Her anti-gay platform has alienated parts of her family. A mentor she described as a “great influence” has a history of addresses to white supremacists. A book she collaborated on advocates theocracy. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s impressive performance at Monday’s debate has catapulted her near the front of the GOP pack, but the radical roots of her ideology remain poorly understood. The Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg reports.
Belief is the key to understanding Michele Bachmann, who announced her presidential candidacy during Monday’s Republican debate. Her impressive performance, which catapulted her close to the front of the presidential pack, surprised some, who perhaps expected her to be as inarticulate as Sarah Palin, to whom she’s often compared. But in Minnesota, even those who don’t like her politics say she shouldn’t be underestimated. “The fact that she’s not a heavy lifter, the fact that she’s relatively unconcerned about the substance of legislation, does not mean that she’s not crafty, that she’s not intelligent and she’s not fast,” says former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson, a Republican. Her ideological radicalism should not be mistaken for stupidity.
On Monday, Bachmann didn’t talk a lot about her religion. She didn’t have to—she knows how to signal it in ways that go right over secular heads. In criticizing Obama’s Libya policy, for example, she said, “We are the head and not the tail.” The phrase comes from Deuteronomy 28:13: “The Lord will make you the head and not the tail.” As Rachel Tabachnick has reported, it’s often used in theocratic circles to explain why Christians have an obligation to rule.
“Michele Bachmann says certain things that sound crazy to the general public,” says Frank Schaeffer. “But to anybody raised in the environment of the evangelical right wing, what she says makes perfect sense.”
Indeed, no other candidate in the race is so completely a product of the evangelical right as Bachmann; she could easily become the Christian conservative alternative to the comparatively moderate Mormon Mitt Romney. “Michele Bachmann’s a complete package,” says Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition wunderkind who now runs the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “She’s got charisma, she’s got an authentic faith testimony, she’s a proven fighter for conservative values, and she’s well known.” She’s also great at raising money—in the 2010 cycle, she amassed a record $13.2 million in donations. (Bachmann’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment.)
Bachmann, who was born in Iowa, was in high school in Anoka, Minnesota, when she was swept up in the wave of evangelical Christianity then surging through the country. “People were coming to the Lord left and right,” she said in a recent speech. A pretty cheerleader, she was a member of student government and was elected to the homecoming court. But her family life was unsettled. Her parents divorced in 1970, and her father disappeared from her life and those of her three brothers. When she was in high school, her mother remarried, to a man with five children of his own. Working-class Democrats, the family went to a Lutheran church regularly, but it wasn’t until she was born again at 16, she has said, “that the Gospel finally made sense to me.”
- Michele Bachmann’s Got Issues (slog.thestranger.com)
- Why We Should Be Very, Very Afraid of Michele Bachmann (queerty.com)
- Michelle Bachman Demostrates that She is a Force To Be Reckoned With (rantsandrage.com)
- A World Where President Michele Bachmann Sounds Reasonable [Video] (jezebel.com)
- Has Michele Bachmann Eclipsed Sarah Palin? (usnews.com)
- Has the GOP Lost Its Mind? (thedailybeast.com)
- A dangerous woman (atlmalcontent.wordpress.com)
- The Religious Right’s Candidate (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)