Bachmann Gets American History a Bit Wrong

Michelle Bachmann gave a quick history lesson to the Iowans for Tax Relief. Unfortunately, it gets the facts a tad wrong.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) had an interesting take this weekend on America’s first European settlers, who she said “had different cultures, different backgrounds, different traditions.”

“How unique in all of the world, that one nation that was the resting point from people groups all across the world,” she said. “It didn’t matter the color of their skin, it didn’t matter their language, it didn’t matter their economic status.”

“Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable?” she asked.

And of course, by a “tad wrong,” I mean, utterly and completely wrong. I admit though, that I found this vision of American history rather naively sweet. But as a member of Congress, Michelle Bachmann has to grapple with policies dealing with the consequences of American racism, slavery, and genocide that still permeate our society today. Turning a blind eye to reality is bad history and makes for bad policymaking.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Franklin says:

    Can’t wait for her SOTU response …

  2. James Joyner says:

    Amusingly, I initially misread “Bachmann” as “Buchanan.” They’re disturbing for different reasons but one of them is a hell of a lot smarter.

  3. This isn’t a surprise.

    In 2009, she said that Swine Flu, which occurred during the Ford Adminsitration was A Democrat disease.

    She also said that the Great Depression started when FDR signed the Hoot-Smalley Tariff Bill.

    I wish I was making those things up

  4. James Joyner says:

    As to the substance of Bachmann’s homily, it’s relatively true vis-a-vis whites, anyway. Sure, new groups from Ireland, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere endured prejudices. But they managed to assimilate and just become “white people” within a generation or two. I’m not sure where else in the world they’ve managed to assimilate such a diverse group of people into a single nation.

    But, certainly, blacks had a hell of a less smooth ride. Or Amerindians. To a lesser extent mestizo Hispanics.

  5. sam says:

    Maybe she thinks all the boats docked in Minnesota.

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Sure, new groups from Ireland, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere endured prejudices. But they managed to assimilate and just become “white people” within a generation or two.

    It took longer than that. “English-only” laws were first struck down in the 20th centuried as applied to German-speaking schools. The same Germans that Benjamin Franklin complained about:

    “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.”

    Even in 1960, people were afraid of JFK’s Catholicism, and Al Smith probably lost his election because he was Catholic.

  7. tom p says:

    >>>But they managed to assimilate and just become “white people” within a generation or two.<<<

    Not to pick at nits James (ok well maybe) My grandparents came over from slovenia in 1900 and 1902. very catholic. In 1960 a catholic ran for the white house and there was much speculation as to whether he would take his orders from the Pope (and while I was growing up in the 60s and 70s I heard more than a little anti-catholic crap). Jews are still quite commonly forced to deal with anti-semitism. And Mormons? And think about Muslims….

    Religous bigotry is as strong today as it ever was (only the target has changed) and the color of ones skin makes very little difference.

  8. wr says:

    And let’s not forget how eagerly all those Chinese laborers were welcomed into society.

  9. Vast Variety says:

    Bachmann has never let facts get in the way before, I doubt she is going to start paying attention to them any time soon.

  10. Davebo says:

    Speaking to Iowans or Tax relief?

    It seems she has aspirations for higher office and given the current state of the GOP that may not be a crazy as it sounds.

  11. James Joyner says:

    Alex and tom p: Fair enough. But Germans and Jews and Mormons pass a “white” all the time! If you go around speaking German or distinguishing yourself by unusual customs, you’ll likely get singled out. But that’s a different thing than, say, being discriminated against on the basis of something immutable like skin tone.

  12. tom p says:

    “But that’s a different thing than, say, being discriminated against on the basis of something immutable like skin tone.”

    But than, I suppose discrimination is in the eye of the beholder? James, if one is being discriminated against, I don’t think the reason why makes it any better or worse, or even that much “different”.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    I’d love someone to do a piece on the founding myths of other countries. Are the Russians, Japanese, Spaniards, French etc… as relentlessly full of crap as we are when it comes to our national story?

  14. Franklin says:

    I guess I wasn’t aware the English and Germans had a noticeably different complexion. And here I thought Ben Franklin was smart!

    Amusingly, I initially misread “Bachmann” as “Buchanan.” They’re disturbing for different reasons but one of them is a hell of a lot smarter.

    Both funny and true.

  15. petey says:

    “How unique in all of the world, that one nation…” Er, unique? Except for, I guess, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Peru, etc….but I digress.

  16. tom p says:

    >>>>Alex and tom p: Fair enough. But Germans and Jews and Mormons pass a “white” all the time! <<<<

    And James, I "pass “white” all the time!” too…

    except for when I don’t. I work outside and I get VERY dark (I am darker than at least 35% of blacks)(funny story, had a neighbors girl look at me and say, “Your white!” to which I said, “Shiiiiit girl, I’s blacker than you!”)(and I was)(in fact, my sons thought I was a “whiter black”…) , and I have VERY kinky hair

    I even got pulled over for DWB once.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    Sometimes I pass for “nice.” Until I, you know, say something.

  18. anjin-san says:

    > But, certainly, blacks had a hell of a less smooth ride. Or Amerindians. To a lesser extent mestizo Hispanics.

    I think you are overlooking Chinese immigrants, who were treated very poorly indeed. The history of Japanese immigrants does not furnish us with our finest moments either.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    Anjin:

    See, it’s kind of like hazing. If by hazing you mean ethnic cleansing, enslavement and genocide.

  20. Phid says:

    Mr. Alex Knapp has taken Ms. Bachmann’s words out of context. Did she really turn a “blind eye to reality” (e.g. slavery) as he claims? Watch the original video and you’ll see that she DOES mention the stain of slavery in American history shortly after making the statements Knapp quotes.