Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Just An Ol' Fashioned Social Conservative

As Sarah Palin continues her Look At Me Tour, attention should focus on the politico the ex-governor's orgy of narcissism is intended to deflect attention from. On yesterday's Hardball (transcript here), Chris Matthews remarked

OK, is she sneaking in here before Bachmann announces for president? Because the minute Bachmann announces, should she announce, and she said she`ll decide in June, this will be a road show. This will be an Annie Oakley Wild West show. But the minute Bachmann runs as a U.S. congressperson, a lawyer, a tax (ph) person with professional experience who runs as a member of Congress, runs for the presidency, doesn`t she bump her as the figure on the right, the cultural right?

Matthews at least understands that Michele Bachmann is "a Buffalo Bill Wild West Show figure" and, hence, the primary alternative to Sarah Palin stylistically. But he is stuck on the idea that she is animated by issues of culture, rather than of economic privilege.

A Minnesota journalist who knew Bachmann as a classmate at Winona State University- where she worked on Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign- characterized her at the time as being "a Jesus freak." A political scientist at Carleton College maintains "As a state senator," Michele Bachmann was primarily a cultural warrior." Having has given birth to five children and raised them, and 53 foster children with her husband, Bachmann no doubt will have the claim on support of many conservatives who found Palin, who gave birth to a child with Down's syndrome, irresistible.

But neither being an evangelical Christian, as Bachmann reportedly is, nor raising 58 children, makes someone "a cultural warrior." Neither does it qualify someone as the "social conservative" she is sometimes described as. It may make her someone of deep religious faith, an issue not yet explored, and perhaps as someone who loves children, also as yet unexplored. But, alone, it does not make of Bachmann a politician ideologically committed to culturally conservative causes.

We do know, however, that Bachmann is committed to right-wing economics: she has told us so. When she delivered one (transcript here) of the GOP's responses to President Obama's last State of the Union address, the Minnesota congresswoman neglected such issues as gay rights, abortion rights, gun rights, or the coarsening of the American culture about which the right once pretended it was offended. Rather, she decried" an unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt" which "was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in the history of the country."

Bachmann proposed "we fully repeal Obamacare" and recommended the President "stop the EPA from imposing a job-destroying cap-and-trade system. The president could support a balanced budget amendment. The president could agree to an energy policy that increases American energy production and reduces our dependence on foreign oil." And appearing not to notice that the economy was nearly plunged into a depression largely by a lack of regulation of the financial sector, Bachmann urged Obama also to "turn back some of the 132 regulations put in place in the last two years, many of which will cost our economy $100 million or more."

But, you protest, economic policy (jobs, deficit, health care) was the order of the day, the focus of the State of the Union speech and the the greatest concern of the American people. But Bachmann hasn't stopped recommending far-right economic nostrums, as indicated by a segment of MSNBC's The Last Word, which Ezra Klein noted

was on the debt ceiling, and “Last Word” host Lawrence O’Donnell played a clip of Rep. Michele Bachmann giving her plan. In short, her plan is that we don’t raise the debt ceiling, but we use the revenue still coming in to pay off creditors first and whatever we think most important second. That way, we “don’t violate our credit rating” and “prioritize our spending.” Makes perfect sense.

At least, it makes perfect sense unless you, like me, had spent the previous few days talking to economists, investors and economic policymakers about what could happen if we start playing games with the debt ceiling. Their answers were across-the-board apocalyptic.

Klein is too generous. Bachmann's view runs parallel to that of Senator Pat Toomey (R- Club For Growth), champion of the Pay China First approach to credit default. He and sixteen other GOP Senators have argued that failure to raise the debt ceiling need not precipitate default because the Treasury could simply pay off creditors first, which prompted Digby to remark

Apparently, we are to believe that if the US Government decides to massively lay off federal personnel, stop paying disability benefits, close down its Hurricane tracking centers, furlough half the doctors at the CDC or any number of other things the Republicans would like to do to prove a stupid political point and further degrade the public's trust in government, the rest of the world would think nothing of it because the Treasury would have fulfilled its obligation to pay the interest on its debt.

There is no word yet whether these Senators who, like Bachmann, want to make sure the poor and the middle class are sacrificed so that the wealthy (and foreign governments and banks) are not inconvenienced, will be characterized as "cultural conservatives." But the lady from Minnesota probably will continue to be so described by a media blithely unaware that when it comes to either cultural or economic issues, no Republican may deviate from the far right gospel.

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