Michele Bachmann: Liberal Pariah or Conservative Nutjob?

Michele Bachmann, the erstwhile Representative from central Minnesota is retiring – and the news has caused folks across the political spectrum to react in sometimes surprising ways. As she is an outspoken conservative firebrand, there has been the expected crush of liberal hate speech.

The conservative establishment is not exactly mourning her retirement either; some are even vigorously applauding it. Michele Bachmann is a darling of the social conservative movement because she does what so many politicians are unwilling to do — say what they actually think. Ironically, she is also the butt of most jokes uttered by liberal talking heads for the same reason.

Liberals have long attacked her outspoken conservative values, which the media label “out of touch.”

Perhaps she is out of touch with the broader swath of mainstream America, but Michele Bachmann’s strength is in actually staying in touch with the vociferous base of the social conservative movement. She is an icon to socially conservative evangelical Christians in small communities around the country because she says what they are thinking and doesn’t feel the need to apologize for her (and their) beliefs.

Family values, local issues, and traditional morality still play very well to a large portion of the American electorate who see their dreams of a quiet and comfortable life vanishing as they watch cable news. And here is the kicker: They love her because she’s real. She actually believes the words she speaks — which for most politicians is anathema. (Just watch any speech by Barack Obama).

While social Conservatives embrace Bachmann warmly, other conservatives would rather she went “quietly into that good night.”

A Tweet from a “Matt Lewis” is a representative sample: “Bachmann retirement video is interesting. The closest thing I can compare to it is Delta’s in-flight safety video.”

While Joe Scarborough may not exactly be a bastion of conservative thought, he still represents a portion of the center-right coalation, and he was less than pained by Bachmann’s announcement.

Bachmann’s “problem” among her fellow Republicans was exactly what endeared her to social conservatives and what brought her the wrath of liberals: her outspoken honesty is hard to spin politically. While the words may be hers, every Republican is then painted with her rhetorical flourishes, and inevitably has to answer hard questions about their social beliefs. Representative Bachmann could afford to be outspoken in the very conservative 6th district of Minnesota, but other Republicans did not have the same leeway in their own more purple districts. In the end, it becomes easier for them to govern without having her “honest” and “vocal” approach to contend with.

I think the larger question is if the GOP is better off with politicians like Bachmann or if our ideals and our nation would be better served by less “aggressive” partisans? It’s an old debate with strong supporters on both sides, and while Michele Bachmann may be stepping aside (for now), be sure someone will fill the void she leaves as the vocal tea party iconoclast.