You may be hearing a lot of calls, from the left, from the right, in the media and on Tweeter Twitter, to take the gaffe-prone Michele Bachmann seriously. The congresswoman from Minnesota is asking you to, declaring her candidacy for president yesterday. Considering her promising poll numbers in Iowa, for whatever that’s worth, writers like Nate Silver consider her to be a real contender for the Republican nomination.
The right is asking you to take her seriously – The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, dubbed her “Queen of the Tea Party” in the most recent front-page feature. Even many lefties are urging their compatriots to stop laughing and pointing fingers, giving fuel to the theory that Representative Bachmann is making missteps on purpose to gin up Tea Party angst at the eggheads who, like, know history and stuff. (And some are yelling at those lefties to be quiet.)
Two days into her presidential campaign, Ms. Bachmann has not seemed ready for prime time. Considering her history of rather odd and sometimes offensive statements, it was curious to see Ms. Bachmann start her campaign with her now-infamous Sunday talk-show “John Wayne (Gacy)” flub (as noted on TRMS last night). Then there is what she said this morning (video here):
Michele Bachmann got into another history-related tussle on ABC’s “Good Morning America” today, standing by a statement she made praising the founding fathers for having “worked tirelessly to end slavery.”
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Bachmann to defend that comment, given the fact that the U.S. founders helped enshrine slavery in the Constitution and allowed it to continue as an institution until the Civil War.
Bachmann responded by pointing to the career of John Quincy Adams, the abolitionist president who was not yet nine years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Yes, it’s surprising to hear a presidential contender insist that because a nearly nine-year-old future abolitionist hung around his father while enslaved Africans’ independence wasn’t declared, the Founding Fathers somehow opposed slavery. It would stand to reason that a 21-year-old John Quincy Adams would have more influence in 1788, when the Constitution declaring those same enslaved Africans to be no more than three-fifths of a human being was ratified. That rabbit hole is so deep, we could tumble down it all day. I’d argue against doing so.
It’s tempting to get caught up in the debate over whether Michele Bachmann actually believes this stuff. It’s tempting to get caught up with laughing at her, and pointing fingers. I’m not arguing for everyone to simply take her seriously as a candidate. I am arguing to at least take part of her seriously, especially her extremist, exploitative (and unfunny!) record. For instance, the same morning that she talked about John Wayne from Waterloo, Iowa, Ms. Bachmann told another Sunday news show that she’d be open to abolishing the minimum wage.
Maybe as Bachmann continues to cast doubt on her knowledge of American history, we could all cool it – not because derision fuels her and the Tea Party, but because she’s also running for president of the United States. Her flubs may end up costing her more than her radical views. But what does that say about what America takes seriously?