Thursday, January 27, 2011

Whatever you think about Michele Bachmann, she does offer the beef . . .

Michele Bachmann, the founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, made a speech Tuesday night. Forty-eight hours later, it's hard to tell whether the bigger flurry of post-speech conversation was about the speech, itself, or about the fact that CNN decided to air it live.

Nevertheless, that speech is generating a lot of buzz. So, what did she say?

Representative Bachmann began by stating that, "The Tea Party is a dynamic force for good in our national conversation, and it's an honor for me to speak with you. " 

She went on to talk about what she sees as the evils of the current administration: exploding deficit, job loss, and "Obamacare:" 
Obamacare mandates and penalties may even force many job creators to just stop offering health insurance altogether, unless of course yours is one of the more-than-222 privileged companies or unions that has already received a government waiver under Obamacare. In the end, unless we fully repeal Obamacare, a nation that currently enjoys the world's finest health care might be forced to rely on government-run coverage.
She ended quite stirringly by stating that:
. . . thanks to you, there's reason for all of us to hope that real spending cuts are coming. Because last November you went to the polls and you voted out big-spending politicians and you put in their place great men and women with a commitment to follow our Constitution and cut the size of government.
I believe that we are in the early days of a history-making turn in America. Please know how important your calls, visits, and letters are to the maintenance of our liberties. Because of you, Congress is responding and we are just starting to undo the damage that's been done the last few years. Because we believe in lower taxes. We believe in a limited view of government, and exceptionalism in America. And I believe that America is the indispensable nation of the world. Just the creation of this nation itself was a miracle. Who's to say that we can't see a miracle again?
The perilous battle that was fought during World War II in the Pacific at Iwo Jima was a battle against all odds, and yet this picture immortalizes the victory of young GIs over the incursion against the Japanese. These six young men raising the flag came to symbolize all of America coming together to beat back a totalitarian aggressor.
Our current debt crisis we face today is different, but we still need all of us to pull together. But we can do this. That's our hope. We will push forward. We will proclaim liberty throughout the land. And we will do so because we the people will never give up on this great nation.
Whether or not you, personally, buy that the Tea Party Express is our country's best hope for addressing our current formidable problems, it's pretty obvious that a formidable number of people do. When I checked, the official Republican response to President Obama's speech, given by Congressman Paul Ryan, had drawn 10,825 hits on a randomly chosen YouTube posting; Michele Bachmann's maverick rejoinder had drawn 148,320-- on top of the hits on the speech's well-publicized presentation at the Tea Party Express website.

President Obama's speech probably resonated most strongly with those who think government should work for the common good in areas that aren't profitable enough to attract business investment. And to those who are fortunate enough to have jobs and reasonable mortgages. As Peggy Reskin wrote in San Francisco's

Far from the cynicism of our times, the unproductive irrational criticism of what a man as President can do with the train wreck awarded to him when he took office, this Berkeley resident is very pleased and very proud of the President and our country.  It feels like we're going somewhere we want to go as a society with the "spirit of America" being our guide and our ethos.  God bless America as a verb.
But many less fortunate citizens grumbled that there was nothing specific in the President's speech about job creation. The comments of a man quoted in the Missourian seem pretty typical:
“There aren’t any jobs in Columbia, not for an engineer,” said Tim Bishop, 60, a mechanical engineer for BioMérieux in St. Louis.
Bishop often commutes to work in St. Louis and has to spend most nights there.
“I want Obama to talk about why he is still giving tax breaks to companies who send their business overseas,” he said. 
Michele Bachman is actively testing political waters for a 2012 presidential run.  Her message is easy to grasp and as old as the Reagan administration: The enemy of the little guy is big government. Ms. Bachman offers one solution to many problems.

People who are out of a job and threatened with losing their homes don't want philosophy; they want to work. The Tea Party Express tells them exactly whom to vote for in order to make that happen.

Remember those old Wendy's ads that asked, "Where's the beef?"

Michele Bachman's speech last Tuesday was one long simple-to-grasp answer to that very question: She and the Tea Party Express are just the beef struggling Americans need.

Those who don't like Ms. Bachman's message should perhaps come up with rhetorical beef that's equally appealing and accessible to financially troubled people. Dismissing the Tea Party Express is tantamount to dismissing its followers' very real concerns and worries. Those who don't like the rhetoric of Tea Party Express might still want to follow its lead when picking which questions and concerns to address directly.

Perhaps it's less important to pay attention to what Michelle Bachman is saying, than it is to pay attention  to what she's talking about.

Your thoughts?


  1. Two thoughts:
    1. A survey reported in the WashPost indicated that those identifying with the Tea Party have slightly higher incomes than average. A reporter working on a book about the movement (whose name I unfortunately don't recall and can't find) called its driving force "narcissistic." EVERYONE has taken hits from the recession, but this group seems to channel a unique sense of self-pity and victimization. (And we liberals, being quick to support victims, often buy into it.)
    2. Yes, democracy may be breaking up. For democracy to work requires that "we the people" be informed and cohesive enough to solve problems together...and elect leaders who can, and want to, solve the problems. Good leaders must care -- and care for everyone they serve, not pit some groups against others. We are in trouble if the people forget about selecting leaders for their ability to lead well, but just fall for the faux-touchy-feely "I feel your pain" message, or, worse, "I feel your bitterness and paranoia and your scapegoats are mine." Of course, the real problem-solvers need to make their message clearer...but the very goal of solving problems may handicap them when they are up against self-serving demagogues.

  2. What a great and enlightening and thoughtful comment! Thanks, Anonymous!