Bachmann will face increasing pressure to modify her views and evangelical language if she wants a chance at the Republican nomination. To get the massive financial and organizational support it takes to win a national election, she will likely have to bend to a Republican general election plan. That plan, dictated by an arcane Electoral College, pressures candidates to make three, poll-tested points and repeat them ad nauseum to cater to the narrow slice of Independents up for grabs in the dozen or so states whose electoral votes might break for either party. Bachmann will be “harmonized to the middle” and her ideas and idiosyncrasies may be snuffed out if they don’t poll broadly or well with fence-sitting, so-called Independents, who generally vote only for two-party candidates.
If not, soon enough media commentators will start saying that the field should be narrowed, that the debates should have only “serious” candidates (as defined by the media and its polls). Remember how some in the media determined who was “viable” in the past, calling for Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun to be cut out of the primary debates of 2004 and 2008?
Theresa Amato, a public interest lawyer, is the author of “Grand Illusion, the Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny.” She was the national campaign manager for Ralph Nader’s presidential runs in 2000 and 2004.
Drew Faust, an American historian and the president of Harvard University, on women’s leadership and what the Civil War teaches us about the human tendency to resist change.
Yes, there will be stories about Bachmann’s radical views, but so what? In the first GOP debate, she destroyed the effort to pigeonhole her as “nuts,” rather than as a real person with principles and viewpoints shared by a portion of the public. Every time the media paints caricatures of the candidates or the Tea Party, the American people should now be able to say, “Hey, I heard Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul for myself and I refuse to have them interpreted for me.”
In this Republican field, for now a power vacuum, anything can happen. Politics should be unpredictable and not the mind-numbing homogenization that has left voters with two dull voices and poor choices, election cycle after election cycle.
If Bachmann lived in a true multi-party system, she could retain her views. Instead, she is likely to be swarmed by campaign consultants to make her “mainstream.” Bachmann has drawn an early line in the sand by stating in the first debate that she believes “in principles over party.” To hear anyone utter those words in an ever-more party-disciplined Congress, dominated by leaders who will shut down a member who doesn’t toe the party line, is to feel a breath of fresh air, even if one can’t abide her opposition to EPA policies, gay marriage and reproductive rights.