting to right the ship, the Republican party doubled-down.

Just within the last week, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum criticized President Kennedy for his belief that in America, “the separation of church and state is absolute.” Santorum called Kennedy’s view “a radical statement” that did “great damage.” He concluded his remarks on
Kennedy’s comments by quipping that “[Thomas] Jefferson is spinning in his grave.”

Thomas Jefferson is certainly spinning in his grave, but definitely not for the reasons that Mr. Santorum stated. Had Mr. Santorum bothered to do a 30 second Google search, he would have learned that Jefferson was very clearly for the “building [of] a wall of separation between church and State.” He would have also learned that Jefferson authored the Jefferson Bible, an edited version of the holy book that purposefully removed the divinity of Jesus Christ, along with a number of letters stating his strong opposition to the mixing of religion and politics.

Meanwhile, Glenn Beck, the unofficial mascot of the Tea Party, equated reform Rabbis to radical Islamists and suggested that the devastation in Japan was caused by our inaction concerning radical Islam in America.

Not to be outdone, perennial Republican contender Mike Huckabee criticized President Obama for his Kenyan upbringing. The only problem? President Obama didn’t step foot in Kenya until well into his 20s. Instead of apologizing, Huckabee stated that he “simply misspoke,” and ignored the rest of the statement in which he referenced Kenyan history and Obama’s childhood experiences with his Kenyan father and grandfather. Contrary to Huckabee’s beliefs, Obama grew up with Kansas Republican grandparents in Hawaii. It seems that as long as there is political hay to be made, the facts be damned.

Thirty years ago, these “leaders” would have been ridiculed as intellectually bankrupt. Whatever happened to the days of learned conservative intellectuals such as William F. Buckley Jr., Ludwig von Mises, or Barry Goldwater who could engage in substantive debate at a cerebral level? These were conservatives who did not have to resort to fabricating “death panels” or comparing their critics to Nazi sympathizers to put forth their world view in a compelling way.  

David Brooks had it right back in 2008 when he said that the modern trend in “conservative” leadership “represent[s] a fatal cancer to the Republican party.” The current crop of conservative leaders and presidential hopefuls are falling all over each other in an attempt to distinguish themselves as the most ignorant guy or gal next door, rather than an educated and pragmatic leader.  

Unfortunately, it seems that the Republican party is dead set in their race to the intellectual bottom. The problem is that no matter the outcome, the loser of that race is the American people.

Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue