So Michele Bachmann isn’t running for Congress again. Here’s her rather interminable, eight-minute (!) explanation of why. Of couse, it has nothing to do with the ethics investigation into her 2012 presidential bid!
It’s easy to make fun of her, and I’m certainly not above that. Any member of Congress who calls for an investigation into the loyalty and American-ness of her colleagues, as Bachmann famously did on Hardball in 2008, deserves a mountain of ridicule. I also made the opposite mistake with her: I took her presidential candidacy more seriously than it deserved to be taken. I thought she had the potential to get into the position Rick Santorum eventually got into, where it came down to her and Romney, but she didn't capitalize on her 15 minutes in the limelight.
To me, the most important thing about what Bachmann represents is the profoundly undemocratic impulse of adopting a world view that took her own personal life experience and attempted to impose its lesson on the rest of us. This all seemed apparent to me in everything she did, but it really came through clear as a bell in Ryan Lizza’s New Yorker profile of her in 2012.
When she was 14, Bachmann's father, whom she'd adored, left her family. They became impoverished. It probably didn't help that dad was a liberal. Two years later, she joined a prayer group, and she found a man to take Daddy's place. Lizza quotes from a 2006 speech she gave:
When Jesus Christ came in and cleaned out this dark heart, that was light. That was rest. That was peace. It was refreshment. Why would I ever want the world? I knew what that had to offer. This was great. That didn’t mean that I woke and all of a sudden I had money, all of a sudden I had position, all of a sudden I had education. It didn’t. But what it meant was that all of a sudden I had a father.
When you’ve had an experience like that, an experience that persuasive, you quite naturally proceed through life on the assumption that everyone needs such an experience, and that if only they will open themselves to such an experience, their lives will change, too. So I think it’s probably fair to conclude in her case that she wasn’t in politics to build senior centers or alter Medicare. She was in politics to give people fathers in Jesus, to give them her experience.
This might sound nice to a lot of people, but it’s deeply anti-American; it’s the nature of a democratic society that we respect one another’s different experiences, and Jesus has nothing to do with being a good American. But you can’t convince Bachmann and people like her of that. One finds zealous types like this on the left too, of course, but since they don’t wrap themselves in the Shroud of Turin, they don’t usually come across as quite so demagogic, or at least not demagogic in quite as threatening a way, since their words don’t ring with all that bleak history of God and state that has produced so much misery and hatred over the centuries.
I’m not one of those liberals who’ll miss having her to kick around. The fewer people like this in public life, the better, I say. Although I doubt we’ve heard the last of her.