A few years ago, Cynthia Dunbar played a central role in the great Texas textbook controversies, moving to inject creationism into the curricula and eliminate Thomas Jefferson from American history — all while blasting public schools as “tyrannical” and calling for making the judicial branch “subordinate” to Congress.
Now, she’s gunning for the Republican nomination for Virginia’s 6th congressional district.
And she appears favored to win — but not without stirring a brand new round of controversy that stems from watching the district GOP re-write the rules to all but ensure her nomination.
With Dunbar’s rise, national voices on both sides of the aisle are perking up about the controversy. After all, whoever comes out of Saturday’s convention for the Republican nomination seems close to a lock to win in November — except Dunbar, who Republicans fear will torpedo their chances at holding onto the solid red district.
Dunbar, who claims she’s an “American patriot,” first made waves nearly a decade ago when she helped kick off the greatest education-related controversy the country has seen in a generation.
As a member of the Texas State Board of Education (TSBOE) from 2007 to 2010, Dunbar played a pivotal role in turning a local debate about American history into a country-wide conversation about the outsized role Texas educational policies play across the U.S. Along the way, Dunbar revealed the depths of revisionism she and her allies wanted to push across the state, and ultimately the nation.
From the outset, Dunbar’s placement on the TSBOE was an odd choice. An outspoken proponent of homeschooling, Dunbar — who had insisted that Barack Obama was a terrorist sympathizer — wrote a 2008 book entitled One Nation Under God: How the Left is Trying to Erase What Made us Great that laid out many of the policies she would later advocate. Among the lowlights that the Texas Freedom Network discovered:
- Dunbar believes the Founding Fathers, all evidence aside, created “an emphatically Christian government,” one that should require a “biblical litmus test” among government officials. Dunbar’s proposed changes would force all government officials to “have a sincere knowledge and appreciation for the Word of God in order to rightly govern.”
- She also believes that public schools are “clearly tyrannical,” and challenges any kind of “compulsory education.”
- In keeping with her fundamentalist beliefs, Dunbar argues that the separation of church and state is a fallacy — and notes, as The Roanoke Times wrote, that it’s “impossible to be both a Christian and a Democrat.”
- As if that weren’t enough, she would make the judicial branch “subordinate” to the legislative branch — effectively undoing one of the primary separations of power in the U.S.
Many of those suggestions eventually found their way into Dunbar’s proposals for Texas textbooks. These proposals sought to de-emphasize evolution, and inject the teaching of “intelligent designs” — a form of creationism — into teaching. As the Washington Post noted, Dunbar also “advanc[ed] the notion that the United States is a Christian nation,” and lent credence to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s “Red Scare” hearings during the 1950s.
Perhaps most memorably, Dunbar made efforts to remove references to Thomas Jefferson, who encouraged the separation of church and state. As The Guardian wrote, “Several changes include sidelining Thomas Jefferson, who favored separation of church and state, while introducing a new focus on the ‘significant contributions’ of pro-slavery Confederate leaders” during the Civil War.
While many of Dunbar’s efforts were thwarted by her colleagues on the TSBOE, her historical malfeasance didn’t end there. In 2016, Dunbar, then working at an educational curriculum company, submitted a proposed textbook focused on Mexican-American history. Unsurprisingly, that textbook was drenched in racist language, from stereotyping Mexicans as “lazy” to claiming that Chicanos had “adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society.”
The criticism was swift. One member of the state’s education board called it a “racially offensive academic work.” Another history professor at South Texas College told NPR that there was “no way this textbook can be corrected. The errors are so extensive… [It] really is not a textbook. It is a polemic.”
Onward to Congress
In the wake of the embarrassment and blow-back that stemmed from her attempt to literally rewrite the history books — to say nothing of a resounding loss in her attempt to win a congressional seat in Texas’s 22nd district — Dunbar eventually uprooted for Virginia.
While there, she became Virginia’s national committeewoman to the RNC. She even spent time stumping for Roy Moore, the former Alabama Senate candidate accused by multiple women of preying on young girls.
"We have to return the knowledge of God and the Constitution of the United States to the United States Congress," soon to be US Sen Moore!!!
— Cynthia N Dunbar (@CynthiaNDunbar) September 27, 2017
Now, Dunbar is ready to move on to take over the seat of outgoing Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). She’s gathered endorsements from the likes of Ron Paul, Michelle Bachmann, and Allen West — fringe figures all — as well as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). And despite the fact that there are seven other contenders for the Republican ticket, the local GOP appears ready to use whatever means it can to assure Dunbar’s win. They seem to have assumed that Dunbar, as the most pro-Trump candidate of the bunch, can ride the president’s coat-tails to an easy win.
In looking to help Dunbar, the district’s Republican committee opted for a convention instead of a primary. Moreover, they changed the rules to allow the winner to be declared not when a candidate receives a majority of the votes, but when they simply receive a plurality of the votes cast.
Since the change was announced, almost all of Dunbar’s Republican challengers have expressed their opposition. Six of them even signed a letter noting that “efforts to trample the rights of voters in the Sixth District shows an unethical abuse of power in favor of one candidate.” That candidate? Dunbar, who has made her support for the change clear.
— Cynthia N Dunbar (@CynthiaNDunbar) January 9, 2018
Suddenly, what should have been an effective lock for Republicans — the district hasn’t elected a Democrat in decades — has become yet another question for GOP higher-ups.
Toss in FEC complaints and accusations of forged letterheads, and Virginia’s 6th has swiftly become one of the most surprisingly bizarre primaries of the season. What’s more, the likeliest outcome includes watching the Republicans nominate a woman who would shove Thomas Jefferson to the side, inject creationism into American curricula, and take her claims of “tyrannical” public schools nationwide — and see the Democrats watch another potential seat come into play along the way.