When you pay as much attention to politics as I do, you know that not a week goes by without some elected official, national candidate, or one of their staff members making some outlandish statement that shocks us, embarrasses us, or at least has us spewing coffee all over our keyboards.
It’s only gotten worse, or better, depending on your perspective, with the emergence of the Tea Party as a national political force, with affiliated, though nominally Republican, candidates who have actually gotten elected. For those of us keeping track, it seems like Congress, and the legislatures of several states, are increasingly being run by people who haven’t figured out how to live in a modern, civilized society. Many of them want to send us back in time at least 50 years, with all the attending social norms, and lack of scientific and cultural advances that have improved our way of living over time. Their pronouncements are alternately entertaining and horrifying. Some are roundly denounced, but more than a handful have made it into codified law.
Few lawmakers of this persuasion have garnered as much attention as Representative Michele Bachmann (R – Worldnetdaily). The Minnesota congresswoman has announced her impending retirement, denying that either an FBI ethics investigation or a strong Democratic challenger factored into her decision not to run in 2014. Bachmann hails from the Sarah Palin school of startling accusations, strange misstatements, and odd behavior, and has frequently been called a Tea Party “darling” for her outspokenness and her willingness to do things like deliver a Tea Party rebuttal to the State of the Union address. In a country desperately in need of more strong, female leadership figures, Bachmann’s high profile was particularly disheartening.
As she prepares to finish out her term, it’s worth looking at her legacy. It’s tempting for some of us to laugh at her more outrageous overreaches, and some of them are funny. However, in the past couple of years, it’s become clear that she’s not unique in her thinking, even if some of her statements are over the top. It remains to be seen how much influence the Tea Party will still have in the 2014 elections, and whether Americans have at last grown weary of lawmakers who appear impervious to facts.
Here is just a sample of Bachmann’s bizzare and sometimes dangerous behavior:
Advocating for media McCarthyism: Following in Sarah Palin’s footsteps, Bachmann was originally harping on some of the youthful associations of President Obama. Remember that whole “pallin’ around with terrorists” bit? But at the prompting of Hardball host Chris Matthews, Bachmann expanded her targets. “What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?” Sadly, in the last decade or so, “anti-American” has been defined by any right-winger, as anyone to the left of them.
Receiving federal and state payments for her husband’s “Pray the gay away” counseling services: Marcus Bachmann has been the target of all sorts of jokes around this, so I don’t need to go any further.
Claiming that the HPV vaccine caused mental retardation: Bachmann later backtracked from this assertion, saying that she had heard it from a constituent who claimed it had happened to her daughter. So, for those keeping score; proven vaccine science is dangerous, but discredited and psychologically damaging Bible-based therapy? Perfectly okay.
Suggesting that eliminating the minimum wage would eliminate unemployment: Add Bachmann to the disturbingly long list of people making the erroneous assertion that deliberate wage suppression will improve the economy.
Accusing Huma Abedin of being linked to Muslim extremists: This one wasn’t off the top of her head either. She documented it in a letter to the State Department! Really? Even John McCain had the grace to be embarrassed about this one. Never mind the racism and xenophobia inherent in that accusation — Abedin worked for Hillary Clinton during her time as Secretary of State, and is married to Anthony Wiener. When would she have time for terrorists?
Placing the start of the American Revolution in New Hampshire: Concord is the capitol of New Hampshire, but Lexington and Concord, where the battles of the American Revolution began, are in Massachusetts. Now maybe I’m particularly sensitive to this one because I’m a New Englander, but I’ll bet most people in Waterloo, Iowa know where the Revolution began.
Confusing John Wayne the actor and human mythic figure with John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer: “Well what I want them to know” Bachmann said, “is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That’s the kind of spirit that I have, too.” Actually, it was John Wayne Gacy who was born in Waterloo, as was Michele Bachmann. But if she does have Gacy’s kind of spirit, it would go a long way toward explaining those crazy-eyes she’s always giving the camera.
Of course, we likely haven’t seen the last of Congresswoman Bachmann. She has promised to continue to advance conservative constitutional principles in any way she can. No doubt she and her tin foil hat will soon take their rightful place in a regular FOX news segment, like many other outspoken former politicians.
I hear there’s some home studio equipment available in Wasilla.
Melissa Tingley is a writer, instructional designer, and ten-year veteran of her local school board. A history and political junkie, she showcases the stories behind heirloom objects at her new blog Artifactual.