Making sense of the non-sensical world of American politics

Bachmann’s Waterloo Entry

Almost anti-climatically, Michele Bachmann officially joined the race for the Republican nomination for president yesterday in her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa.  While I understand that Waterloo is Bachmann’s hometown and Iowa is an important state on the road to the nomination, I can’t help but be struck by the irony and symbolism of beginning a political campaign in a place called Waterloo.  Setting aside the unfortunate imagery, however, I would contend that Michele Bachmann is far from her political Waterloo as it relates to her quest for the Republican nomination for president.

Many political observers are prone to make the obvious comparisons between Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.  The most notable similarity between the two, of course, is that they are both conservative women.  Delving beyond gender, the pair both possess the ability to mobilize and excite the conservative base – both are Tea Party favorites – with their red meat rhetoric and often factually suspect, yet emotionally inspiring diatribes against the Obama Administration in particular and progressive causes more generally.  And, yes, it’s true that neither woman would be confused as an intellectual heavyweight (Palin has a propensity for making up new words, while Bachmann has a unique ability for making inaccurate historical references).  But I believe it would be a grave mistake to write off Mrs. Bachmann as this election’s Palin, and consequently, not take her seriously.

I contend that Michele Bachmann should be taken seriously in the fight for the Republican nomination because she is genuine, principled and uncompromising.  She is unfailingly conservative – taking a moderate position doesn’t seem to be an option regarding any policy discussion – in stark contrast to Jon Huntsman.  She will not waver in the face of shifting political realities as has become habit for Mitt Romney and Mr. Gingrich.  She is tough, steely and willing to seek out a fight unlike the surprisingly feckless Tim Pawlenty, her fellow Minnesotan.  Mrs. Bachmann seems unfazed by new facts or events that no longer support her positions – don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, seems to be her motto.  Put simply, she does not do nuance; she is what she is each and every day. 

In my view, most of the aforementioned qualities and characteristics possessed by Mrs. Bachmann are not desirable in a political leader.  While I admire her toughness, consistency and ability to remain principled, I think it is extremely important to constantly reassess one’s views on the issues as facts and human events evolve over time.  Furthermore, to be an effective leader one must always consider divergent opinions and be willing to compromise at just the right time to achieve the best possible policy outcome.  To be completely rigid and dogmatic is a sign of serious weakness in the general election.  But with respect to the Republican nomination, I submit that Mrs. Bachmann’s inflexibility and reflexive ideology are significant strengths.  Her biting tongue and creative one-liners will be extremely attractive to the Republican primary electorate.

But this same Republican primary electorate has a difficult decision to make – quite comparable to the decision the Democratic primary electorate had to make in 2004 concerning Howard Dean.  Dean was the principled progressive in that race with his stridently anti-war message and stinging quips directed at then-President Bush.  In the end, however, the Democrats nominated a far less inspiring and, yes, famously nuanced, candidate in John Kerry largely due to the belief that Kerry was more electable than Howard Dean. 

Will the Republicans fall in love with Michele Bachmann to such an extent that they are willing to risk any chance of ultimately defeating President Obama?  Or will they decide to hold their collective noses and nominate Mitt Romney or some other less inspiring figure because they are deemed to be more electable in the general election?  The answers to these questions will play a large role in the success or demise of Mrs. Bachmann’s campaign.

My guess is that the Republican primary electorate will be far more willing than the Democrats were in 2004 to take a chance on the “principled” candidate.  Given the current friction in the Republican Party between the Establishment and the Tea Party, it may prove more difficult to stamp out what might otherwise be characterized as “fringe” candidacies.  With hard-line conservatives attempting to purify the Republican Party and purge it of any moderates whatsoever, Michele Bachmann may actually become the establishment candidate. 

For the Democrats in 2004, the one and only goal was to unseat President Bush.  The conservatives today seem more willing to endure another Barry Goldwater election circa 1964 – lose the general election while winning the soul of the Republican Party.  Given these dynamics, Michele Bachmann could be a major factor in the fight for the Republican nomination.  Indeed, Bachmann’s Waterloo may be somewhere far, far down the road….far away from Waterloo, Iowa.

June 28, 2011 - Posted by | 2012 Presidential Election, Michele Bachmann, Politics, Republican Party | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. That’s what I’m talking about Mr. McClure!! Very nice!

    Comment by Chalee | July 6, 2011 | Reply

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