Biznatches, it’s been far too long.
My life has been crazypants, but that’s no excuse for ditching you all for over a month. Sorry, Femmoliticas. Let’s just pick it right back up, shall we? Mmkay.
So, Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann‘s been having a pretty shitty few weeks.
After allegations of improper campaign spending, Bachmann’s been under investigation by the FBI, the House Ethics Committee, the Federal Election Commission, and the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee. Unsurprisingly, in the midst of all this scandal, she announced that she won’t be running for reelection in 2014.
Now, this is a pretty rough break for Michele Bachmann. Her political career is pretty much over. But for those of us who are feminist, lefty-loosey folk, this is super exciting news, right? The Queen of the Tea Party has been dethroned! The mayor of Congressional Crazytown is retiring! Surely, those Right-wing nut jobs are retreating and on their way out. Right?
If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, Bachmann is just the tip of a worryingly authoritarian iceberg within the GOP. She might be walking away from the Beltway, but her ideology’s not going with her.
And I’m not the only one who thinks so. In a recent article about the swirl of scandals and surprises dubbed as Bachmannia, the New York Times wonders if the GOP is really in retreat, or if it’s actually just revving up it’s engine.
Guys, I’ve spent a lot of time with Michele Bachmann.
OK, not literally, calm down. Shelly and I haven’t hung out, had drinks, or had any heart-to-hearts about how I’ve committed myself to a life of bondage, thanks to my dyketastic-ness.
But, since I wrote my Senior Thesis about women in the Tea Party, and am currently in the middle of writing my first non-fiction book on the same topic, let’s just say I’ve spent a lot of figurative time with Michele Bachmann and her band of like-minded Mama Grizzlies.
And after spending zillions of hours curled up on my couch, reading and writing about Michele Bachmann and others like her, I can tell you with a whole lot of confidence–the Times is right to be skeptical about Shelly’s decision to walk away from the House in 2014. She might be leaving the floor, but her ideas aren’t going anywhere. And neither is the GOP.
For starters, Bachmann and her fellow Tea Partiers did not magically sprout up out of nowhere. Nope. In fact, the Tea Party, with all its anti-tax rhetoric mixed with weirdly racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs, is just the latest articulation of conservative ideologies that have been brewing since the New Deal.
Writing during that New Deal era, you could say that Ayn Rand was one of the original Tea Party women, with her ridiculously orthodox obsession with capitalism, her witchhunter-like fear of anyone who didn’t take her word as bond, and her narcissistic lack of empathy for anyone she deemed to be beneath her. Rand hated the New Deal, FDR, and anything that stank of social justice, and made that crystal fucking clear in her diatribe-like books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Unsurprisingly, nowadays those two books are practically required reading for Tea Partiers.
I wonder how many of them just watched the movie, instead?
Anyway! Post-Rand, conservatism evolved in a whole bunch of ways, but I won’t bore you with the details. I’m assuming most of you are not nerdy history buffs, like me.
So to summarize: After Rand, there’s a clear lineage of super influential conservative women, from Phyllis Schlafly, to Beverly La Haye, to Ann Coulter, to Michelle Malkin, to Sarah Palin, to Michele Bachmann. All of them are different people with unique agendas, but they have a heck of a lot in common–they’re all (mostly) white, straight, Christian, married women with children, who totally buy into the ideas of male domination, compulsory heterosexuality, racism, imperialism, and social inequality.
But! That’s not to say that they’re idiotic dupes, being controlled by evil men-folk and used as silly puppets.
Nope, not at all. Instead, conservative women women believe in these decidedly anti-feminist ideals because they have something to gain from them. That’s pretty much the same reason the rest of us believe in feminism, right? Because we feel we have something to gain from it–namely, increased freedom, respect, and agency. Pretty sweet deal.
But for Right-wing women like Bachmann, conservatism has just as much to offer. It provides normalcy, order, and above all, privilege. When you’re championing a politics that holds white, straight, Christian, capitalist, child-rearing folks as the most powerful and respected people on the planet–and you are also one of those people–you’re essentially gunning to put yourself at the top of the socio-economic food chain. And that’s a pretty attractive place to be. I mean, really, who doesn’t want to be on top?
But then, what about all of us who are stuck on the bottom of this haphazard pyramid? Because the truth of the matter is, we can’t all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, as the old conservative adage goes, and be that girl gracing the uppermost corner of the pyramid. In order for her to stay up there, a whole crew of bottom dwellers must support her. Feminism is–or should be–all about giving a big “Fuck you!” to this organization of things, in which a mass of marginalized folks prop up the privileged few.
And even though feminists have only had marginal success at deconstructing the pyramid, it’s been seriously shaken in recent years. Most notably, by the financial crisis of 2008, which gave a few of the folks at the top–and everyone in the middle–a panicky case of the willies about toppling right down to the bottom.
Teaming up with the Tea Party was, and is, one way to freak out. And it’s surprisingly more common than any statistics about Tea Party membership let on. While talking heads like Michele Bachmann give Tea Partiers a wing-nutty reputation, tons of people agree with Tea Party ideology without actively identifying with it. Even more are sympathetic to Tea Party ideals without even realizing those ideas are endorsed by the Tea Party. I can’t tell you how many people I talk to every day who tell me that Tea Partiers are crazy fascists–only to follow up with a rant about the 2nd Amendment, Obama’s lack of citizenship, or school prayer.
The fact is, lovelies, that the center of American politics has shifted dramatically to the Right. We can thank lots of people for that–Ronald Reagan, Glenn Beck, and Dick Cheney definitely make the list. But women like Michele Bachmann have been equally instrumental in driving this nation to the Right–if not more so.
The only problem is, with every wildly inaccurate sound bite, political scandal, and sexy hair flip, everyone seems to forget the fact that women like Bachmann are important political players, changing the landscape of American politics with every vote on the Congressional floor.
So is Bachmann’s decision to bow out of Congress at the end of this year a sign that the GOP is retreating?
Not so much.
The ideology that she stands for has been built over the course of decades, and it’s not magically going away with her singular decision to forgo reelection.
More likely, whoever takes Bachmann’s seat will be equally as conservative, if not more so. But he or she probably won’t hand reporters as many colorful one-liners, signaling the crazy to the rest of us.
In short, Bachmann’s replacement will probably be someone who’s more skilled at flying under the radar, at moving a fiercely conservative agenda without being noticed. And that’s prroooobbbally worse. Why?
Because it doesn’t inspire the same kind of resistance.
So keep a look out, Femmoliticas. Bachmann might be on her way out, but she’s not going very far. There will be a new Mayor of Crazytown soon enough.