Sunday, July 3, 2011

Michele Bachmann and John Quincy Adams

It is amusing – and richly ironic – that Michele Bachmann should mistakenly honor John Quincy Adams by including him among the Founding Fathers. After all, Bachmann herself ain’t no J. Q. Adams.

Rather than revere Adams, Michele Bachmann should invoke Adams’ rival and successor, Andrew Jackson. Bachmann – a fiery populist of our day – is much more a Jackson than an Adams.

Jackson – the champion of frontier populism who trounced John Quincy Adams in 1828 – was not a college graduate, hated banks, scoffed at pretense, welcomed confrontation and, of course, killed a man in a duel. His raucous inauguration party caused Washington socialites to cringe at the drunken, unlettered masses.

John Quincy Adams, on the other hand, was a proper establishment politician – Harvard-educated and articulate – who deplored the Jacksonian crowd. When Jackson was to be given an honorary degree by Harvard, Adams refused to attend Harvard’sdisgrace in conferring her highest literary honors on a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar and could hardly spell his own name.”

Jackson supposedly replied that, “It is a damn poor mind which can't think of at least two ways to spell any word.” He would not give his speech in Latin, as was customary, since the only Latin words he knew were E pluribus unum, sine qua non, multum in parvo, quid pro quo, and ne plus ultra.

Throughout U.S. history, politicians from ordinary backgrounds – Lincoln, Sockless Jerry Simpson of the 1880s, Harry Truman and now Bachmann – have suffered ridicule from parties of privilege and power.

Bachmann – who worked her way through college, raised five children, and emerged from the unglamorous dust of school-board fights to win a seat in Congress – had little time to master the details of U.S. History. But she has mastered her understanding of her constituency and has Jackson-like self-confidence and grit.

Personally, I have had a great education and could thrash any candidate when it comes to sorting out the Adamses. I know, for example, that Sam Adams was a revolutionary firebrand of the 1770s… and that Sam Adams is also my favorite brand of beer.

On the other hand, I would not like to stand up to Michelle Bachmann in a debate, no matter how thin her knowledge of history… and though I can recall a couple of lines of Virgil in Latin, I could never have faced Andrew Jackson across 10 paces of stony ground with pistols raised.

brandsinger

5 comments:

Larry Ackerman\ said...

I am studiously apolitical, given the lack of integrity that follows politicians around, naturally.

Yet, I cannot understand what forces of nature allow someone like Michele Bachmann to be able to - or want to - run for president.

In a recent speech, she said how proud CT residents must feel about Paul Revere being a favorite son. Niiiiiiice, Michele. Talk to MA!!

All I see in her is a Sarah Palin look-alike, who is flying on the wings of a lost Republican party that is being fueled by the noxious gasses of the Tea Party.

What a sad commentary on the state of politics in America.

brandsinger said...

Thanks for the comment, Larry.

I seriously doubt that Bachmann or Palin would do well on a history exam.

On the other hand, the people who marched the nation into the Vietnam War in the 1960s were highly educated Ivy-Leaguers, just as our financial elite led the nation into economic crisis in 2008. That's why I don't automatically equate advanced education with political wisdom or understanding of prudent policies.

Ever served on a jury? surprisingly true: ordinary citizens of average schooling usually (though not always) get it right.

brandsinger (your own true democrat!)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure anyone would characterize Michelle Bachman as an ordinary citizen... She seems to be a stalwart member of the right-wing demagogues of our time--a side show which is leading our country into ruin, feeding the politicotainment sector which discourages our citizens and makes us feel as though we live in some banana republic--or Italy, but without the dolce vita...

Anonymous said...

I just hope MB doesn't compare herself to Jackson and win the election. Of course, most of her supporters would think she's comparing herself to Michael Jackson.

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