Michele Bachmann could be the greatest challenge Iowa Democrats face during the 2012 Presidential election. It is not because she could win Iowa should she get the Republican nomination for president. It is because she is a real person, with genuine views, in a way that engages people. The Bachmann effect will be one of helping Republicans continue the organizing they began in the wake of their stunning losses in the 2008 election. She is doing this in a way that supplements the organizing and education efforts of Bob Vander Plaats’ The FAMiLY LEADER, but reaches to a broader audience. We hope that audience is not broad enough to matter, but there is reason to pay attention.
Progressives often dismiss Michele Bachmann as a buffoon or worse with her many gaffes and distortions of common knowledge. The fact of the matter is that people are forgiving of her gaffes and when we consider the Republican field, she stands out. Consider Mitt Romney. When I heard him speak in Cedar Rapids before the 2010 midterms, he looked like a zombie in casual attire. He spoke of conservative principles, but from his measured tone of voice and mannerisms it seemed his heart was not in it and he would fit in better at a country club. Consider Tim Pawlenty. When I heard him speak in Iowa City, it was as if Bob Vander Plaats had written the talking points. His delivery? He was like a mannequin speaking, dry and without personality, in a suit that was a size too big for his frame. Bachmann has none of these problems.
Bachmann kicked off her Independence Day weekend in Iowa at the Bluebird Diner in Iowa City (Read Deeth’s live blog of the event here). Located on the same block as the Hamburg Inn, a stopping place for previous Republican and Democratic candidates, the liberal twitterverse was abuzz with statements about how she disrespected the Hamburg Inn, and about boycotting the Bluebird Diner if the owners support Bachmann. The significance of this campaign stop was that Bachmann demonstrated that she is her own person and playing by her rules. That will gain her points with Republicans. Her campaign is smarter than we give them credit.
Whether Iowa Democrats will get organized for 2012 is an open question. In 2010, we talked the talk, but could not walk the walk. By competing in Iowa and with the TEA Party ideas that gained popularity in the last election cycle, the Bachmann candidacy will serve to make the Iowa Republican organization stronger. It is time for progressives to take her seriously and get to work organizing for the victory in 2012 we can have and surely need.