Michele Bachmann: Take Her Seriously

On Monday, Michele Bachmann declared she was a candidate for President of the United States.  Nobody was shocked but I — and several million other people — got real interested in American politics – real fast.  Ms. Bachmann brings huge flair to a GOP campaign that, so far, has lacked a discernable pulse.  John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are peeing their pants anticipating their autumn TV ratings.  The girls from The View are sharpening their claws.  And journalists from here to McMurdo Station, Antarctica are dissecting every word she’s ever uttered to find a “pants on fire” error.  The big gun personalities, however, are still waiting in the weeds, but they’ve put their assistants on bread and water until they come up with 2012’s defining “gotcha” question.  Chris Wallace seriously jumped the gun on Sunday when he asked her — point blank — “Are you a flake?”  Pure idiot – he probably won’t get another crack at her and will be sniping from the sidelines once the action really heats up next year.

If I sound jaded, I’m not.  If I sound like a supporter, I’m not.  I’m just very aware that Bachmann is being painted as Sarah Palin in a skirt; she’s not.  There are some similarities, certainly; both desperately need a full-time fact checker, for one.  But I’m warning you, folks: take this woman seriously.

Sarah Palin was (and still is) a Republican mistake.  She was supposed to be the sacrificial “hockey mom” to the ’08 Obama juggernaut.  Unfortunately, she didn’t shut up and go home after it was all over.  Instead, she hung on to the spotlight and the microphone (I think she likes them) and became Sarah Palin, sideshow.  Along the way, she changed politics forever.

Michele Bachmann is nobody’s sacrificial lamb.  She’s serious.  She has an army of resolute supporters.  She can raise money – lots of it.  She has a message that many people want to hear — “America was great once, and it can be great again.”  She’s guaranteed tons of press, mainly because Palin was such good copy.  And she has arrived at a time and a place where she (because Palin is unelectable) is the stand-alone candidate.  Plus, she is the most dangerous of all opponents; she believes in what she’s saying.

Up until now, the Republicans have produced a whole bunch of candidates that ordinary people can’t name (except Newt Gingrich.)  They’ve been busy playing musical chairs with who wants to lose to Obama.  Mitt Romney and Tom Pawlenty are apparently the front runners, but from what I’ve seen, it’s a terminal case of the bland leading the bland.  Not so suddenly, Michele Bachmann shows up in Waterloo, Iowa, with nothing on her mind but the Oval Office, and suddenly she’s tied in the polls with Mitt for 1st place.  This is the kind of momentum politicians scheme about.  Bachmann is a natural press magnet.  Her name recognition is already huge and she’s only been on the job, officially, for 48 hours. Primary season is eight months away.

What everybody — including Romney, Pawlenty and Huntsman — has to remember is the primaries are not about voters.  They are about galvanizing the party faithful; that diehard 15%.  These are the people the candidates have to turn into supporters.  You can’t win primaries without them, and you’re not going to be anything but yesterday’s news without primary victories.  This is where Republican moderates are stumbling around in the dark.  The Tea Party has the high ground.  They show up in numbers and can get their people front and centre.  They can raise huge amounts of money.  They are willing to stand up and be counted.  Unfortunately, they’re also willing to present unelectable candidates (Christine O’Donnell) rather than compromise their principles.

This is the problem.  A lot of people think Michele Bachmann is just Sarah Palin with one less “you betcha,” and they are not going to take her seriously.  This is a mistake.  Bachmann can ride the Tea Party to legitimately become the Republican nominee for President.

If she does, when she gets to the national stage, Barack Obama and the media are going to tear her apart.

Sarah Palin vs Kim Jong-il

Sarah Palin is so furious with the North Koreans right now, she can’t think straight, and if she ever does get to be president, Kim Jong-il better find himself a rock to crawl under.  Our girl holds a grudge, and Kimmy is going to be Numero Uno on her whip-ass list.  You betcha!  So what did Kim do that was so terrible, aside from that whole nuclear weapons thing?  He stole Sarah’s headlines.   On Tuesday, Sarah Palin was all set up to launch her book, America by Heart, and her 2012 presidential campaign when along came Kim and started pumping artillery shells into South Korea.  Suddenly, the cameras were pointed east and Sarah was drinking tea by herself.  It was all a bunch of Jong-il bluster and “You’re not the boss of me” bull, but the damage was done and Palin is pissed – and so are a lot of other people.  This is the crux of what Sarah Palin is all about.  She represents a whole pile of angry people who are looking for answers – when nobody is listening to their questions.

In 2008, Barack Obama promised Hope and Change to just about every mammal on this planet (I’m sure some dolphins voted for the guy) and he hasn’t delivered.  History is going to write volumes on the wherefore and the why of that, but unless you’re keeping score, it was a pretty tall order in the first place.  Honestly, anybody without a halo was going to fall short on that one.  Two years later, voters from Codstomper, Maine to Extraflaky, California told him — point blank — “Shape up!” but so far it doesn’t look like he’s listening.  The Obama message is still the same with a “but” added as an explanation and a “you don’t understand” thrown in as an excuse.  Meanwhile, the Republican alternatives are so low profile you’d think they’d all just made the rude noise in the elevator.  Ordinary Americans, who’ve been taking a knee to the groin for a while now, are desperate to find a flicker at the end of the tunnel.  Enter Sarah Palin.

Like her or not, Palin is just saying the same thing a lot of people have been thinking for a long time (long before Obama, actually.)  “Hold it!  There’s something wrong here.”  The American middle class is just about fed up with getting kicked around.  They’re sick of being called names and told they don’t know what they’re doing.  They’re tired of working their asses off and then getting handed the bill.  They see themselves as used and abused and at the mercy of every wild-eyed committee with a cause and an outstretched palm.  They think special interest groups have kidnapped their government, and they’re the ones who have to pay the ransom.  They see their accumulated wealth being turned into diminishing returns, and they no longer see their tax dollars as a good investment.  (Does any of this sound familiar, by the way?)  The other thing that Palin is saying that a lot of people, including myself, agree with, is — “Hey!  How hard can this be?” Palin might not be the sharpest pencil in the box, but she’s captured the mood of the mob insofar as they speak with one voice.

Which brings us around to the essential question: how big is that voice, and can it turn 2012 into a circus?  Maybe.  America by Heart is Palin’s political manifesto.  In it she takes some healthy swings at Obama and the Democrats, but she also lays some right jabs into the Republicans, as well.  This isn’t just Tea Party propaganda.  She’s trying to reshape the political landscape.  You heard it here first.  The Republican Party can do a lot of things between now and the 2012 primaries — including finding a candidate who isn’t camera shy — but the one thing they’d better not do is ignore Sarah Palin.  She’s served notice that there’s a new kid on the block who’s not going to play by the rules.   Up to this point, she hasn’t had to because, for the last two plus years, she’s worked really really hard at doing absolutely everything wrong, but still nobody gets more media time than Sarah Palin.  Just think about it — it took a belligerent act of aggression by a maverick nuclear power to knock her out off the front page.  And speaking of Kim Jong-il, quite a few people around the world wouldn’t mind seeing Palin, or somebody like her, go Maggie Thatcher on his ass and beat the crap out of that little punk.

Welcome to the Tea Party

Okay, you won the election — mostly. You took the best Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann and the girls on The View could throw at you and you won. You beat the elites. You’re dancing in the streets. Hold it! Stop! Alto! You didn’t do anything. Despite whatever you folks were telling each other last night in the euphoria and the moonlight, this is the morning after, so let’s all get outta bed and go catch the reality bus. Last night was an off-year, off-speed, mid-term election. People are angry. The country is in the middle of one of the worst recessions (dare I use the D-word) in history, and just about everybody has taken it in the goonies. And besides all that, 2008 and Obama’s coattails served you up a Democratic majority in Congress that had no business being there. So, if you hadn’t won last night — and won big — we’d all be writing the eulogy and digging the hole by now.
But before you start doing the happy dance and repainting the Oval Office just in time for 2012, let me let you in on a little secret: Barack Obama wasn’t running for office in 2010. He was likely sitting at home, in the White House, watching the results on his presidential big screen TV — and so were his troops. There’s a room full of boring CNN stats that prove this, but here’s the only one that matters. In 2008, 126.4 million people voted; in 2010, only about 95 million did. Duh! The kids saw the avalanche and stayed home. They’re not going to make that same mistake twice.
“But we’ve won a great victory,” you say. “We must keep up the pressure,” you say. “We must march on the White House and beat those champagne glasses into beer mugs,” you say. ”No retreat! No Compromise!”
History teaches us something different. In 216 BCE, Hannibal won a great victory over the Romans at Cannae. The road to Rome was open. His Nubian cavalry could have been there in a day – two, at the most. His generals urged him to march. Hannibal wisely turned away. He knew if he took his war elephants to the walls of Rome, they would be useless, and he would be trapped and annihilated. This isn’t just a cute story. If the pissed-off and the profane take these Republican war elephants to Washington and try to fight the campaigns that are coming up between now and 2012, they’re going to be trapped and annihilated. The bottom line is this: it’s politics — not righteousness — that’s going to carry the day – and politics starts this morning. This means that — angry or not — the Republican caucus better quit being indignant and start working with the Democrats. If they don’t, and Congress goes into cardiac arrest early, they’re the ones who are going to be hit by the Blame Train — not Barack Obama.
Right now, we’ve all been invited to a tea party and Sarah Palin’s pourin’. But just in case you didn’t notice “You betcha” is not a policy statement! If Palin drags this crowd into the race for 2012, she might make it through the primaries, but in a national campaign? Jon Stewart, Barbra Walters and the New York media are going to eat her alive — just like Katie Couric did last time. They are going to make her look like The 3 Stooges — except this time she’s going to be 2 Stooges short.
There’s no doubt that this president is all hat and a teleprompter. But you don’t go from After Dinner Speaker to the White House in 4 years if you don’t know what you’re doing. People are learning that Barack Obama just isn’t a very good leader but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good politician. Don’t confuse the two. He can and will rally the team for 2012, and all those folks sitting on the sidelines this year are going to get back in the game. Remember: 58% of voters under 30 still think Obama is the best thing since Bill Clinton, and young people prefer Democrats by over 20%. These people aren’t angry; they’re not frustrated; and they don’t give a damn how much money the champagne socialist elite throw at the economy, healthcare or each other. They just think the Tea Party is a collection of knuckle-dragging racists who have the misfortune of being old. You, me, Fox News and Harry the Talking Penguin can call them irresponsible, immature or even imbeciles. It doesn’t matter. They vote: Obama wins. It’s that simple.
The Teabag people and their allies better temper their message right now or run the risk of being just another bunch of Glenn Beck whiners on the road to obscurity. It’s one thing to seize power; it’s another to use it, and use it properly. Like it or don’t, the American people (some of them anyway) have said “Put up or shut up!” Now it’s time for these new Republicans to, first of all, learn how to govern — so America can dig itself out of the mess it’s in. And secondly, think up a coherent plan to take back the White House in 2012 — so the sinkhole doesn’t swallow them up again. If it’s Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, so be it. But they’re going to need more than outrage and a loudspeaker, or they’re going to end up with nothing.