Around 11 ET on Wednesday, Michele Bachmann announced that she was dropping out of the 2012 race. This news devastated all twenty-four of her remaining supporters, twenty-three of whom were her foster children, and one of whom was God, who had something especially miraculous planned for tomorrow.
And the race just got a little less colorful.
If this were a reality TV show, the producers would never have allowed this to happen. First Herman, now Michele, leaving a rather themeless pudding of men in suits and sweater vests whose only differences are ideological ones? Who’s going to tune in?
Why, Iowa? Why? Why, God, why? Had you made a prior commitment to Rick Santorum? Did the last-minute attempt to use loaves-and-fishes-style multiplication on caucus votes not work as planned?
I’m not sure how I’ll cope. I’m listless, wandering to and fro murmuring, “Twenty-three foster children. How many? Twenty-three. Michele Bachmann has twenty-three foster children,” to myself in a reassuring tone. I’m adjusting my set so that everyone appears to be staring slightly off-camera.
Say what you will about her (and I’ve said a good deal of it), I’ll miss her. Not just the overblown gaffes about shots heard round the world, or the John Wayne-John Wayne Gacy confusion. The thing I’ll miss most about Michele Bachmann was that until the last possible moment she didn’t make a fuss out of being a woman.
Someone once quipped that hours of preparation are required to give a good off-the-cuff speech. Well, the same is true for a woman to run a respectable but losing presidential campaign where the focal point isn’t the fact that she’s female, but the fact that, say, she believes gay marriage should be between one man and one woman. Maybe we’ve moved forward as a society. But Bachmann also carefully toed the line. She dressed impeccably: You couldn’t pecc at her outfits if you tried. Her hairstyle was perfectly calibrated to excite the minimum possible degree of comment. She didn’t wear any wacky, low-cut garments. She saved the dubious, commentator-inciting pizzazz for her public remarks.
I’ve taken issue with what she said. But give her and the field their due for making the things coming out of her mouth the focal point. With Sarah Palin, the focus was always at least as much on how she said it as on what she said.
Bachmann deserves some credit for continuing the transition away from that. So far that credit has come mainly in the form of people yelling, “Her views are so bizarre that I don’t even have time to notice what her hair looks like!” But I think, in a peculiar way, that’s progress.