Cliff Schecter, 1/6/2012 [Archive]

Michele Bachmann: The XX Factor

Michele Bachmann: The XX Factor

By Cliff Schecter

Have we lost ye Michele Bachmann?

The answer would seem to be yes, as the sharp-tongued, googly-eyed Minnesota Congresswoman suspended her presidential campaign after receiving only 5 percent of the Iowa Caucus vote in the state where she was born. To put that in perspective, Michele Bachmann only got 6,000 more votes in Iowa than Johann Sebastian Bach.

It was the culmination of a stunning turn of events over the past few months, as her candidacy had surged when she won the Iowa Straw Poll in August. Soon afterwards, however, her poll numbers went south faster than William Tecumseh Sherman. Why did that happen? And what does it tell us about the vestiges of sexism still present in our political culture as a whole, and specifically on display among the far-right Christian conservatives currently dominating the Republican Party?

A lot, actually.

As someone who looked upon the possibility of a Bachmann presidency with much the same anticipatory glee as I would get walking barefoot up Mount Everest or drinking Liquid Drano, one might not expect me to possess even an ounce of sympathy for the Congresswoman. Sure, I think she's a few kernels short of a corn dog, but then again I am of much the same opinion about Newt Gingrich and either of the Praying Ricks (Santorum & Perry).

To base Republican voters, however, preemptively bombing Iran, giving Ryan Secrest tax cuts on ascot purchases and sowing firearms into one's forelimbs are likely a part of the panoply of "ideas." So loony musings were not why Bachmann was kicked to the curb. But I have a sneaking suspicion that gender had a lot to do with it.

According to Taylor Marsh, author of The Hillary Effect: Politics, Sexism & The Destiny of Loss, "Once Rick Perry road in, Bachmann was ignored. By virtue of his macho Texan maleness, he was automatically elevated, even as her debate performances remained stellar." Or to put it the way writer Michelle Goldberg did in The Daily Beast, "she stumped as much as Santorum, had staff problems no worse than Gingrich's, and made lesser gaffes than Perry."

So how was it that the Texas Two Thought stole her thunder when he entered the race?

Many Christian Right leaders and the voters who dominate the primary in Iowa preach women's submission, so is it really a stretch to believe they thought a female politician should adopt the same role? The optics were certainly there, when during a debate on "family issues" in November, almost out of instinct or perhaps expectation, Bachmann got up to pour water for her male colleagues seated around a table on the stage with her.

There was plenty of other evidence, such as when the Union County, Iowa GOP Chair told an AP reporter, "I've noticed that when her name is mentioned sometimes that there's a lot of men that wouldn't vote for a woman." Some of Bachmann's advisors agreed with this sentiment.

Comedian and fellow Minnesotan Lizz Winstead - who has toured for Planned Parenthood and is passionate about women's issues - went so far as to tell me, "when I put my tinfoil hat on, I almost think they push forward women of no substance like Bachmann and [Sarah] Palin, because Olympia Snowe and Kay Bailey Hutchinson might actually succeed."

When I put my tinfoil hat on I suspect similar things, but no "conspiracy theories" are even necessary for me to conclude that sexism still plays an active role in our politics - particularly on the extreme right of the GOP.

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©Copyright 2012 Cliff Schecter, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Sales at 800- 696-7561 or email sales@cagle.com.

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, and the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain. Email Cliff at cliffschecter@gmail.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.




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