Sunday, October 26, 2008

Michelle Bachmann

OK. I was going to stay away from straight politics, but I can't help it. Because Michelle Bachmann, who imploded on Hardball with Chris Matthews a week ago, is my congresswoman.

Last Saturday, before her television appearance, I saw a house with two signs out front: one for McCain and one for Tinklenberg. "Thank goodness!" I said. Nothing puts me over the edge like Michelle Bachmann, who I have felt is an embarrassment to my district for her two years in office. When she was elected she seemed a little off-base, because she was heavily promoted by evangelical James Dobson and said some things that were at the far end of what I dislike about the religious right. Things about intelligent design in the schools and God calling her to run for congress, to name two biggies.

Once elected, she embarrassed us almost immediately by her performance at the State of the Union address. She grabbed George W. Bush's lapel and wouldn't let go until she got a picture, two autographs, and a kiss. The late-night comedians had a field day. Last year she did something more annoying to me, sponsoring the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act. It wasn't so much against fluorescent bulbs on account of the mercury or anything like that. It was railing against environmentalists and liberals who want to take away our FREEDOM to choose whatever lightbulbs we want by forcing us to buy fluorescent bulbs. The rhetoric was so bad. It seemed such a stupid waste of time and energy-- hers and mine. So I followed this race from the beginning, and for the first time in my life I gave money to a local candidate.

I thought surely after people saw Bachmann's performance at the Republican National Convention, where she used a teleprompter for the first time, awkwardly turning from side to side at scheduled moments and going on and on in her annoyingly shrill voice, there would be a dip in her popularity. The speech was sort of a primer of Republican principles. Free market, liberty, small government, etc. Nothing wacky, but nothing very interesting either. But I seemed the only one annoyed by her. (Or maybe the only one watching...)

She was winning this race something like 80% to 14%. Now, to be sure, her opponent has none of her charisma. El Tinklenberg strikes me as a good, middle-of-the-road progressive DFL-er. He's very interested in environmental issues. He can speak to farmers and unions. But he is stiff. He doesn't have much fire in him. There was great enthusiasm for him at the DFL caucus in my county, but I could see it wasn't translating. That's why I was so happy to see those lawn signs.

Bachmann did have a dip in popularity when the economic bailout/rescue vote passed. She herself voted against the bailout package, as is expected given her free market principles, and I don't fault her for it. I don't know if the dip in popularity was part of a general move against the incumbants, or if it was because my district actually thought the bailout was a good idea. I gave another small donation to help the momentum.

Also, I suspect the dip prompted her to have more public appearances. The RNC put more money into her campaign. Until last week.

Last week she went on Matthews's show and, well, did what Michelle Bachmann does. Followed with hard rhetoric and not much thought the line of questioning. She did the Bill Ayers pit bull thing and talked about being concerned about Obama's anti-American friends and ergo his anti-American views. And said congresspersons and sentators should all be scrutinized by the media to see how many are anti-American. It sounded very McCarthyesque to a lot of people. Colin Powell, in his endorsement of Obama, referred to her specifically and said this kind of talk had to stop. Congresspeople and senators as anti-American? It's totally absurd. Of course it is.

She didn't act fast to dig herself out. She stood by her sentiments, if not her words, then she tried calling it "gotcha" politics, straight from the Sarah Palin lexicon and playbook. And now, well, the RNC has pulled all its funding from her campaign, and she has expressed regrets.

El Tinklenberg managed to raise $400,000 nationally in 24 hours after her interview. And in the past week he has received over $1.4 million dollars for his campaign from donations across the nation.

What's that about?? One thing is certain, it's about the extraordinary ability to raise funds nationally over the internet this election. showed how it could be done in 2004, and the Democrats have done it phenomenally this campaign.

But I think there's something else going on. I think it has to do with Sarah Palin. Democrats are upset with her candidacy, and with her pit bull speeches. She seems to be hate-mongering, spreading lies and smearing our candidate. But I think many people are reluctant to say anything. They don't want to be elitest, to criticize this charismatic woman. They don't want to alienate people. They don't want to be too harsh either.

And here comes Michelle Bachmann, a brunette with a large family and commitment to service (23 foster chlidren), a hockey mom of sorts. And she is principled in her Republican stance on things. A Christian. A Rove protege. She appeals to the base, right? But she is also fair game. What does it hurt for people across the country to attack her, to be downright ugly about it, to call her names, to point out how absurd her statements were? Heck, let's give some money and turn this thing around. They can expel Michelle Bachmann and feel good about it. And feel insulated, too-- because really, what she said was really over the top.

So I think it's misdirected venom, in large part. But I'm heartened to see the letters to the editor in the St. Cloud Times show many people in the district seem to have gotten the message. Many, many Bachmann signs have come down, and I don't think it's been vandalism.

Elwin Tinklenberg is a steady, centrist guy, funny name or no. He'll do ok by us.

1 comment:

Mary Kay said...

HI Susan,
I thought you had some interesting insights about the national response to Bachman.
I'm back in MN working on the election.
Good to "hear" your voice.
Mary Kay