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Sueddeutsche, Germany

The Shrill Tea Party Icon Will Not Go On

By Matthias Kolb

Translated By Sabine Reynaud

31 May 2013

Edited by Natalie Clager

Germany - Sueddeutsche - Original Article (German)

Michele Bachmann was the shrillest and loudest of the Republicans who wanted to take down Barack Obama in 2012. The darling of the tea party had no chance in the battle for the White House, but voters in Minnesota did send her back to the House of Representatives. Now Bachmann has announced that she will not run again in 2014. The consequences of her work will be felt in Washington for a long time.

Bachmann embodies exactly what veteran Republican politicians despise in many of today's representatives: They are loud, radical, ultraconservative and regard any compromise as defeat.

Only this weekend, Bob Dole could not take it any longer. The former senator, who lost in the 1996 presidential election to Bill Clinton, suggested in a talk show that Republicans should hang a sign on the door of the party headquarters saying "closed for repairs" and finally modernize. The conservatives lacked vision and were unable to work with the Democrats.

That the tea party icon Bachmann declared her withdrawal from politics now probably has nothing to do with the rumble of the old warrior Bob Dole, but it fits the picture. In March, U.S. media reported that there is evidence of misuse of campaign funds by her presidential campaign team. In addition, Bachmann, who had distinguished herself with attacks against the "anti-American" President Barack Obama, won her seat by a very narrow margin.

In >an eight-minute video, the 57-year-old politician from Minnesota denied any connection with the allegations. Her decision not to run again in November 2014 had nothing to do with the investigations into her presidential campaign by the ethics watchdogs in Congress and the Federal Election Commission.

There is a debate about the “legacy” of the tea party icon and highly successful fundraiser. Glenn Kessler, who fact-checks statements by politicians for The Washington Post, gives Bachmann a clear assessment: “Bachmann is not just fast and loose with the facts; she is consistently and unapologetically so. No other lawmaker earned as high a percentage of Four-Pinocchio ratings as Bachmann.”

Lies and allegations presented in an inflammatory tone are an integral part of “Bachmannism,” explains journalist E.J. Dionne: It is about entertaining the base and being constantly present on conservative talk radio shows and Fox News.

That her statements are often factually wrong does not bother her. Criticism is explained away as the bias of the liberal media. The resignation video is vintage Bachmann peppered with accusations against the Obama administration, which is supposedly responsible for the deaths of four diplomats and had instructed the IRS to spy on innocent citizens. Some years ago, these often outrageous allegations led Bachmann to become the second figurehead of the tea party, next to Sarah Palin. Their followers want limited government and commitment to more austerity.

The evangelical Christian is silent about how she imagines her future. In a nebulous way she said she would consider all options, "directly in the political arena or somewhere else," that contribute “to the protection of our great nation for future generations.”

Matthew Yglesias at Slate.com suggested that Bachmann is driven by a shrewd calculation. After experiencing a short-lived peak during the presidential campaign in 2012, she was brought down by her many blunders and soon withdrew from the race. The people in her native Minnesota are not conservative enough to choose her for governor or senator.

Withdrawing from active politics and entering the "conservative edutainment industry" is always more lucrative and demands less work: “I'm sure she can earn plenty of money writing books or making TV shows or doing speaking appearances.” Yglesias gets to the point: Nowadays it is easier for a House member to become famous than to gain real power.

Bachmann will certainly not remain silent until the end of 2014. And then she will continue to spread her point of view in much the same way — just not as a politician, but a media star. The strategy she perfected to draw attention to herself has already found many imitators. However, Republicans like Jason Chaffetz or Ted Cruz talk in a different tone.

The legacy of Michele Bachmann will be noticeable in Washington for some time to come.



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