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I don’t believe there is such a thing as “essential human dignity,” because I have attended “open mic” nights at cafes and heard people singing their own original folk songs. But if you require further evidence of our degraded human condition, you will find it in “Bachmannistan: Behind the Lines” by Peter Waldron and John Gilmore.

The authors themselves don’t seem to understand how much they’re confessing about Republican politics, American conservatives, and the Christian Right. The authors don’t even seem to understand how much they’re confessing about themselves.

The chief source for events is co-author Waldron, who directed evangelical outreach during Bachmann’s presidential campaign. Other Bachmann insiders also provided material (longtime Bachmann political advisor and campaign manager Andy Parrish seems to have contributed recollections appearing in early chapters.)

So when the authors recount ‘the scene where Michele and Marcus Bachmann are at home one night in their Stillwater, Minnesota bedroom’ — the scene in which Marcus Bachmann lays in bed looking on as Michele Bachmann stares at herself in a full length mirror, saying: “I am the President of the United States” — I feel fairly sure that that actually happened. (See the original illustration I have created to represent this scene, above.)
(CONTINUED)

I also feel pretty sure that either Michele or Marcus confided ‘the claim she made to the mirror’ to one of their political allies, in the hope that this otherwise private moment would somehow impress the listener. Which is funny, given the fact that so many of us will find the image either entirely ridiculous or somewhat disturbing.

And there is so much more ridiculous and disturbing stuff here. The book is very short, but it presents an entire catalog of pseudo-Christian hypocrisies and petty corruptions. And the book is also a very rare and valuable document, because co-author Peter Waldron was a key player inside one of Michele Bachmann’s political campaigns and had regular access to the top levels. The recollections gathered here amount to archaeological evidence of the lie-driven insincerity and lunacy at the heart of American conservatism. And: the book is unconsciously funny.

Some have been trying to discourage people from reading “Bachmannistan.” Some express doubt about Waldron’s credibility. Indeed, Waldron seems to cast doubt on that himself. In the book he alludes to the series of political “dirty tricks” he agreed to undertake on behalf of a Republican congressional candidate — and “executed to brilliant effect with no fingerprints.” (I told you: this stuff is unconsciously funny.)

But as I suggested above: despite Waldron's strange resume, I'd bet that about ninety per cent of what he says happened -- happened.

For one thing, the megalomanic pattern of deceit the authors allege in this book is entirely consist with what I've observed during ten years or so of writing about and researching Michele Bachmann. More importantly, independent authorities found some of co-author Waldron's accusations credible enough to justify various criminal and ethics investigations.

Another reader complaint about "Bachmannistan: Behind The Lines" is that the quality of the writing is poor. To me, that objection is like saying that no one should ever bother to read the notes coming from the inside of a lunatic asylum because “the sentence structure is so bad.”

Yes, the writing style is… idiosyncratic. For example look at the following sentence from Chapter Thirteen:
 

“The bride of Christ stripped bare, as it were, to mix Catholic metaphor, Marcel Duchamp and Bryan Ferry.”

I don’t know about you, but for me that sort of thing is just one more reason to read the book. It's one of the reason I found this book is funny.

And I thought the tone was funny, too. The authors write as if Bachmann’s betrayal of Christian values of compassion, justice and truth represent some kind of unforeseeable tragedy. Which is crazy, and therefore potentially funny. Yes, Bachmann seems to have violated the trust of her own friends and supporters. But by the time she did that, countless verified statements — from Bachmann herself — had proved her to be either a fool or a liar or both, and therefore deeply untrustworthy.

And instead of giving any weight to the dishonesty constantly on display in Bachmann’s own statements, her supporters and staffers chose to ignore it. So I found the authors' tone (shocked disappointment) funny. How could any adult with sound judgment ever believe in Michele Bachmann — after the first twenty times she was caught lying to the public?

At one point in the book these conservative and Christian authors even describe Bachmann as “vicious, self-centered, phony, in it for herself.” Now that's funny, too. Because this is the person who faith and character was recommended regularly over the years by Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Fox News — recommended as a model politician and leader. On the basis of those recommendations, an objective observer might conclude that something’s deeply wrong with the conservative worldview and movement — don’t ya think?

I know I'm preaching to the converted here on the Kos. But we live in a world where many academics and media and personal acquaintances still insist on giving the opinions of professional conservatives the benefit of a doubt. This book is convincing evidence that conservatives shouldn't be given the benefit of a doubt.

Because readers of the book must draw the conclusion that the conservatives who supported, endorsed and promoted this political career for years -- are stupid cranks or cynical con men. Most of the people who write and read the Kos take that as a given. But here (in the form of a three dollar e-book) is first hand evidence you need to convince anyone who still needs convincing. The writing is weird and the book is unintentionally funny: but it's primary source proof (gathered by conservatives!) that conservatism really is a corrupt, crap con game .

Because I kept that context in mind as I read “Bachmannistan,” I found the book very amusing. Some of you may not agree, and that’s understandable. Many will find this book “very sad” rather than “bleakly humorous.”

And those who do find it sad may also claim that any laughs produced by “Bachmannistan: Behind the Lines” stem from unfeeling schadenfreude. “Only a reader with a shameful, immature sense of humor could find anything to laugh at here,” these people will say.

I assure you that people who would voice such opinions are dickheads. The discerning will appreciate that (in their attempt to get their version of the truth out to the public) the authors of “Bachmannistan” have unconsciously created a fine, dark political farce. A dark farce about the essential moral corruption and willful stupidity at the heart of the American Right. This unconscious farce is all the more funny because it was constructed out of fact rather than mere imagination.

And that’s quite an achievement, even if it was unintentional.

Originally posted to Bill Prendergast on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 10:40 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter and Readers and Book Lovers.

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