It will be interesting to see if the left and media's standard narrative about the Republican Party having a “women problem” survives its Nov. 2 encounter with reality.
In 2010, nine Republican women were elected for the first time to the House of Representatives, bringing to 24 the total number of GOP women in the House. In the Senate, Kelly Ayotte of
And now, one of the most outspoken conservative House members is bucking for a position in the leadership, and some of those same people that berated Republicans for being the party of white males are smearing her. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., widely seen as the Tea Party movement's voice in Congress, is seeking entry to the GOP leadership in the new House majority.
Bachmann is challenging Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, for House GOP Conference Chair – the fourth ranked leadership position. Hensarling, a conservative like Bachmann, is regarded as the “establishment candidate.” Bachmann quite reasonably claims to be seeking a place at the table as a representative of the Tea Parties.
For her trouble, liberals and the news media have called her “crazy,” “uninformed” and “hyperbolic,” with a “thirst for leadership,” and are doing their best to undermine her candidacy.
For example, in the Minneapolis CityPages, Hart Van Denburg wrote on Nov. 4: “Michele Bachmann wants two things now: To be taken seriously, and to win the No. 4 position in the House leadership ranks. The problem is, she keeps on spouting bats**t craziness.”
Bachmann has been a favorite punching bag of the news media and the left for a long time, but with the announcement after the election that she would seek to join the leadership, they've shifted into overdrive. From newspaper reports emphasizing her unpredictability to the open contempt of an entire “news” network, it's open season on Michele Bachmann.
Conservatives Marginalize Women. Except when they Don't
Pity conservatives. Those old white men just can't connect with women voters. They're hostile to women's issues, and women dislike their exclusionary rhetoric. That, at least, has been the assumption propagated by media elites.
“It is not a diverse party. It is not a party where women have had great success," CNN's Jeffrey Toobin said in Sept. 2008, as Sarah Palin was barnstorming the country as John McCain's running mate.
In May 2009, Mary Kate Cary wrote on U.S. News.com that “No woman wants to be seen as intolerant or mean. And that's how the Republican Party is coming across these days. For a lot of GOP women I know, the cringe factor is high.”
Earlier in 2010, CBS reported that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was ridiculing the Republican Party over its women. “As Democrats head into what is expected to be a tough election year for them, the party says it has a solid lead over Republicans in one respect – its number of women candidates.”
As it turned out, the GOP fielded about 100 female House candidates, and ended up expanding the number of women in its House ranks by more than 40 percent. In
When they weren't ignoring it, liberal journalists were flailing about in attempts to understand and explain the meaning of conservative women's sudden rise in politics. After all, as Taylor Marsh wrote in The Huffington Post Sept. 30, “This is what the Republican Tea Party stands for today, the marginalizing of women on the most extreme terms. Something all Independents thinking of joining their ranks should note.” On the same site, this time on Election Day, writer Marcia G. Yermin wondered, “Why does the 'Mama Grizzly' phenomenon, and right-wing women candidates staking a claim to the feminist legacy, leave me both incredulous and aggravated?”
In the last two years, Michele Bachmann has become one of the most vocal and uncompromising voices for conservatism in the House of Representatives. She was an early ally of the Tea Parties and started a House Tea Party Caucus (Now the Constitutional Conservatives Caucus.) She campaigned hard for herself and other GOP candidates, and raised more campaign money than presumptive Speaker Boehner.
Given the role of the Tea Parties in the Republican midterm victory, Michele Bachmann has said she wants to be the GOP Conference Chair in the 112th congress. That has many on the left and in the media – the very people that condemned Republicans as sexist and lacking diversity – publicly trashing her.
Writing at The Daily Beast in October, Shushannah Walshe predicted, “As Bachmann moves into an even more prominent role with her likely assumption as one of the leaders of the Tea Party movement, she can expect to become an even bigger target.” And how.
And those targeting her may just be other writers for The Daily Beast. In 2008, Max Blumenthal called her “The Hate Monger of Minnesota.” In Sept. 2009, the site's Michelle Goldberg dubbed Bachmann “America's craziest member of Congress” and wrote that, “for the past year, her lunacy has been particularly vigorous.” Goldberg later wondered, “In today's GOP, is there such a thing as too crazy?”
In a Nov. 5 Washington Post article titled “GOP grapples with how to reward tea partiers,” Laurie Kellman wrote that Bachmann had “made GOP leaders cringe multiple times in the last two years with over-the-top and uninformed statements.” Another Post article threw in “hyperbolic” for good measure. None of this is new for Bachmann, or for other high-profile conservative women, who have often been slimed in the nastiest terms. But since election night, the left has stepped up its vitriol – especially the personalities at MSNBC.
The Poisonous Peacock
The liberal hosts of MSNBC have never had much love for Bachmann, and it showed during a remote interview on election night. Bachmann joined MSNBC's broadcast from her victory party. Chris Matthews called Bachmann “hypnotized” and asked if she were in a “trance” after she ignored his plainly hostile questions.
She shot back, “The American people are the ones ... coming out of our trance ... I think people are thrilled tonight. I imagine that thrill is probably maybe quite not so tingly on your leg any more.” Behind her, a reveler held up a sign with the NBC peacock on it that read “How's the Tingle, Chris?” Her comment and the sign both referred to Matthews absurd 2008 claim that he “got a thrill going up my leg” from listening to then candidate Barack Obama speak.
The next day, MSNBC host Ed Schultz referred to the incident insulting Bachmann. “And psycho talk sister, Michele Bachmann, well, she brought crazy to a new level on our network last night talking to Chris Matthews.”
Matthews himself said the next day that, “I didn't plan to accuse her of being under hypnosis, but she was acting like it.” But it certainly seemed to be a theme at his network. On Nov. 4, “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann was talking about a newly developed Japanese robot when he said, “Right now, all the robot is able to do is repeat the same thing over and over. I'm sorry, but the fact that it actually blinks still puts Android F a step above Michele Bachmann.” That day Schultz said, “Psycho-talker Michele Bachmann is getting crazier by the minute. Now she's got Republican leaders in a trance with a big power grab.”
Power was Schultz's other theme in talking about Bachmann. “Congresswoman Michele Bachmann just won a third term in Congress here in
Alter, however, put Bachmann's ascendancy in perspective. “Look Ed,” he said, “she's a sideshow, a circus sideshow.” He called her “mostly … a form of entertainment, she's another cable blow-hard.” Still, Alter admitted that “she's a reminder that the right-wing” is “closer to the center of gravity of our national politics, and that's kind of frightening.”
“Folks, elections have consequences,” Schultz said, “and Michele Bachmann in a major leadership role, I think, is flat-out dangerous.”
Fellow MSNBC host Rachel Maddow took her own shot at Bachmann on Nov. 4. Maddow called several of Bachmann's statements “not just stupid, they're true on the political right.”
Maddow continued saying: “And because she is un-debunkable in today's media world, Michele Bachmann is now vying to become the number-four Republican in the leadership of the United States House of Representatives. Things that are true only in the self-contained, right-wing media world are leaking into real politics.”