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Michele Bachmann: making the “tough choice”

by Bill Prendergast on April 20, 2012

Why does Michele Bachmann, a “Queen of the Tea Party,” endorse religious right figure Allen Quist over “Mr. Conservative” tea party figure Mike Parry?

Here’s the Quist campaign’s announcement:

Bachmann Endorses Quist for MN First District Congress

Michele Bachmann, Congresswoman from Minnesota’s Sixth District and former candidate for President, has endorsed Allen Quist for the First District Congressional seat now held by Tim Walz.

Pointing to her working relationship with Allen Quist when both were working closely with EdWatch, the grassroots organization which successfully organized to repeal Minnesota’s Profile of Learning, Bachmann said, “The reason our organization did so much good was largely because of Allen’s intellectual firepower and courage. Many thousands of Minnesota students owe a huge debt of gratitude to Allen for his highly successful work with EdWatch.”

Now I think (and a lot of people think) that Edwatch was started by a bunch of paranoid conspiracy mongers with little tin foil hats on their heads–with propellers on ’em! Edwatch directed applause and adoration at Michele Bachmann for telling them that their paranoid fears were right. That support was a central factor in beginning her state and national political career, beating out more mainstream candidates by co-opting the nuts.

Conspiracy theory is presented as a plus, in this Quist announcement. The Edwatch-type-of-brain, trumpeted here, represents volunteers and voters who really believe in international and domestic conspiracies and act on that belief in the political arena.

And they have influenced education policy and law in Minnesota. I’m not kidding: these tin foil hats organizers have lobbied and affected and changed education law in Minnesota. It’s one of Bachmann’s early claims to fame. It doesn’t matter that you or I or the media or the academics consider their political assumptions nuts–they were politically effective within their chosen sphere.

The choice between Parry and Quist is a win-win dilemma for Bachmann; both of the candidates are loathsome right wingers. But Quist carries more cred with the conspiracy theory activists and conservative evangelicals. So here’s a theory about why she’d choose the loathsome Quist over the loathsome Parry:

Somebody higher up in the evangelical right told her to endorse Quist over Parry. I don’t think she makes these decisions herself. I think she’s the puppet of a nationally organized evangelical right; her public persona is one of their most popular “brands.” The brand-owners may reason as follows:

If they direct the “big-brand” Bachmann to back Parry, he gets the tea party votes for sure, and the conservative evangelicals will go along. But if she backs Quist, Quist gets the tea party votes, the Bachmann fan religious right votes–and the Edwatch-type-of-brain votes and volunteers and tin foil hat network.

So Quist has raised slightly more money than Parry (see article below.) He a kind of godfather to the evangelical conservative movement in Minnesota, acting as a powerful spoiler for the GOP. He was eclipsed as the political face of the religious right in MN by Bachmann–but he’s a perennial evangelical candidate, and that crowd,s enthusiasms are kept well-stoked and well-organized.

Bachmann has been “branded” as both “tea party” and “conservative evangelical.” Quist has been “branded” evangelical, but since the rise of the tea party movement he’s been trying to pull a Bachmann and rebrand himself as “both tea party and evangelical.”

Parry’s a slightly different story. His votes are entirely acceptable to the religious right. (I checked his voting scorecard with that lobby.)  But Parry’s chosen to publicly brand himself as “tea party” rather than “evangelical conservative.” And as the tea party (including Bachmann) continues to cave to Romney enthusiasm for that “brand” this year is a little dimmer.

So that is a theory about why Bachmann’s masters may have directed her to choose the “old face” Quist over the “new face” Parry.

The significant fact that both candidates are right wingers from Bachmann’s extremist end of the spectrum gets lost in such a discussion. That’s a huge change in Republican politics in Minnesota since I moved here eleven years ago. No room for a GOP moderate or centrist to challenge Tim Walz anymore: these days it’s all nuthouse over at the GOP, all the time.  

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