By DeWayne Wickham
Michele Bachmann’s win in the straw poll of Republican Party faithfuls in Iowa — the first voter test of the 2012 presidential campaign — had to be good news to a White House battered by a downturn in the economy and an uptick in war casualties.
The Minnesota congresswoman’s victory in the nonbinding contest, which historically has not been a major factor in picking the GOP nominee, increases the possibility that she will be her party’s standard-bearer, given the Tea Party’s muscle flexing in this political season. Bachmann is leader of that kamikaze wing of Republicans in the House of Representatives.
Although the Tea Party’s approval rating has been in a steady decline, it still holds great sway over the GOP. The no-compromise stance that it forced on congressional Republicans during the debt limit debate has pushed the Tea Party onto the tundra of American politics, a position from which Bachmann cannot mount a successful assault on Obama’s presidency.
If the Tea Party’s stranglehold on the GOP propels Bachmann to the party’s presidential nomination, something many pundits think is still a long shot, Bachmann will be soundly defeated in the general election and drag other Republicans down to defeat, as well. In such a campaign, voters will be constantly reminded that Bachmann opposed raising the debt ceiling at a time when many Democrats and Republicans said doing so would court economic catastrophe.
“It was very important (to me) that we not raise the debt ceiling. The worst thing that you can do is continue to borrow money and spend money that we don’t have,” Bachmann said during a televised debate. While Bachmann endears herself to the Tea Party crowd with talk like that, she mortally wounds her chances of ever being more than a footnote of presidential election history.
A former Jimmy Carter Democrat, Bachmann is an unwavering social conservative whose faceoff with Obama would energize black voters, whose support for the president has waned. This drop is probably spurred by the nation’s high black unemployment rate (nearly double that of whites) and the failure of the president’s communications team to get the word out about the things he’s doing to better the lives of disadvantaged blacks for fear of a white backlash.
Black rage over Bachmann’s assertion in January that the founding fathers ended slavery — which they didn’t — would help get disillusioned blacks back into the Obama fold and to the polls on Election Day.
So, too, would another Bachmann faux pas.
In a mindless attempt to win over right-wingers in Iowa, Bachmann signed a Marriage Vow document that suggested black children were better off when they were born into slavery “and raised by (a) mother and father in a two-parent household” than are black children who were born after Obama took office.
Both the premise and accuracy of that claim were debunked in Wilma Dunaway’s 2005 book, The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation. But even if there were more intact black families during slavery, it takes a callous disregard for the brutalities of that “peculiar institution” to believe that life for blacks was somehow better then than it is now.
While all of this has made Bachmann a Tea Party favorite, it won’t win her enough support beyond the trench lines of that right-wing clique — surely not enough to defeat Obama. And that’s got to have Democrats rooting for her to become the GOP standard-bearer.