Friday, July 29, 2011

Bachmann Rising

Despite the media's best efforts to anoint Romney as the GOP frontrunner, anyone with a TV has long since recognized Michelle Bachmann as the de facto champion of the Republicans' doomed 2012 bid. And not just because she combines the GOP's cherished traditions of Protestant mania and psychotic red-baiting.

She just won't quit. As a political creature, Bachmann is the apotheosis of the modern trend towards a candidate without shame or an off switch. She will spout absolute lunacies, deny it, deny that she denied it, then produce another whammer while the respectable pundits are all still trying to make sense of what happened.

And this isn't campaign suicide, not by a long shot. As the brilliant Matt Taibbi describes it, "When you laugh at Michele Bachmann for going on MSNBC and blurting out that the moon is made of red communist cheese, these people [conservatives, the Tea Party, etc.] 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." Bachmann has tapped that white-hot strain of white resentment, previously the province of Sarah Palin. Her popularity isn't dependent on boring ideological talking points but on how she channels the venom that pumps through the veins of Middle America.

A sad fact that few on either the Left or Right will ever admit is that America is not full of good people. The average American -- the type you'll meet day to day -- is at best a jerk in one way or another. More often than not, they're a jerk in a number of ways. Remember, this is an electorate that polls in high favor of "trimming the fat" from the Federal budget but does not care to give up Medicare or Social Security for themselves. Other, browner people sure -- they talk too funny to count as Real Americans but the stereotype of the enraged Tea Party retiree with a "Don't Tread On Me" sign in one hand and a government check in the other is absolutely true.

And Bachmann speaks to them. Her narcissism and willful ignorance reflects theirs, which their reptilian brains recognize as "One of us!" -- the only important quality to conservative voters. Even if her crusading twit persona is all an act, Bachmann walks the walk enough for these credulous fools. It's worked so well she's been propelled to the top of national politics without having accomplished anything in her life.

And it's why her campaign is doomed. If there is one thing that will rally the disillusioned progressives who campaigned so hard for Obama in 2008, it's the possibility of this shrieking psychopath taking his place. The spiteful Middle Americans, as representative as they are of the culture, as horribly ordinary as they are, cannot muster the electoral strength to seriously contend with every other person in the country. That Tea Party surge last November? A fluke:

An election where the majority of voters don't even show up is hardly reflective of the popular will. Give Bachmann a year to really work the crazy and everyone to the Left of Glenn Beck is going to vote Obama 2012 just out of self-preservation.

But is that really a happy ending? Even running a lost campaign, Bachmann's act is contributing to the polarization of American politics. Already things have devolved into paranoid tribes who only accept the realities espoused by their own echo chambers. The end point to this won't be widespread secession -- despite the rhetoric, none of these suckers are that motivated and the people who make the real decisions don't give a shit about abortions or weed. But all this spite and reflexive outrage, it's going to boil over into something bloody...

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