Out of the closet: Michele Bachmann as new American boogeywoman

Over the past  few weeks as Michele Bachmann’s star has risen in the firmament of GOP presidential hopefuls, I have been reading a flurry of emails, blogs, and Facebook status updates from fellow Minnesotans of a leftish bent decrying Bachmann not only for her extremist ideology but for being “insane” or “crazy.” Last week she was even treated to one of Matt Taibbi's gonzo wrecking jobs in Rolling Stone that made essentially the same point -- she's bonkers, man. Whacko. Cuckoo. A runaway train with no crew on board.

True, her unblinking gaze and frozen smile, her self-serving foster motherhood, her soft-mannered therapist-husband  specializing  in “curing” gay men of their sexual orientation, and her record of pathological lying and misstatement of fact does give one pause. But her sanity – or lack thereof – like her ultraist policy positions and flamboyant rhetoric, is not the real issue. There are other, systemic problems that must be addressed if we have any hope of preventing The Handmaid's Tale from being magically transformed from dark ficition to even darker fact.  

And by systemic problems I am not simply referring to the complete takeover of the mainstream news media by unaccountable corporate interests happy to promote politicians who espouse a primitive form of theocratic Social Darwinism that in no way threatens corporate earnings.

Indeed, the policies proposed by Bachmann and her ilk would only serve to fatten corporate coffers even more, not only as a byproduct of anarchic deregulation but by aggravating the very anomie and anxiety that already provide the dry rot that nourishes the spores of consumer capitalism. 

No, the real demon we must name and exorcise is that Bachmann is no anomaly, a freakish exception to the rule. She is, like Sarah Palin or George W. Bush, a “real ‘Murcan” just as much as thee and me and all our brethren piloting Toyota Priuses to Whole Foods.

In this regard, it's important to remember that, while the ideology she embraces is clearly destructive and therefore pathological, she herself is probably not clinical in any diagnosable way.

More to the point, the dominionist, authoritarian, hyper-nationalistic and, ultimately, racism-tainted ideology she embraces is not antithetical to, but on a continuum with, normative American values, although they are admittedly at one end of the spectrum.

Just as the crime, domestic violence, widespread substance abuse, broken homes, and other social pathologies of the inner city are merely distilled versions of social pathologies present throughout American society, a product of a culture  that breeds despair and its attendant addictive behaviors, so Bachmann’s belief system is just a more concentrated form of exceptionalism, with its corresponding conviction that we are not bound by the same laws of necessity that govern the rest of the world: that, at heart, the catchphrase, "The American Dream," translates into a God-given right to lead the unexamined life. Whatever the cost.

The big challenge facing liberals and progressives is to acknowledge that we, too, are infected by the same notion of exceptionalism ("Ameria's high consumption lifestyle is a blesséd lifestyle," as George Bush so eloquently put it). Failing that, we will continue to disarm ourselves in the face of the power and influence of individuals like Michelle Bachmann.

As Dostoevski said, "Only a few are guilty. All are responsible."  As a starter, all of us need to admit that we drink from the same poisoned chalice of exceptionalism. Next, we must devote our energies not just to combating the ensuing sickness as it manifests itself in individual "enemies" like Bachmann but to analyzing and exposing the false values embedded in ourselves.

Hysteria, after all, is the handmaiden of the unmentionable, and the alarm, apocalyptic thinking, and overly personalized reactivity she evokes are unmistakable symptoms of hysteria.

Hysteria may provide a refuge of sorts -- however shaky and uncomfortable -- from our own demons. Yet, as we can see played out every day on our national stage, hysteria is a very poor weapon for countering malign ideologies that are, themselves, the product of hysteria generated by people separated from us only by such superficialities as class, geographic background, and education. 

The answer to Michele Bachmann, then, is not name-calling and commands to abandon ship. The real answer lies in a truly radical transvaluation of American values. While this would  not necessarily entail radical political action at the outset, it would certainly have a radical -- possibly even life-saving -- impact on our politics and the culture from which those politics arise, like a malignant spirit in the dark of night.

Photo of Michele Bachmann from MicheleBachmamnforPresident2012.com

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Rich Broderick's picture
Rich Broderick

Rich Broderick (email richb [at] lakecast [dot] com lives in St. Paul and teaches journalism at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Rich is a writer, poet, and social activist.


Bogeyman only for the

Bogeyman only for the demented left in the MSM. Bachmann is now tied with Romney in the polls.The hate Bachmann crowd must be in mourning.

Who let the dogs out?!!!

Tied with Mitt in the polls? Wow! That's kind of  like being in the running to be the last choirmaster on the Titanic, isn't it?

Hate to break it to you, Derek, but the "demented" left (BTW, is that an example of the ad hominem attacks you despise so much?), should be praying on bended knee that Bachmann wins the GOP nomination. It may be the only way  the hapless Barack Obama can win in 2012..

And so I guess that must mean that Michele is part of the liberal-communist-secularist-athiest conspiracy to ruin America by giving "the little man in the White House" (as a Tea Partier once described Barack Obama to me -- she was thinking of the word "boy," but just couldn't get it out) a second term?


Just askin'...

Broderick's portrayal is spot on

ol crazy eyes here is not only a shill but a distraction to democrats everywhere, what they are trying to do is take our mind off the seats in the senate and house that will be open in 2012. Unlike the posts so far, Americans are generally intelligent, and will not fall for this awkward poser.

I like this article and the

I like this article and the ones by Bill Prendergast.

Typical liberal comments made

Typical liberal comments made in this article.  Of course we lead off with charges of racism and hating homosexuals.  Nothing new here.

Typical rightwing denial of reality

Just read her own quotes and watch her videos, etc., Lindsey. On the other hand, I never said she hates homosexuals, just implied that she's married to a man who claims he can cure 'em. To which I say, "Physician, heal thyself!"

Character assasination by Rich Broderick

This slanderous assault nn Bachmann by Broderick does not even pretend to be journalism. It features unbalanced ad hominem attacks and snarky remarks without any backup as well as outright perversions and distortions of Bachmann's articulate views.

 The reference to "pathological lying" might be more accurately applied to Broderick, who manufactures out of whole cloth non-existent bogeyman positions for his hate object, Michele Bachmann, e.g., his reference to a  "primitive form of theocratic Social Darwinism," which exists only in his own fevered brain.

 It is beyond bizarre that the Daily Planet would give space to an unhinged, over-the-top screed by an unknown "community college poet and activist" (really impressive!).

Unlike Matt Taibbi, Broderick may not have plagiarized much of his jihad against Bachmann. However, Broderick's originality is the originality of a monomaniac.

Nice use of the term "ad hominem"

But you might do well to look up its meaning. If you'd actually read what I wrote rather than spitting your morning coffee all over the computer screen as soon as you read the first paragraph, you will see that I am counseling people to avoid attacking Bachmann personally -- or even focusing over-much on her as "the enemy." But of course, that's probably expecting a bit too much acumen on your part.

As for monomaniac -- well, I guess I just don't quite see how you came up with that one (and besides, don't you think it a bit paradoxical to accuse me of snark and ad hominem attacks in a comment made up of nothing but snark and ad hominem attacks?). I am most definitely not obsessed with Bachmann and am advising everyone else not to be obsessed with her or any other individual politician, either. The truth is that the only thing the least bit obsessive about my feelings toward her is this terrible fear that sometimes wakes me in the night that if I ever get into a staring match with her, she'd turn me into stone with her Medusa gaze. That's why, like Perseus, I've taken to carrying a shield at all times, just in case I run into her in the skyway or maybe some cave in the Aegean.

Her first name is spelled "Michele," not



Though blog posts in the Daily Planet are typically only moderated, not edited or proofread, we appreciate you noting this error and have corrected it. Thanks for reading.

- Jay Gabler, associate editor