What keeps me up at night is that maybe I haven't explained this the right way. In all the years I've been here, and during the relatively short time I've been doing these regular Bachmann updates...maybe I haven't explained it "the right way," explained why this is so important.
The short answer: I think I may have left out something in all of the tens of thousands of words I've written on this subject. I may have left out my personal belief that there's about a sixty per cent chance that America is going to go "more the way Michele Bachmann wants it to go" than the way that progressive or liberals want it to go and that this is going to happen in my lifetime.
Yeah: that's what I really think, right now; this summer. The craziest, most irrational tradition in modern American politics could really end up dominating American government. Not just "as bad as the Bush years," worse than that. An unapologetically crazy and irrational worldview, with pre-Enlightenment standards for knowledge and wisdom--dominating American politics and media.
I'm calling this a "Bachmann Update," so my very small group of readers will recognize the header--but this one is really more of a "Bachmann Update" update. That's your warning, for what follows...
Sometimes people do write in and say--why regular updates on this particular nut? It doesn't happens so much anymore. Most of the regular readers either:
--get why this political phenomenon is so important, or
--at least tolerate the regular Bachmann updates simply because she is "news" and "hot copy."
But it does worry me that there may be a better way of explaining why this political phenomenon is worthy of regular attention on the Kos and elsewhere. It worries me that maybe there's a better way to explain why this is so important, and that I've never figured out that "better way."
Tonight I realized my wife (who has to read what I write on the internet, it's in the pre-nup) didn't understand that I really did believe that it was a definite possibility, maybe even a slight probability, that the people who back Bachmann might really get into power. She didn't understand that I really do believe they might really "win": govern and make law for the rest of us, determine the course of daily domestic and foreign policy of the US and thus much of the rest of the world.
That's their aim; the aim of "the people who back Bachmann." And by the "people who back Bachmann," I don't mean the rank-and-file Republican supporters, the tea party true believers who show up at the rallies, or even the national conservative talk radio audience. I mean a small political elite composed of the leadership of the religious right, the conservative media owners, the right wing of the business and media communities. It's actually a very small number of people; it's not the millions who would like to see someone like Michele Bachmann become president or lead the Congress.
Yeah, I really do believe that that numerically small number of people and interests could come to dominate American government, and change it fundamentally...change the terms of public discourse, limit the parameters of "what is politically possible in the US," rewrite history and American political premises in their own interests.
Bachmann is a symptom of what has become a chronic political cancer in the US: the marriage of American conservatism to sectarian religious belief guided by a national conservative evangelical political hierarchy...conflating the idea of "true Christianity" with a conservative agenda. And I believe (this summer) that they have a better than fifty-fifty chance of dominating the government and making fundamental changes to the way Americans think about government and democracy.
All that stuff: "Judaeo-Christian religious authority as the real and ultimate premise of American government and legitimate authority." "A predominant worldview that demonizes other opinions as anti-American." "Beliefs about the supernatural as the final test for what constitutes facts and knowledge." "A new American political and social hierarchy with a "top" including people who dominate on the basis of their status as the representatives of the supernatural." I believe that that has a good chance of becoming a reality in my lifetime.
I don't believe that if that does happen, it's going to happen all at once. I've observed that the people that I'm referring to are what another diarist tonight called "incrementalists." They can wait; they have been waiting for decades. Right now they're waiting for Dem fails at the polls this fall; if that happens to a significant degree you and I will see "that nut" Bachmann as ideological leader in a newly constituted US Congress.
This is a strategy that has been played out over decades. Back in the seventies and eighties, the leaders of this movement began to encourage proteges to run for local offices (school boards, local government, etc.) Some of those candidates went on to run for state or federal offices, with middling success at first. But in the last two decades it's succeeded fairly regularly.
They don't campaign as "evangelical conservative" candidates, they tend to campaign under the Republican brand after capturing local Republican political units. The "stealth" aspect of the candidacies--proceeding under another brand (Republican) rather than telling voters what your real agenda is--is a tactic inherited from John Birch Society, an antecedent movement that played a key role in the modern evangelical political machine. They kept to these strategies of acquiring media, stealth candidacies, building the political action arms of the movement over decades--and so their proteges and and local support groups came to be players in districts where evangelical conservatives were significant.
And now, decades later--many of their candidates are in office, GOP figures who are positioned...positioned to take over in event of Dem fails in office. (And these protege candidates are not all blatant demagogues and haters like Bachmann; hardly any of them get or even court the media spotlight the way Bachmann does.)
The worldview that holds the strategy together is a weird mix of generalized right wing paranoia, a John Birch Society conspiratorial view of Washington DC, white anxiety, midwestern, western and southern political resentment, and a pseudo-Biblical Manicheanism that's peculiar to and chronic in their supporters.
It's the worst in the American political tradition, and it was supposed to be dead after Goldwater was trounced in the 1964 presidential election. It's not dead, it didn't get sent to the knackers "again" when Barack Obama was elected. It never completely goes away; it's been a chronic feature of American political history since the Ku Klux Klan was viable political force in American elections during the 1920s.
The particular style and the details of the paranoid rhetoric change (for example, in this generation "overt" expressions of hatred against African-Americans, Jews, immigrants, Catholics, etc. are "out," officially renounced by this incarnation of the movement and its politicians.) But the essence of this paranoid style is still there: "America is a Christian nation, the stuff the liberals represent is un-American, the people who disagree with us persecute us and have taken over America, they're an evil cabal of people who want to end freedom and enslave us, the nation really belongs to us, we are being crucified and we are the real Americans, not the tens of millions of Americans who disagree with us."
Michele Bachmann is a figurehead for that crazy paranoid worldview, which (like the Klan of the 20s) co-opts the brand of Christianity. And: as powerful as the Klan of the 20s was, this incarnation is far more powerful today. It has its own national media, its own airwaves, its own GOTV organizations. (A New Yorker article on Mike Huckabee last week parenthetically acknowledges something that Republicans have known for more than a decade: there is now a de facto conservative "evangelical" primary within the Republican national primary. When I started writing about Bachmann, journalists didn't even use the word "evangelical" to describe the movement--they were "the Christian right." (That's actually an insult to Christians outside the movement--as if the right wing views of the movement were really the "biblical views," "the truly Christian views." Certainly some evangelicals complained of this; but where was their national media chain, where were their lobbyists, their political players with tens of millions of votes at their backs?)
It's still a de facto two party market in national politics. If the movement that I'm talking about dominates one of the two brands--and the relatively sane brand fails at the polls--the movement I'm talking about gets in. And the terms of the American political debate begin to change, because the movement I'm talking about begins to rewrite American law, procedural rules, even history--to reflect the craziness I've mentioned above. Their view of law is similar to that of Bush Attorney General Gonzales: law is something that people in power can use to discourage and suppress political opposition.
Even with minority status, their sympathetic media can stop progressive initiatives. And they know that time operates in their favor because Democrats, progressive and liberals divide, even as they have been taught to cohere.
I thought I was making all of the above clear by regularly using the word "proto-fascist" to describe the movement and its tens of millions of fans. But maybe I've never been clear enough. I keep mentioning an organization called the Council for National Policy, an organization that most Americans have never even heard of. (I'd even bet that most of the conservative evangelical voters who support the organization's political agenda have never heard of it. That's intentional.) I write about Bachmann regularly because she's one of the most visible symptoms of an enduring American political cancer. It's on the move, it's behind the conservative political views and politicians that most of you detest and fear--and it's positioned, this election cycle.
People don't have to make up a "boogey man" to scare progressives into working to keep the government out to the hands of conservatives and Republicans next year. There's a real threat; it's the one I'm writing about in these updates--and if you think it's just Michele Bachmann, you're not paying attention to what you need to know. It's a very real, very organized, very determined political movement that wants to govern and fundamentally transform the United States into something far worse than most people can even imagine.