Huckabee Tweets Image of Supporter Wearing Misleading Thomas Jefferson Pro-Gun ‘Quote’
Ahh, I wonder what the spirit of founding father Thomas Jefferson must think about being so frequently misrepresented by Americans who think his ideals — and quotes — justify their own ideologies. Most often, conservative elected officials and right-of-center voters find refuge in TJ writings and references, arguing that someone as influential as Jefferson must know best for how to govern the country today.
Like conservatives who run counter to President Barack Obama‘s policies who justify their outrage with “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism” (not Jefferson) or the Evangelicals who like to cite “The Bible is the source of liberty” (not Jefferson, either). Nevermind the fact that Jefferson widely believed that the governing legislative document of our country — the same Constitution heralded by Republicans — should face renewed scrutiny every generation and “naturally expire” every nineteen years or so. So much for “defending the Constitution“.
Where were we? Oh, right. Republicans love to quote Jefferson and pretend he speaks for them. Enter GOP
future “former” candidate Mike Huckabee, who tweeted out the following photo on Saturday afternoon:
“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” This Navy Veteran in Indianola, IA proudly supports gun rights pic.twitter.com/CQpP4hJnC6
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) January 2, 2016
Now it’s not the man in the photo’s fault, who Huckabeee identifies as a Navy veteran in Indianola, Iowa. That man, like any other person in uniform, deserves to be recognized and thanked for his sacrifices. However, the Jefferson quote in question is incompletely presented at best, and actually runs counter to what Huckabee is implying with the image.
The quote — “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms” — stems from the development of the Virginia state Constitution in 1776. In structure, the Constitution for Jefferson’s home state runs similarly enough to James Madison‘s national Constitution, but the quote on key drafts of the document includes one very clear distinction that the maker of this man’s shirt conveniently ignores:
“No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms [within his own lands or tenements]”.
Presenting the quote as Huckabee does above is far removed from Jefferson’s intention with the thought, as all evidence to later drafts reveal the critical addition and clarification that suggests Jefferson’s true thoughts on the subject: that the emphasis falls on private gun ownership. It doesn’t take a Virginia lawyer-turned-politician to see why the second part of the phrase is just too inconvenient to fit the agenda of the modern-day right wing of American politics.
But really, who needs to present the truth? After all, it’s much easier just to slap Thomas Jefferson’s name at the end of any quote to add substance to your talking point. Shall we demonstrate?
“And, of course, many people know the story when I was 14 and I tried to stab someone.” – Thomas Jefferson
“I saw Supergirl on TV, I saw it when I was working out this morning. There’s an ad promoting Supergirl, she looked kind of — she looked pretty hot.” – Thomas Jefferson
“Thomas Jefferson is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on!” – Thomas Jefferson
Mediaite is still researching for any Thomas Jefferson quotes that discuss what to do when you’re a flailing Republican candidate polling at 2%, but we will update this post accordingly if we turn up anything.
[image via Twitter]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.