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Stanley Crouch: Bachmann’s backwater blues

Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota, is almost gone for good, but what she represented was part of the inevitable whiplash of American politics, the accident behind the wheel. This does not always happen, but will if any drunken drivers are allowed on the streets.

Some applaud Bachmann for backing out before the national media could get in a few more licks and draw a little more blood.

She was a very good vehicle for the standby tea party message. Proof was never important. Self-righteous bluster would do. Then, like beer suds, she could rise to the top because her audience liked the taste of foam as much as others liked good beer. As a woman, she could perhaps justify a stereotype that being an airhead is as open as any other American occupation.

She saw enemies everywhere — and routinely sank much lower than colleagues of the same ideological stripe, many of whom can be taken seriously.

Let us take a quick tour through some of her most absurd statements.

In 2008, Bachmann called for the equivalent of a McCarthy-style inquisition: "I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?"

In 2009, she repeated head-in-sand denials of climate change: "Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas."

In 2011, she was bold enough to claim the Founding Fathers, many of whom were slave owners, fought to eradicate slavery: "The very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States."

In 2001, she said something that would make even the most amateur economist laugh: "If we took away the minimum wage — if conceivably it was gone — we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely."

And that is just a tiny fraction of her mindless thinking, which obsessed about the threat from male and female homosexuals, Muslims, Islam, you name it. She stood, and stands, on a shrinking piece of earth — pretending the ongoing rejection of the tea party-dominated GOP is an example of those in Washington showing their integrity.

The Bachmanns of the world have great freedom to say what they wish, for they have no responsibility other than to bring heat to their followers. They burn trees without ever planting any.

For those who like this style of entertainment, have no fear: Bachmann leaves plenty of heirs in Congress. One is on the Senate side, Ted Cruz of Texas. He blusters and brags like the best — or worst — of them.

Though Cruz has been talked up as a possible GOP standard-bearer in 2016, he’ll have serious trouble. Because rather than offer any serious alternative policies, Cruz would rather play for the applause.

President Ronald Reagan, not mindlessly conservative but instead believing in governing, would not have taken this. His corpse might spin inside its coffin were the Gone Gipper to hear Cruz claim he and his far-right brethren are "the children of Ronald Reagan."

I thought many years ago that then-Gen. Colin Powell and New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, sensible moderates both, might revolutionize the game for the Republicans.

That almost seemed possible during the Clinton years. Instead, a fairly sensible Republican senator named Bob Dole ran. Even he now believes the current party needs repair.

Asked whether he’d be welcomed at today’s elephant feast, Dole said: "I doubt it. Reagan wouldn’t have made it, certainly Nixon wouldn’t have made it, because he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it."

Bachmann symbolizes the trouble that continues to plague our national politics. It’s impotent pouting rather than governing, bomb-throwing rather than sensibly compromising.

It reminds me of an old song performed by Frank Sinatra and others, titled "All or Nothing at All." But it is being rendered as a blues from the backwater.

Stanley Crouch can be reached by email at