Is There A Place For Michele Bachmann In The Republican Party?

Owen Poindexter
Michele Bachmann announced that she will not run again for Congress, meaning that at the end of 2014, her run of four terms in Congress will come to an end. Bachmann was and remains the first name that comes up when one talks about "Republican crazy."
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Michele Bachmann is on her way out, but what she represents is alive and well in the Republican Party. PHOTO: Gage Skidmore, CC License
Michele Bachmann announced that she will not run again for Congress, meaning that at the end of 2014, her run of four terms in Congress will come to an end. Bachmann was and remains the first name that comes up when one talks about "Republican crazy." Where the borders of Republican crazy end is open to debate, but any objective analysis has Bachmann comfortably within them. She was entirely unconcerned with facts and truth. She played to a wing of the GOP that just wants to hear Obama, Pelosi, Reid and all their friends hit with playground insults and serious accusations, two things Bachmann was never in short supply of. She made up whole-cloth lies about Obama having a personal dog walker on staff, as well as two video projector operators, one of whom worked the night shift: this person, Bachmann alleged, had the job of waiting through the night on the off chance that President Obama woke up from a fitful sleep with the desire to watch a movie. "And I don't mean to be petty here," Bachmann added, "but can't they just push the play button." They can, and they do, because the White House doesn't employ a full time projector operator.

The list of Bachmann's lies is long and hilarious, but to the question I ask in the title: is there a place for Bachmann in the Republican Party? Clearly, the answer to that is yes, in that Bachmann got elected and reelected three times. She ran for President, and at one point was near the top of the polls in Iowa. She managed to box out Tim Pawlenty, many people's pick for the eventual nominee, from the race (T-Paw was also a terrible campaigner, but that's another story). So the real question is, is Bachmann a side show or part of the main Republican act? The answer to that has been main act for her time in Congress. Ron Paul was repeatedly brushed off by his Republican counterparts in 2012 Presidential debates, but Bachmann was someone they had to take seriously, at least in public.
Republican politics now are essentially a giant litmus test that creeps ever-further to the right, and Bachmann was the public face of that rightward push. Because the Tea Party is large enough, and a highly mobile voter base, any Republican with national aspirations has to think about how they will at least pacify, if not become a hero of the Tea Party (I'm using "the Tea Party" as a sort of shorthand for the far right Fox News/Limbaugh/birther coalition, not all of whom show up at Tea Party rallies). And that wing of the party doesn't seem to have a limit for how far is too far. Many of them believe that Obama stole the 2012 election. That Texas should secede. That they should have access to any weaponry they can buy and that Obama is going to take away their guns (he never was, but that fear has driven a surge in gun sales each time Obama was elected and again after his gun reform push). Again, the list goes on.
Those people listen to Bachmann (and Allen West, Sarah Palin, and the right wing media world, which includes and many other crazy-town blogs). They listen to Bachmann and not the New York Times, CNN and other more objective news sources. That means that Bachmann and others can say more or less whatever they want. The crazier it is, the more the masses love it.
The voters of Minnesota's 6th district seem ready to kick Bachmann out. Her margin of victory in 2012 was 1.2%, her lowest yet, and likely a sign that she wouldn't survive another round. Her retirement bumps her to the Sarah Palin realm of only talking to the right wing media (which won't be a big shift). She can make a bundle lobbying and being a correspondent on Fox News. However, her defeat does not signal an overall fatigue with her brand. 2016 Presidential hopefuls(not official, but five it a couple of years) Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and (especially) Ted Cruz repeat many of the same policies as Bachmann and they are doing just fine. Chris Christie would be a great candidate in a general election for President, but it's unlikely he can capture the nomination because he doesn't take the Bachmann-verse seriously, and he's not all that shy about it.
There is a place for Bachmann in the Republican party, and that's a major problem for the Republicans and for America.

Is Bachmann still relevant? Is the Tea Party? Let me know in the comments.