Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday Column

In my latest column for our local newspaper I discuss conservative icon and intellectual powerhouse, Michele Bachmann, soon to leave the national stage, on the run.

Except for the entertainment, I don’t plan to miss Michele Bachmann. Besides, whatever amusement there might have been in her national presence, it was more than offset by the dispiriting horror of it. She epitomizes, after all, the contemptuous intellectual descent of today’s Republican party. Sure, her district is gerrymandered to select for her special kind of insanity; even so, it’s a national embarrassment that a person like her was seriously considered, by enough people in a major party to make it more than a fluke, to be of presidential caliber. But then, so were Ricks Perry and Santorum. And the abstruse Alaskan. 
God told her to do things, she liked to proclaim. Yet she was uncharacteristically silent about His role in her decision to flee, FEC nipping at her nose; or the polls suggesting she was looking a little toasty. If God really did talk her into running in the first place, I’m guessing it was preceded by crooking His finger at His buddies up there, like Tom Jefferson, MLK, FDR, Harriet Tubman, George Carlin, and saying, “Checketh it out, guys. This is gonna be grins.” 
Bachmann animated, like Dr. Frankenstein did his more attractive monster, that remarkable stitchery of disinformation, paranoia, and demagoguery that typifies today’s Republican leaders. I was never sure if she believed the stuff she said: reeducation camps, HPV vaccine causing mental retardation, Founding Fathers ending slavery, Obama surrendering US legal tender to some imaginary international currency. Clearly, she has the unconstrained zeal of the completely credulous. On the other hand, it’s exactly the steaming bilge her followers loved to hear, and she shoveled it out there for them with enthusiasm. Dumb like the Fox? 
She’ll remain a hero in her party, one gone so bonkers that its leaders refer to the nomination of judges to fill existing federal vacancies as an attempt to “pack the courts.” A party whose ophidian Senate leader claims, as his case is falling apart, that it’s “an assault on free speech” when the IRS ensures that political groups act within the law. As their avatar, Michele Bachmann perfectly personifies the fear and division, the running from reality and hiding in the land of nyctophobic fantasy in which her party has proudly pitched its doorless tent. 
If I’ve learned anything in these few months of columny, it’s that a mind like Michele’s can’t be changed. It was made up before any facts got in, slammed shut as she hid under her bed. Same with certain readers I hear from, who send me apocalyptic claims ripped from right-wing radio and TV, or from emails they’ve received, the kind that begin with “If you do nothing else today, read this and pass it on…” Stuff so obviously false that you’d be embarrassed to have your name on the forwarding. Stuff that’s been around since John Roberts flubbed the oath, and which has been debunked repeatedly. Rampant voter fraud. Shocking growth of government. Rising deficits, Obamacare for illegals, Sharia law for everyone. I’ve sent links to impartial articles, charts, and graphs, asked them to support their assertions, specify anything that confirms their certainty in President Obama’s hatred of capitalist America. No takers. The more information I’ve furnished, the more forcefully they flung their Foxified fallacies. It’s one thing to disagree; but this is manifest preference for being wrong; the clearer the disproof of their beliefs, the tighter they hold them, like Linus and his blanket. 
Easier than proposing workable alternatives, conspiracy theories are all they have. Michele Bachmann passed zero legislation; but, oh, the stories she told.I don’t know why some people prefer delusion over actuality; but it explains how reprobates like Bachmann get elected, and it illuminates our biggest problem: when times are tough, the untough prefer untruth. Reality, for Bachmann-empowering types, seems to have become intolerable; “La la la I can’t hear you” worked when they were kids, and what carefree times those were! Washington’s own state legislator, Ed Orcutt, claimed bicycles are more polluting than cars. He’s also the guy, responding to a request to fund upgrading bridges after the Mt. Vernon collapse, who pointed out that eleven of its twelve sections are still standing. Such thinking doesn’t portend thoughtful legislation. 
So, no, I won’t miss the lady. I wish I could believe her exit augurs a return to the real world by her party, but I don’t, not for a minute. Because, as Yoda reminded Obi-wan, “There is another.” And another. And another.
Note: due to an error by the paper, this isn't the column that appeared. Oh well. Sadly the one they published was one I sent in before it was ready. Crap, in other words.

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