I put the photo and caption up on the left here not because I am going to engage in a round of Bachmann bashing, very easy to do. I am also not going to talk about the insanity of selling off valuable public assets, the price-of-everything mindset. It’s enough to know that the only reason Yosemite is so valuable is because it has not been privatized to the degree that other naturally beautiful landscapes have, like for instance Malibu Beach, mostly inaccessible to the public.
Bachmann first came to national prominence when she appeared on the Chris Mathews show on MSNBC in 2008, who allowed her to hang herself. After a long (by American standards) interview on the campaign, she concluded by saying that
What I would say — what I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that.
In other words, a witch hunt. But she doesn’t understand that, it appears, in fact, appears to be a very stupid person. Campaign contributions rolled into her district to unseat her, and in response campaign contributions rolled in to keep her in her seat. Her base rallied around her. Her prominence later allowed her to run a somewhat credible campaign for the presidency, that is, she was not booted to the margins as progressives are.
What to make of this?
- Stupid is not a problem in politics. Of course, it’s just one House seat, and the Senate is the ultimate legislative force. Democrats, after all, have given the Republicans the powerful filibuster regime. So her stupidity presents no danger to anyone.
- Stupidity is a magnet. We can debate whether or not she really is that stupid, or whether she is knowingly or unknowingly being portrayed in that manner. The important thing is that when she is attacked for being stupid, her base rallies around her. There’s a lesson there, so I have to ask who is more stupid: Her base, or those who rally it to her support.
- The George W. Bush effect: The powerful financial centers that brought Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to power understand motivation. They knew that when people attacked W for his stupidity, that it would raise him up in the polls. Having been a participant in that nonsense, I know now that all of politics is calculated to its maximum effect on base, and sometimes the reaction is more important than the action.
- The Barack Obama effect: Members of his base likes to imagine themselves smarter than the average bear, and so have learned phrases like Juris Doctor and marvel at how this man plays chess to everyone else’s checkers. This is the opposite side of the coin. Same manipulation, different effect.
But what does it mean!!!? I take it to mean that the office of president and on down the line are show business positions and that office holders are sculpted accordingly. A “leader” can be fashioned from whole cloth, as was Reagan (deep into Alzheimer’s in his second term even as his handlers hardly missed a beat). This is done by scripting of famous words, camera angles, all done for dramatic effect.
What effect does it have on public policy? Quite a bit, I’m sure, primarily in that it removes it from public discussion. The bulk of our public dialogue merely serves to distract us. I’ve seen now for five years the NeoCon agenda in action, carried out first by Bush and now by Obama. The raging public issues center around perceptions of the two men, and not the policies they promote. Democrats rally around Obama, a half-black man, in the same manner that others rallied around Bush and his stupidity.
It’s all about the stupid. All are being manipulated. It’s a public spectacle to keep us busy while the business of public policy is carried out quietly behind the curtain. If voting mattered, it would be illegal.