Why does Bachmann keep getting elected?

Published 10:07 am Friday, August 24, 2012

Column: David Rask Behling, Notes from Home

Rep. Michele Bachmann is in the national news a lot, most of the time because — apparently — she speaks before she thinks about consequences, but also about whether her words are supported by evidence.

Over the years she’s complained about being stalked by lesbians — after spying on gay rights supporters from the bushes. She publicized a non-existent “secret” plan to split Iraq into five countries after the U.S. invasion. She talked about anti-American politicians in Congress.

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Her latest climb into the headlines came at the expense of American Muslims, whom she sees as plotting to contaminate and weaken American government and society from within. She claims she’s just asking questions, but that’s accusation by innuendo, a dodge unscrupulous politicians have used for centuries to hide claims for which no evidence exists.

David Behling

Wild, unsubstantiated accusations — or call them “questions” if you like — are her calling card. To be blunt, they make her look like a crazy person, albeit a politically astute crazy person.

From my point of view down here in southern Minnesota, the real problem actually is not Rep. Bachmann herself. The real problem lies in the majority of voters in central Minnesota who continue to send her back to Washington year after year.

I can understand a crazy person getting elected once (I was among those who voted for Jesse Ventura, after all). Politicians are frequently able to run as stealth candidates, not revealing their true personality and intentions until after they take office (like the aforementioned Ventura or Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin).

The situation needs to be examined differently, however, when that same crazy person is re-elected, year after year, by voters in the 6th District. At that point, I think it’s legitimate to start holding those who keep re-electing her accountable for their own crazy choice.

So what is it that so many voters in the 6th District find to admire in Michele Bachmann? Why are they willing to trust decision-making on their behalf to her? Do they not notice her accusations and unsubstantiated claims? Do they not care?

Or do they agree with her?

That is potentially the most disturbing possibility, that thousands of Minnesotans north of here feel the way she does about Muslims, definitions of patriotism and supporting claims with evidence, that thousands of Minnesota voters care so little about her dangerous and prejudiced beliefs.

It’s not the extremists on the fringe who are voting for her, after all. In order to win elections, she’s also getting votes from people in the mainstream who usually can be counted on to be more responsible: the business owners, farmers and professional people living in St. Cloud and the other communities of the 6th District.

This is the main reason why I, as an outsider, dare to comment on the choices of other voters. I’ve actually considered donating money to her opponents for the last couple of election cycles, but chose not to, because it’s not my district. I may be quaint or old-fashioned in saying it, but I don’t think outside money should be financing political campaigns. It appears to be another thing that voters in the 6th District admire or don’t notice about Bachmann: the money she brings in from supporters outside of Minnesota.

It’s her most recent set of accusations about Muslims serving in the U.S. government, which also brought condemnation from leaders of her own party, that finally prompted me to go this far, to write about this as an outsider. As political bomb throwers always have done with their verbal assaults, she’s damaging this country. But there’s little the rest of us can do other than endure.

The voters of the 6th District, on the other hand, can do something.

So if you, reading this in Freeborn County (or elsewhere) have friends and family living in the 6th District, go ahead and ask them what’s going on up there. Are the majority of voters in central Minnesota paranoid haters of anyone who doesn’t look or sound like them? Do they not care about facts?

Voters in the mainstream who continue to vote for Michele Bachmann owe the rest of the state, if not the rest of the country, an explanation.


David Rask Behling teaches at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, and lives with his wife and children in Albert Lea.