Chris Matthews was not pleased about the comments of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R – Neptune) concerning the history of race of in America. Bachmann had claimed that from the beginning, America treated all races and ethnic groups equally; Matthews repeatedly demanded of Tea Party Express and longtime GOP operative Sal Russo why he had allowed such a “balloon-head” to represent the Tea Party (uh, Chris, maybe because she is representative of it?).
But something else jumped out at me. The segment’s lead-in featured Bachmann wondering out loud whether this would be the last generation of American that lived in a free society, and whether “after 21 generations” [sic] we would “end the experiment” with freedom. Where had I heard this before?
Oh yes, from last generation’s Tea Party activist, Ronald Reagan, who claimed that if Medicare passed, “pretty soon your son won’t decide when he’s in school, where he will go or what he will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him,” and that “[w]e are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”
Reagan, of course, also loved to whitewash the American racial past: he opposed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act when they were debated, and (in)famously began his 1980 general election campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi — where civil rights workers were brutally murdered — in order to deliver a thinly-coded address on states’ rights.
So while I am glad that Matthews has suddenly decided to take these people on, there is really nothing new here. Michele Bachmann is the inheritor of the Reagan tradition, as is the Tea Party as a whole. Nothing in the supposedly crazy “new” Republican Party is different from what Reagan and his cohort planned in the 1980’s. Reagan was smoother and more jovial about it, but the press is supposed to see through such things. That it hasn’t shows us just how corrupt the national press corps has been for many decades.