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Jun 02 2013

The future of Michele Bachmann

So Michele Bachmann, one of Congress’s most colorful people, has decided not to run for re-election in 2014. It was a rapid fall from winning the Ames (Iowa) Straw Poll for the Republican presidential nomination in August 2011, to finishing sixth in the same state’s caucuses in January 2012 that resulted in her dropping out of the race, and barely holding on to her congressional seat in November.

I always had the impression that Bachmann really believed all the crazy things she said. She was not dishonest in that sense. And she had her admirers, as we see from this effusive praise from Scott Johnson at the influential conservative blog Powerline.

I first saw Michele in action as a candidate for the Minnesota state senate in mid-2000, speaking to a group of Twin Cities Republican women. She had just knocked off an incumbent Republican squish for the nomination and was working like a dog to win the race. Watching her compelling presentation to the Republican women’s group, I thought I had never seen anyone quite like her. She was smart. She was beautiful. She was conservative. She was ebullient. She had a great personal story. She was a proud mother of five kids and had served as a foster mother of twenty-three more. She was, in other words, someone liberals could really hate.

As a minority member of the state senate she quickly established herself as a culture warrior and a bête noire of Minnesota liberals, including the bunch over at the Star Tribune. They hate her with the special fury that liberals reserve for beautiful conservative women, but it doesn’t seem to bother her. [My italics-MS]

As indicated, there is a substantial segment of the Republican party that devoutly believes in the old proverb that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, and measures the worth of a candidate by how much he or she seems to be opposed by liberals. The more ridicule they receive from the ‘wrong’ people, the better they are assumed to be. It does not seem to matter that the liberals were laughing at her and never feared her.

What will Bachmann’s future be? While she resembles Sarah Palin in her mercurial rise and fall and abrupt retirement from elected office, she does not have Palin’s grifter skills. Palin strikes me as someone who knows how to exploit the seething resentments of people for her own gain, and will tailor her words accordingly. You can almost see her calculating mind at work. She knows how to throw them just enough red meat, go just far enough to rouse up her audience, without coming off as totally unhinged.

But Bachmann strikes me as a true believer who does not have that internal calibration mechanism but goes all in, which is why I disagree with Nicole Russell’s view that but for a few missteps, she could have been a serious player in politics. She was always headed for a fall, the only question being what would ultimately trip her. For that same reason, I cannot see her being able to milk her popularity for personal gain the same way that Palin has.

I can, however, see her becoming more and more enmeshed with groups that share her paranoid fantasies. I fear that it will not end well for her.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    cottonnero

    I wonder what sort of effect the ethics charges and lawsuits will have on her future, too. (And, of course, how much trouble is being sidestepped by her self-deportation from politics.)

    Does the distinction you make, between a calculating grifter and a true believer, make much of a difference in the Republican after-dinner circuit?

  2. 2
    slc1

    Actually, she is probably considerably smarter then Palin and will probably have a lucrative future as a commentator on the fascist news channel.

  3. 3
    smhll

    But Bachmann strikes me as a true believer who does not have that internal calibration mechanism but goes all in, which is why I disagree with Nicole Russell’s view that but for a few missteps, she could have been a serious player in politics.

    Although I find her views very extreme and offensive, I would agree with you that she doesn’t appear to be calculating, especially compared to typical politicians. She seems to be motivated by her religious convictions. (Shudder.) She may be harder-working than Palin. I find her and Santorum to be similarly scary, but Santorum always looked like more of an electoral threat.

  4. 4
    Thomas

    She was, in other words, someone liberals could really hate.

    Oh yes. It was her looks, intelligence, and family life that really fired liberals up and not her insane position on social issues.

  5. 5
    Seeker

    Palin, without the help of the GOP, is quickly revealing herself to be not-very-good at telling people what they want to hear. She’s a one-trick pony, and it seems that more and more people are wising up to that.

  6. 6
    atheist

    Your take on Bachmann is persuasive. Us liberal, secular types often impute cynical motives to the religious right. But this tendency says more about us than about them. On some level it is painful for seculars to accept that these lunatics are serious, but they often are.

  7. 7
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    It does not seem to matter that the liberals were laughing at her and never feared her.

    Truth, that; I only feared people would vote for her.

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