5 Reasons Michele Bachmann Is the New Sarah Palin
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Perhaps the biggest similarity that Bachmann shares with Palin, beyond the media space as the representative of the loony fringe of the right wing? Her choice to pursue power seems to contradict a belief system regressive toward women. This is both a struggle she has to undergo personally and a lightning rod for criticism, both earned and unearned--just as it was for Palin.
Here are five of the ways it may be appropriate to compare Bachmann to Palin.
1. They both espouse dangerous right-wing beliefs, including extreme opposition to abortion, almost all government social spending, and a militaristic, imperialist view of foreign policy--and they both play fast and loose with the facts that support their worldview. In fact, they’ve both been caught red-handed messing with American history recently--specifically, the kind of revolution-era history the Tea Party loves. Sarah Palin butchered the Paul Revere story while Michele Bachmann declared that the dawn of the American revolution was in New Hampshire, rather than Massachusetts.
2. They have both been targeted with smears: for Palin, there was the ugly Trig-birtherism episode . For Bachmann, it’s migraine-gate, complete with a NY Times “woman on the street” featurette delving into the link between migraines and high heels.
3. They both have to reconcile an appearance of “wifely submission” with obvious ambition. While Palin has never explicitly embraced a “complementarian” or submissive role as a wife, the patriarchal delineation of power within the household is an important one for the evangelical voting bloc. In a piece on, what else? Palin vs. Bachmann, Slate’s Libby Copeland wrote an intelligent analysis of the gauntlet that must be run by conservative women craving political power, and the occasional swerving and circumlocution involved in gaining it:
For non-evangelical Christians, this sounds ludicrous: How can a woman who believes in submitting to her husband's will aspire to be president of the United States? Is she going to have to ask Marcus' permission every time she wants to throw a state dinner?
This apparent contradiction—how you can be leader of the free world and yet subordinate to some guy —has proved no less confusing to the nation's conservative evangelicals.
With both candidates, conservative church leaders have had to balance their approval of policy with concern about what kind of message a female candidate sends (will women start asking for leadership in the church?). And both candidates have had to balance the appearance of toughness needed to hold office with appealing to traditional gender roles.
Of course, that deep inherent hypocrisy, or tightrope-walking if you want to be more generous, is catnip to the public. It’s human nature to zero in on such contradictions. Female candidates who endorse so many anti-feminist, anti-woman laws and policies will naturally be an object of fascination, and perhaps of ridicule. As long as that ridicule isn’t sexist--talk about tightrope walking.
4. Their hypocrisy and outsize personas means they are easy targets for comedians and imitators--providing meat for women comedians eager to join in the political impersonating game. While I cringe at Bill Maher’s offensive jokes , I can’t help put look forward to Kristen Wiig's interpretation of Michele Bachmann being a major presence on SNL this fall. Watch the video below to see how Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression has influenced online Bachmann personas already.
5. Their public visibility may mask much deeper threats coming from within their own party. Sure, Bachmann is polling well in Iowa and Palin remains popular with her fans. But Rick Perry has the good looks and Texas drawl that launched George W. Bush to the presidency, combined with beliefs that make his predecessor look like a friendly centrist, while the other more “mainstream” GOP candidates have started seeing the light of out-there social conservatism just in time for the caucuses.