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Michele Bachmann's True Lessons

"I was very proud of the fact that I didn't get anything wrong that I said during the course of the debates. I didn't get anything wrong, and that's a huge arena."  Congresswoman Michele Bachmann on her 2012 debate performances.

When Michele Bachmann (R-MN) announced she will not seek reelection next year, I was sad.  Really.  She's entertaining.  She proved certain points that politicians might well pay attention.  She also should be considered an example for others who should keep in mind the following:

  1. All politics is local

  2. Spread the wealth

  3. What you say matters

All politics is localTip O'Neill famously remarked "all politics is local."  One of Bachmann's strengths was the ability to nationalize herself but people who aspire to represent their peers in Congress should not follow that example.  Most people are not obsessed with national politics and don't really care who voted to repeal Obamacare (really, Congresswoman Blackburn, R-TN, your constituents are not talking about Eric Holder as much as you think).  When I was a kid, one of the New York Senators was Alfonse "Senator pothole" D'Amato (R).  He prided himself on the care and feeding of NY voters.  We live in an increasingly polarized country with very politically homogenized congressional districts but after spending nearly $13 million she almost lost her seat in 2012. Not only were her issues national but so was her donar base.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) most donations came from outside of her district:

"According to a CRP analysis, 86 percent of her big dollar (more than $200) donations from individuals came from people who did not live in Minnesota. Only five of her top 10 zip codes for contributions were in Minnesota, and she appeared to have strong donor bases in Texas, California and Florida. Bachmann also had a great deal of support from conservative PACs -- she got more than $593,000 from donors or PACs that CRP identifies as associated with Republican or conservative ideology. And she got nearly as much from ideologically-oriented PACs as she did from business PACs, which frequently are the top source of PAC cash for many Republican campaigns. "

Spread the wealth

Bachmann was one of the most successful fundraisers in the US House of Representatives but she didn't share her riches with her friends.  Michelle PAC raised nearly $1.2 million in the last election cycle but spent most of it on her own campaign.  The largest expense the PAC had was on fundraising for itself.  One goal most members of a political party have is to elect others from that party but Bachmann seems to be all about Bachmann, and that's a good thing for Democrats but not other Republicans.

Words matter

My favorite part of the Michele Bachmann saga is that that people seemed to actually hear and reject a lot of what she said.  My problem, however, is she has made it possible for people like Ted Cruz (R-TX) to be elected.  It is easy to dismiss her as crazy or radical but there are a number of people with similar (or worse) views who are still in positions of power.  Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) may have gotten to the Senate before Bachmann to the House but he just told reporters that the sexual assaults in the military were "due to hormones." What's that now?  This is after Todd Aiken (R-MO) lost a senate seat by talking about "legitimate rape" and Indiana Richard Murdouch (R-IN) said any pregnancy that resulted from a rape was something "God intended."

Politics has been called "bloodsport" and is not the American pastime for a reason but, unlike baseball, it matters. (And I LOVE baseball.)  When we say we have a "representative democracy" it means more than the people we elect do our bidding in Washington, DC, they do reflect who were are and what we care about.  We need to remember that when we rail against the other side or vote for our own.