Yes, She's Serious: While You're Laughing, Michele Bachmann Is Gearing Up To Fight
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At her speech [video] to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation's RightOnline conference in Minneapolis last month, Bachmann deftly laid the gender card in preparation for a future defense based on sexism. The clear favorite of this Tea Party crowd among the presidential candidates present, Bachmann appeared fresh off her triumph of the presidential candidates debate hosted by CNN the previous week in New Hampshire.
Before the RightOnline crowd, she poked fun at the " this or that" questions posed during the debate by moderator John King, who asked each of the candidates to name their preferences within a set of consumer goods. "Coke or Pepsi?" King asked former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. (Answer: Coke.) "Thin crust or deep dish?" he asked Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza. (Deep dish.) Asked to choose between Elvis or Johnny Cash, Bachmann demurred and said she liked them both, though Elvis' Christmas music was on her iPod. (Don't you wish she had been asked to choose between Lady Gaga and James Brown?)
"I had a little case of the nerves before I went up there," she told the RightOnliners, "and it really was centered on the fact that I thought they might ask the candidates the question, 'Boxers or briefs?' What's a girl s'posed to do?"
Then there's the class resentment that breathes fire into the Tea Party crowd that leads to the dismissal of nearly anything that comes out of the mouths of such "cultural elites" as reporters. If the self-proclaimed smart set says Bachmann is dumb, you can bet the Tea Partiers and evangelicals will line up behind her. Media figures, these motivated voters have been told, think Tea Partiers and evangelicals are dumb, too. (And there's some truth to that depiction of reporters.)
A Talented Speaker
While Bachmann is still a long way from mastering the art of the television appearance, give her prepared remarks and set her before a friendly audience, and she's firmly in charge. Few politicians can sell a well-crafted speech as well as she. You don't believe me? Then check out the video below this story of Bachmann's appearance at last year's RightOnline conference in Las Vegas. There, the mission with which she was charged was nothing short of selling an audience of older people on the wisdom of ending Social Security. And she did one heckuva job.
After spelling out a plan very like the scheme that House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has crafted for a phase-out of Medicare, Bachmann called for "private-sector solutions" to replace government-funded Social Security for everybody under the age of 55 at the time such legislation should pass. The room got very quiet. It was a necessary measure, she said, to ensure the prosperity of younger generations. Then, as her big wind-up, she used an iconic story from World War II to drive home her point, that of a sinking ship on which four chaplains (two with evocative names -- Washington and Goode), gave their life vests to younger seamen, as there were not enough to go around. And the young men in lifeboats watched in awe as the chaplains sacrificed their lives so that the young might thrive.
Bachmann told the story with the pathos a preacher could only wish to possess.
The Religious Right and Bachmann's Personal Story
Although the astroturfers who rally the Tea Party movement would have you believe theirs is a solely secular movement, the truth is that the overlap between the religious right and the Tea Party movement is significant. Bachmann however, doesn't rely on this confluence alone; she's not about to lose anybody on the edges, either -- especially not the non-Tea Party, right-wing evangelical whose activism lives in a politicized church and not a corporate-funded protest movement. In telling her own personal story, Bachmann testifies to possessing all the touchstones of right-wing evangelism, especially right-wing, evangelical femininity. Her status and role as a mother is clearly important to her at a deeply personal level, and she isn't shy about touting her life as the mother of five, and foster mother of 23.