A brief look: The increasingly puzzling success of Michele Bachmann
The Minnesotan congresswoman won a key straw poll in Iowa this weekend, meaning that her bid for the 2012 US presidential election is gaining some serious momentum. The problem with her is that she makes other right-wing Republicans look positively moderate. By REBECCA DAVIS.
This isn’t good news for more liberal Republicans (and yes, some do exist). Bachmann is Sarah Palin with more gravitas: a dangerous package. Whereas Palin is continually lampooned for her gaffes and moronic soundbites, and hence considered something of a liability to the party, it appears that Bachmann is succeeding in consolidating support from Tea Party-favouring Republican voters. But the woman holds political views that wouldn’t be out of place in the Taliban. Bachmann is a climate-change denialist, opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, terms homosexuality a “sexual dysfunction”, accuses Barack Obama of holding “un-American views”, is against practically any form of state-subsidised health-care; and believes that evolution is “a theory that has never been proved one way or the other”.
It’s a shameful litany, but one that is clearly resonating with grass-roots Republican voters, who turn out in droves to her campaign rallies and cheer her to the rafters. She is seen as a sincere and uncompromising spokesperson for their interests. A Gallup poll in July put her in second place in the Republican presidential nomination race, behind only Mitt Romney.
Next to her, the other Republican presidential hopefuls seem like a bunch of lefties. That’s with the exception of fellow contender Rick Perry, the Texan governor who entered the race this weekend. Bizarrely, Perry started his political life as a Democrat – he ran Al Gore’s 1988 campaign in Texas – before choosing to shelve any remotely liberal leanings in favour of defection to the right-most pole of the Republicans. Perry stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Bachmann in his stance on gays, climate change and abortion. He has a further feather in his conservative cap: in his position as governor of Texas, he has presided over more than 200 executions.
The rightwing duo is despised by America’s left-leaning media. Newsweek came under considerable flak last week for running a front cover photo of Bachmann which appeared to have been selected because it made her look, well, insane. But some would say: if the shoe fits… DM
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Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann speaks at the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa, August 13, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young