Monday, March 25, 2013

The G.O.P.’s Bachmann Problem

I for one and many readers of this blog had hoped that Michele Bachmann would go down to defeat last November.  Rational Republicans should have held similar hopes.  Sadly, she was re-elected and has continued to display the kind of batshitery that is harming the GOP brand no matter how well she plays with the delusional and ignorance loving party base.  But Bachmann is only one of a larger number of Tea Party and Christofascist darlings all of whom are toxic in terms of attracting the new and broader demographics that the GOP needs.  A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon.  Here are highlights:

Senator John McCain called the far-right darlings Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Justin Amash “wacko birds” earlier this month. (McCain later apologized for that burst of honesty and candor.) 

Ann Coulter used her Conservative Political Action Conference speech to take a shot at New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, who was not invited to speak this year. Coulter quipped: “Even CPAC had to cut back on its speakers this year, by about 300 pounds.” What a lovely woman. 

Donald Trump took to Twitter recently to call the conservative blogger Michelle Malkin a “dummy” who was “born stupid.” It’s hard to know whom to side with when two bullies battle. 

But all this name-calling, as fun as it is to watch, is just a sideshow. The main show is the underlying agitation.
The Republican Party is experiencing an existential crisis, born of its own misguided incongruity with modern American culture and its insistence on choosing intransigence in a dynamic age of fundamental change. Instead of turning away from obsolescence, it is charging headlong into it, becoming more strident and pushing away more voters whom it could otherwise win.

Andrew Kohut, the founding director of the Pew Research Center, pointed out in The Washington Post on Friday that the party’s ratings “now stand at a 20-year low,” and that is in part because “the outsize influence of hard-line elements in the party base is doing to the G.O.P.   .  .  .  .  radicalizing its image and standing in the way of its revitalization.”  

And too many of those hard-liners have a near-allergic reaction to the truth.  A prime example is Michele Bachmann, the person who convened the Tea Party Caucus in Congress and a Republican candidate for president last year. She burst back on the scene with a string of lies and half-truths that could have drawn a tsk tsk from Tom Sawyer. 

PolitiFact rated two of her claims during her CPAC speech last Saturday as “pants on fire” false. The first was that 70 cents of every dollar that’s supposed to go to the poor actually goes to salaries and pensions of bureaucrats. The second was that scientists could have a cure for Alzheimer’s in 10 years if it were not for “a cadre of overzealous regulators, excessive taxation and greedy litigators.”

People like Bachmann represent everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. She and her colleagues are hyperbolic, reactionary, ill-informed and ill-intentioned, and they have become synonymous with the Republican brand. We don’t need all politicians to be Mensa-worthy, but we do expect them to be cogent and competent.  .  .  .  .  And as long as the party has Bachmanns, it has a problem.

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