by David Bozeman
Sarah Palin remains the brightest star on the GOP roster, but another figure has emerged to galvanize America’s conservative base. Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, 53, was elected in 2006 in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, which includes the suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul, not the friendliest territory for a pro-life, pro-drilling, anti-tax increase critic of President Obama’s “economic Marxism.” Re-elected in 2008 — not the friendliest year for Republicans — Bachmann is attractive, outspoken, accomplished (mother, foster mother to over 20 children, tax attorney and businesswoman) and could well find herself contending for a spot on a future national ticket.
Or probably not. Bachmann, recently immortalized as an action- figure doll, has already provoked enough outrage from the left to be considered a lightning rod. A quick perusal of the Internet, at sites such as The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Dump Michelle Bachmann and numerous others confirms it — they hate her. A detractor noted that when she speaks, people don’t just listen, they gape. She was chided by the head of the Minnesota Democratic Party for questioning the patriotism of Barack and Michelle Obama (Bachmann’s name and Joe McCarthy yield over 20,000 search results). She publicly expressed disdain for radical Muslims (after the famous ‘flying imams’ were allegedly subjected to unnecessary scrutiny) and even vowed to give as little information as possible to census takers. In opposing an energy tax, she announced that she wanted the people of Minnesota armed and dangerous, which her supporters claim meant armed with the truth.
Controversial remarks aside, capitalism and limited government mark her legislative agenda. She strongly favors domestic energy production (imagine her and Sarah Palin writing national energy policy — would liberals then finally up and move to France?), including sponsorship of a bill to allow private companies to build up to 50 nuclear power plants. She opposed a congressional pay hike and her support for state and local control of education stretches back to the early 90s when she opened a charter school. More recently, she opposed the financial bailouts. If conservative activism against the Obama agenda wanes, she could easily re-ignite the fires. In fact, she has attended countless Tea Party and anti-Obama Administration events. She is clearly one of conservatism’s most tireless messengers — small wonder that in the final days of the 2008 campaign the national Democrat machine redoubled its efforts to defeat her.
So would that be all the more reason to run her for VP in 2012 or ’16? Should her possible ascension to national prominence be dismissed outright because the left has marginalized her? Should party faithful not consider her conviction and stamina, both of which she possesses in abundance?
Ultimately, of course, she will have to craft an image for herself distinct from the polarized caricatures courtesy of both supporters and detractors. She has served the conservative cause loyally (even conceding that her rhetoric could use some softening) — would the Republican hierarchy return the favor if she ran for the US Senate or governor — or an even higher post?
None of which may ever matter. Every political watcher vies to be the first to spot the next rising star, especially on the GOP side. Observing trends, however, becomes a sport unto itself, while the true mark of public service does not necessarily foretell a spot on a presidential ticket. How well does she serve her district? That, of course, depends on who you ask. Great leaders earn their distinction not by charisma or star potential but by forging ahead and staying true to principle. The day-to-day necessities of staving off the Obama agenda — proposing legislation, speaking to and for average Americans — she performs gleefully. Her take-no-prisoners approach to public discourse marks a bold contrast to the over-congeniality of President Bush and John McCain. The best advice conservatives can offer her is to not polish her image or hire a marketing firm but just keep on keeping’ on.
David Bozeman is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.