Michele Bachmann’s Excellent Adventure

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, June 23, 2011 12:53 EDT
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Matt Taibbi has an excellent profile up about Michele Bachmann, and why she's no laughing matter (not that this has ever stopped me).  It's tempting to quote it at length, but then that would imply I had just the best parts, and really you should read the whole thing.  Just read it for the part where Taibbi describes Bachmann fancying herself a spy and hiding in the bushes at a gay rights rally.  

But I will quote a couple of relevant parts:

Snickering readers in New York or Los Angeles might be tempted by all of this to conclude that Bachmann is uniquely crazy. But in fact, such tales by Bachmann work precisely because there are a great many people in America just like Bachmann, people who believe that God tells them what condiments to put on their hamburgers, who can't tell the difference between Soviet Communism and a Stafford loan, but can certainly tell the difference between being mocked and being taken seriously. When you laugh at Michele Bachmann for going on MSNBC and blurting out that the moon is made of red communist cheese, these people don't learn that she is wrong. What they learn is that you're a dick, that they hate you more than ever, and that they're even more determined now to support anyone who promises not to laugh at their own visions and fantasies……

Given how Bachmann's stature rises every time she does something we laugh at, it's no wonder she's set her strangely unfocused eyes on the White House. Since arriving in Congress, she has been a human tabloid-copy machine, spouting one copy-worthy lunacy after another. She launched a fierce campaign against compact fluorescent lights, claiming that the energy-saving bulbs contain mercury and pose a "very real threat to children, disabled people, pets, senior citizens." She blasted the 2010 census as a government plot and told people not to comply because the U.S. Constitution doesn't require citizens to participate, when in fact it does. She told her constituents to be "armed and dangerous" in their resistance to cap-and-trade limits on climate-warming pollution. She insisted that Obama's trip to India cost taxpayers $200 million a day, and claimed that Nancy Pelosi had spent $100,000 on booze on state-paid flights aboard military jets.

She has a real knack for self-mythologizing that far exceeds Sarah Palin's, as well.  I think it's because she hasn't ever really tried to put some air between herself and the Bible-thumping shit, but Palin has her eye on mainstream fame and that tends to compromise her.  You can't be stitching crosses onto Bristol's "Dancing With The Stars" costumes, you know.  As I noted yesterday at Double X, Bachmann has at least  half a dozen origin stories, which are manipulated to suit different audiences.  Taibbi discovered a few more.  I blamed evangelical culture for it, because it's a culture that encourages repeated "conversions" and other blatant lies in order to heighten emotion; I'm sure they justify it as a "higher truth" sort of thing.  But I'm stubbornly stuck on that "real truth comes first" thing myself.  

Anyway, the one quarrel I have with Taibbi is he believes Bachmann's appeal is strictly towards the overtly religious fanatics, or at least the people who still think the commies put mind control substances in the drinking water.  I think there's a possibility that she pulls in some of the cultural resentment vote, too.  It's that light bulbs thing.  When I first heard Bachmann screeching about the evils of fluorescent light bulbs, I thought, "That there is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."  And it is!  I think it's the combination of paranoia plus resentment plus the smallness of it—we're in two wars and the economy is in tatters, but Republicans like  her and Rand Paul can't get over the fact that their light bulbs are twisty now, like some kind of queer weirdo  hippie light bulbs. 

But what I've since found is pretty much every conservative in the country, whether they're a social conservative or a get-off-my-lawn-and-go-to-jail-hippie conservative (or some combination), is full blown pissed off about those fucking light bulbs.  The theme that unites right wing populists is that they all imagine themselves to be mini-Attila the Huns, and their god-given right as Americans is to suck up resources and lay waste to the planet, just to show that they're the kings of the world.  Which goes a long way to explaining the surge of purchases of gas guzzlers during the early days of the war.  The signal was, "Hey, we should poach other country's resources so my car can be the size of a house.  This will make us feel powerful, and will go a long way towards making up for the fact that we can't, as a nation, cross a parking lot without wheezing or remember the last time we had mind-blowing sex."  Just a guess, anyway. But Bachmann really appeals to that.

Plus, while she's scary and has a past of doing shit like obsessing over gay people so much she gazes at them from behind bushes,  she's really learned some poise in the past few years.  At Right Online, she was glitter-bombed, and she reacted in the most smooth, appropriate way possible. 

She walked right through it and acted like it didn't happen.  That's basically the best and only way to deal with this, is to treat it like the harmless prank it basically is.  The way not to react is to make like Mike Huckabee and act like the gays are raping you with their glitter.  You can just imagine what would happen if Sarah Palin got glitter bombed: a five week freak out across Twitter and Facebook where she accused LGBT radicals of stealing her children with their glittery weapons of mass destruction.  

But Bachmann?  She's acting like someone who's got this.  We should be scared.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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