At one time, the idea that Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann might be a credible candidate –let alone a frontrunner– for the Republican presidential nomination might have seemed ludicrous. But at least some recent polls have shown the congresswoman pulling ahead of more “moderate” Republican Mitt Romney in Iowa.
Granted, there’s a long way to go between today and Election Day. But how can it be that a politician who’s consistently known for her outlandish statements, Stone Age politics and desire to shred the social safety net can be considered a serious contender?.
The past weeks of the debt ceiling debate have been instructive about the way in which Bachmann and her ilk in Congress operate. A small group of congressional representatives, including Bachmann, appeared to almost hold the country hostage to their ideological whims–demanding ever more and deeper cuts to social spending and zero tax hikes for the wealthy.
But Bachmann and her cohorts are not, as the media makes it seem, a rogue group of right-wingers out of control. Instead, they are attack dogs let off the leash–leading what is, at its heart, a bipartisan charge to make workers and the poor pay, full stop, for the economic crisis.
You can’t accuse the Minnesota congresswoman of being boring. Bachmann regularly lets loose with one mind-boggling comment after another, often leaving observers wondering how a human being who’s so ruthlessly ignorant can have made it so far in our political system.
But even a cursory glance at Bachmann’s politics proves that she’s gotten as far as she has by making a name for herself as a staunch right-winger, pseudo-populist and social conservative who champions policies that benefit the wealthy.
Last month, Bachmann, along with former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), signed onto a pledge put out by Family Leader, a group run by powerful Iowa conservative Bob Vander Plaats.
**No To ‘Infidelity, Pornography, Cohabitation And… Islamic Sharia Law’**
The pledge, titled “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family,” condemns adultery, “quickie divorce,” infidelity, pornography, cohabitation and Islamic sharia law–all issues close to the heart of today’s right-wing social conservatives.
But the pledge went even further. In addition to calling homosexuality a “choice,” in an eye-popping passage, it implied that Black children were actually better off under slavery because there were more two-parent families (not including, one imagines, the slave masters that owned them).
“Slavery had a disastrous impact on African American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African American president,” the statement read.
Instead of just apologizing for signing onto such an outrageous statement, the Bachmann campaign actually dug in a little deeper. “She signed the ‘candidate vow,’” campaign spokesperson Alice Stewart said, adding, “In no uncertain terms, Congresswoman Bachmann believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible.”
**Also Economic Enslavement**
Economic enslavement? Presumably, that includes libertarian whipping posts like health care reform and the national debt–which Bachmann has also publicly referred to as “slavery” in the past.
More dangerous for millions of working Americans, Bachmann has called in the past for the abolishment of the minimum wage–under the bizarre notion that doing so would spur job growth.
While testifying in front of the Minnesota Senate in 2005, Bachmann said, “Literally, if we took away the minimum wage–if conceivably it was gone–we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”
Of course, this conservative fantasy is in no way close to true. Even lowering the minimum wage would be disastrous for the economy–leading to an economic contraction as families’ purchasing power was cut. Abolishing the minimum wage entirely would open the door even further to modern-day wage-slavery and McJobs–in addition to a new depression.
Bachmann seems to have a particular–almost pathological, one might say–fixation on the supposed “threat” that gays pose to society. According to the Washington Post:
Michele Bachmann has called gay marriage “probably the biggest issue that will impact our state and our nation in the last, at least, 30 years.”
In 2005, she ran screaming from a bathroom at a constituent forum, claiming that a lesbian had attempted to keep her there against her will. (The woman said she was merely questioning Bachmann about her position on gay marriage.)
As a state senator, she was seen crouching behind hedges to observe a gay rights rally. (She has explained that she was checking the turnout.)
**She Says She Didn’t Matter!**
Bachmann also has a unique take on American history–suggesting earlier this year that America’s founding fathers created a color-blind capitalist utopia, and worked tirelessly to abolish slavery.
“It didn’t matter the color of their skin. It didn’t matter their language. It didn’t matter their economic status,” Bachmann told the group Iowans for Tax Relief, describing the experience of early settlers in America.
“It didn’t matter whether they descended from known royalty or are of a higher class or a lower class. It made no difference. Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable? It is absolutely remarkable.”
Except, of course, it’s completely untrue. In addition to the enslavement of Africans, class and gender were used, among other things, to deny huge swaths of people the right to vote.
Bachmann went on to add that while slavery was still tolerated when the nation began, the “very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States,” including John Quincy Adams.
She conveniently skipped over the fact that founders, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves–or the pesky fact that slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person in the Constitution.
She also seemed unaware that John Quincy Adams wasn’t a founding father–and actually died 15 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.
**Tolerance, The Absent Word From Bachmann’s Vocabulary**
“Tolerance” appears to be a word that’s absent from Bachmann’s vocabulary.
In June, Bachmann and her husband Marcus left the church that they had been members of for more than a decade–likely because of potential political fallout. The Salem Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minn., is an evangelical Lutheran church that, among other things, opposes same-sex marriage and abortion.
But the real whopper is the church’s view of Catholicism. It states on its website: “We identify the Antichrist as the Papacy. This is an historical judgment based on scripture.”
During the last presidential campaign, Bachmann was one of the loudest voices condemning Barack Obama for his association with left-wing Rev. Jeremiah Wright. There’s been no comment from the candidate, however, on whether she thinks her former church’s view that the Pope is, you know, Satan, is beyond the pale in any way.
**The Money Of Bachmann Family Farm LP**
Nor has Bachmann explained her own hypocrisy when it comes to economic matters.
For someone who claims to hate government handouts, Michele Bachmann sure takes enough of them. Bachmann’s financial disclosure statements in 2009 and 2010 show her getting between $15,000 and $50,000 from the “Bachmann Family Farm LP”–a far cry from Bachmann’s claim that she has “never gotten a penny” from it. The farm itself was the recipient of upward of $250,000 in government subsidies.
Likewise, clinics run by Bachmann’s husband Marcus have received at least $161,000 in state and federal funding–money that they use, in part, to try to “cure” homosexuality with so-called “reparative therapy.”
This “therapy” amounts to little more than telling gay youth that homosexuality is a choice and that they can “pray away the gay”–and it is strongly condemned by both the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association.
**Therapy To ‘Cure’ Homosexuals**
Although Marcus Bachmann claims his clinics don’t try to “cure” gay youth, a recent exposé by Mariah Blake in The Nation detailed the truth. In 2004, when high school senior Andrew Ramirez told his family he was, they sent him to Bachmann & Associates in Lake Elmo, Minn.
There, according to Ramirez, his therapist…made it clear that renouncing his sexual orientation was the only moral choice. “He basically said being gay was not an acceptable lifestyle in God’s eyes,” Ramirez recalls.
According to Ramirez, his therapist then set about trying to “cure” him. Among other things, he urged Ramirez to pray and read the Bible, particularly verses that cast homosexuality as an abomination, and referred him to a local church for people who had given up the “gay lifestyle.” He even offered to set Ramirez up with an ex-lesbian mentor.
**‘Gays Are Barbarians’**
As recently as last summer, Marcus Bachmann referred to gays as “barbarians” in a radio interview. When asked by an interviewer, “What do you say when your teenager says she’s gay?” he responded, “We have to understand, barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined, and just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to go down that road.”
**Obama, Weak In The Face Of The Republicans’ Backlash**
In the coming days, politicians like Bachmann will be blamed for supposedly “hijacking” the debate over the debt ceiling. But the truth is that Bachmann and others on the hard right of the Republican Party are helping to deliver precisely what the ruling class wants–with little opposition from either side of the aisle.
While many of those who voted for Obama in 2008 are upset at the administration’s many giveaways to Corporate America, the real issue is not whether Obama and the Democrats are simply “weak” in the face of the Republicans’ backlash against even the most modest liberal measures.
**U.S. Democrats, Pro-Corporate Agenda**
Instead, as SocialistWorker.org noted in a recent editorial, politicians like Bachmann are useful not only to the Republican right, but to the Democrats as well–as a way of obscuring the Democrats’ pro-corporate agenda and long tradition of making promises to their working-class base at election time, but delivering the policies demanded by the bankers, CEOs and Pentagon brass.
Not only are Democrats giving Bachmann and others like her an opening by not opposing the right-wing policies they represent, but they are shamelessly using the threat of “President Bachmann” to scare the liberal Democratic base, once again, into voting for a candidate and a party that are equally committed to attacking workers and the poor.
Nicole Colson, International Socialist Organization. This is an abridged version of Colson’s article on SocialistWorker on August 1rst, 2011. Read full version: http://socialistworker.org/2011/08/01/attack-dog-of-the-right