Jason Stanford: After Michele, it’s Cruz time
Rep. Michele Bachmann’s retirement is a blow to the late-night comedians who laughed at her confusing actor John Wayne with serial killer John Wayne Gacy or her insisting that HPV vaccine caused mental retardation. Her absence also leaves a leadership void among the radical tea party faction that turned the House of Representatives into an ungovernable mob and her briefly to frontrunner status in the 2012 Republican presidential primary. Now Bachmann’s decision not to seek re-election has spurred a new race to pick the new Clown Prince of Crazytown.
Nature abhors a vacuum, but politics encourages the vacuous. No sooner had Bachmann quit than Cathie Adams, a tea party leader, was accusing anti-tax leader Grover Norquist of being a secret Muslim because "he has a beard." Meanwhile, blogger Erick Erickson punched his ticket to the doghouse by saying, "When you look at biology, look at the natural world, the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role." But Adams and Erickson are mere barkers on the midway and aren’t ready to spill out of the clown car under the big tent.
For that, we start with Uncle Louie Gohmert, the Texas Republican congressman who recently yapped at the Attorney General for casting "aspersions on my asparagus!" That is a direct quote, and it wasn’t a joke. Neither was a conspiracy theory he unspooled on talk radio that blamed Sen. John McCain for the Benghazi attacks because he supported overthrowing Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. Gohmert’s explanation was a triumphant non-sequitur in the War on Coherence.
"But by giving power to the rebel forces that included al Qaeda that brought that whole mess about and helped create problems in Tunisia and Algeria. So I’m not sure what to think about his going to Syria. If history is any lesson the people he met with he wants us to help should be very careful about what Sen. McCain’s support could mean for them," said Gohmert. That is also a direct quote. If it was a joke, it was unintentional.
A dark horse for King of the Crazies is another Texas Republican, Rep. Steve Stockman. The 1994 Republican wave election mistakenly washed Stockman into Congress where he quickly became a hero to the black helicopter crowd when he said David Koresh and his followers had been "executed" in Waco.
"The average Texan in my district owns more firearms than did the average Branch Davidian," said Stockman.
But that was back when Republicans had the good sense to not want to be in the same class picture as the kid wearing a tin foil hat. He lost his seat after one term, but now Stockman is back, and tin foil is the new black. He invited Ted Nugent as his guest to the State of the Union and briefly threatened Barack Obama with impeachment if he pushed gun control. This time his antics made him a tea party hero.
He’s become a regular on Fox News for saying things like, "Democrats worship abortion with same fervor the Canaanites worshipped Molech" and "The right to keep and bear arms is granted by God and protecting [sic] from government aggression by the Constitution." All this makes you worry what exactly they’re talking about at Steve’s Bible study.
Egged on by the likes of Adams and Erickson, Gohmert and Stockman make persuasive cases to take the tea party torch from Bachmann, but they are more clowns than princes, mere minor-league demagogues unready for the big leagues.
All signs point toward the tea party controlling the 2016 nomination process and picking a Goldwater for a new generation. So when tea partiers pick Bachmann’s replacement, they could be picking their likely 2016 presidential nominee. And in fact, there is already a clear frontrunner: Ted Cruz, the dissembling chameleon from Canada.
"When Ted ran for office he said, ‘I’m going to kick down the doors, rip off the drapes, and auction off the silver and china.’ And that’s exactly what he’s doing," said Amy Kremer, the president of the national Tea Party Express.
Sounds like true love. Michele Bachmann is dead. Long live Ted Cruz.
Jason Stanford is a columnist, author and Democratic political consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.