The Next Michele Bachmann
And, rest assured, there will be more.
By that I mean a strong national (female, natch) GOP figure who hits on most if not all cylinders of what we know as conservatism. She’s also going to step on a lot of toes along the way. She’ll be an outspoken tea party defender, and call anyone, regardless of party affiliation, on the carpet when it breaches the Constitution. She’ll be disruptive, resist compromise, and push the envelope of what we’re told is civility.
After Sarah Palin, you’d have to include (albeit members of the opposite sex) names like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz as the names of those who came after her and took no prisoners when it came to principle, even at a cost of getting in the face of their own party elders.
Bachmann did not play it safe, and frequently colored outside the lines, most recently and famously in her 2012 GOP Presidential primary debates, where she swerved into ill-advised and ill-informed topics including her association of HPV vaccinations and retardation. But most Presidential primary candidates have their exit tied to some deer-in-the-headlights moment, and this was hers.
She waged and won four congressional campaigns, granted in a safe red district where she probably made it harder for herself to get re-elected than it had to be. She was a master small donor fundraiser, and had to be, because she was considered low hanging fruit by outside Democrat money, which poured into her district. Despite raising $12 million and outspending her opponent 6-1, she squeaked by with a razor thin victory in 2012.
The bulk of the Wednesday morning quarterbacking made hay of this. Her district was much too hard to defend, and she was hardly a model for races we’d like to see elsewhere, we’re told. She was a fundraising money pit. The cash her disappearance from politics would yield could be used to serve weaker links, it was argued.
Bachmann raised almost all of this money herself, and there’s no guarantee her small dollar donors would find comparable passion among other candidates to likewise pad their coffers. It’s not a zero sum game where a firebrand like Bachmann is concerned. And if you’re looking for a reason someone of her ferocity might not be around anytime soon, look inward to the Republican party, which is prone to circular firing squads of self repudiation for her kind.
And if you think a money pit of a campaign is a necessary and sufficient condition to abandon anyone in the party, consider Scott Walker’s recall election, which had a price tag of $13 million. Walker, like Bachmann, was not bashful about playing smash mouth with the other side. Like Bachmann he made a target of himself. His union reforms cost his party seats in his state Assembly. There were plenty in his state who wanted the path of lesser resistance and ditched him when it came time to be counted. And he’ll stand for election again in 2014, with the other side and its money running at him just as hard. Like Bachmann, his seat will be costly to keep. And there will be others.
Michele Bachmann was a target long before her her 2012 primary gaffes. She was the standard bearer of pushback on Obamacare before its passage and outside the box thinking for its repeal. She lacked the preen, polish and “electability” of ersatz up and comers like Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, who nonetheless failed to live up to their hype and promise as national players. She got under the skin of the Speaker (on both sides) when it would have been easier to hide behind compromise or caucus. Mark Steyn today speculated she could have been a Lady Thatcher, whose tough as nails principles made her no stranger to courageously walking into a wall of vitriol herself.
There’s no evidence more genteel, safer conservatives are better able to rally the base, and plenty to the contrary. Paul, Lee, and Cruz now move ideological mountains wherever they go when we need them most, and Michele Bachmann moved mountains as well. Sometimes those mountains had to be made of campaign money thanks to her pugilistic oratory, but you can’t say she did not fight for principle and (when it did not abandon her) party.