Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Profile: Michele Bachmann

The Congressional Representative for Minnesota’s 6th District announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination during the second GOP debate on June 13th. A founder of the House Tea Party Caucus she has drawn some comparisons to another Tea Party favourite and possible competitor, former Alaskan Governor, Sarah Palin.    

Photo by theqspeaks via Flickr.
She is perhaps most well known for her accusations against Barack Obama for holding anti-American views, during the 2008 Presidential election, concerning his apparent association with ‘domestic terrorist’ Bill Ayers. Appearing on Hardball with Chris Matthews, October 17th, she said: “I am very concerned that he [Barack Obama] may have anti-American views.” When asked by Matthews: “How many people in the Congress of the United States do you think are anti-American? You've already suspected Barack Obama, is he alone or are there others?” Bachmann responded: “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out are they pro-America, or anti-America?”

Her interview was cited as a reason why prominent Republicans, including Colin Powell and fellow Minnesotan Arne Carlson, decided to endorse, then Illinois Junior Senator, Barack Obama for President. On October 21st she seemed to backtrack saying: “I made a misstatement. I said a comment that I would take back. I did not, nor do I, question Barack Obama's patriotism.... I did not say that Barack Obama is anti-American nor do I believe that Barack Obama is anti-American.”     

A former Minnesota state senator she holds favour with both the fiscally and socially conservative grassroots factions of the Republican party. She backs the idea of a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages and legal equivalents however her view on abortion is more nuanced. She has, in the past, advocated the limited practice of abortion concerning instances of rape and incest.

The former Internal Revenue Service attorney is also a protagonist for the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as well as being one of many Republicans to lampoon it as 'Obamacare.’ She attempted to introduce a bill with fellow Republican Representative Steve King repealing the bill as well as claiming in the national media that the Obama administration had hidden $105 billion in spending by fiddling the numbers contained in the healthcare bill. 

Bachmann has been a long standing critic of the Environmental Protection Agency so far as to suggesting it be renamed “the job-killing organisation of America” in the June GOP debate. Similarly, she supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to reduce the USA’s dependency on foreign oil as well as being a loud sceptic of global warming. On the floor of the House in 2009 she asserted, “Carbon Dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas.”    

The first Republican woman to be elected to the House of Representatives from Minnesota she serves in the House’s Committee on Financial Services and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. In accordance with her strong Christian beliefs she is also a proponent of teaching intelligent design in public schools. In a 2006 interview she claimed that there was “a controversy among scientists about whether evolution is a fact or not.”       

Michele Marie Bachmann (née Amble) comes from a family she describes as “Norwegian Lutheran Democrats” in Waterloo, Iowa before moving to Minnesota as a young child. She is married to Marcus with five children along with providing care to 23 foster children between 1992 and 2000. She and her husband also own a Christian counselling centre in their hometown of Stillwater, Minnesota.

Bachmann’s poll numbers looked to have picked up after only placing fifth in the January New Hampshire Straw Poll with 5%. In the latest Iowa Poll by the Des Moines Register, within the last week, she finished second with 22% of the vote just one point behind long-time frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Photo by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr,
The charismatic pint-sized Minnesotan is clearly not a Palin 2.0 despite the similarities of being an evangelical Christian from a politically small snowy northern state and has certainly done well to maintain her own identity. However, her nomination would be an earthquake of some magnitude considering not only is it a rarity for a Congressional Representative to be a Presidential nominee for a major party, rather than a Governor or Senator, but it would also break with the long-standing GOP tradition of nominating the ‘next-in-line.’ Last time around it was John McCain and this time around it looks to be former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Furthermore, whilst her Tea Party popular conservative views have enamoured the GOP grassroots the question must be asked if this is shrinking the Republican tent? Conventional political thought suggests that the general election is won and lost in the centre ground of American politics and it would seem her ‘more right than most’ views are unlikely to endear her to the undecided voter. Therefore, despite her recent polling success she is perhaps best considered a dark horse for the nomination but undoubtedly the most eloquent. In the June GOP debate she verbally dominated her competitors and it remains to be seen if any of them can galvanize party members the way she can.         

Article first published as Profile: Michele Bachmann on Blogcritics.