Marco Rubio’s “Constitutional Scholar”

Jim Stratton at the Orlando Sentinel alerted me to an event held in central Florida yesterday in which tea party Senate candidate Marco Rubio aligned himself with Glenn Beck’s BFF David Barton.

Barton, the headline speaker at the event in support of Rubio’s candidacy, is the fundamentalist Christian promoter of “Christian American History” and a revisionist history of race in America that paints the Republican party as the party of racial equality. He also plays a big role in Glenn Beck’s “Founder’s Fridays,” his “university,” and the recent rally in Washington.

While Beck promotes Barton as a “professor,” the advertisements for this “free and open to the public” event called Barton is a “Constitutional Scholar.” Of course he is neither. But he is a key figure in American Protestant fundamentalism since the 1980s and, to a generation of Christian-schooled and homeschooled students, the authority on God’s role in American history.

New polls show Rubio winning 2-1 in a three way race with current Governor Charlie Crist and the Democratic candidate, Kendrick Meeks.

One might have expected Rubio to seek the support of the Beck and Barton crowd in a primary contest, but it’s a puzzle as to why he would do that now. And this wasn’t even a fundraiser. Rubio is often cited as the classic tea party candidate who doesn’t emphasize the religious right’s “social issues.” His appearance with Barton is just one piece of evidence that cuts against that argument. But then again that might just help him here in Florida.

jingerso@unf.edu'

Julie Ingersoll is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Florida. She is the author of Evangelical Christian Women: War Stories in the Gender Battles and is currently writing a book on the influence of Christian Reconstructionism.