21 October 2008

Bachmann, Hayes, & the Culture War Backfire

Suddenly we return to the liberals=anti-American meme. Not so sure it will work this time, however, as the people responsible for such utterances distance themselves from their statements almost immediately. I won't go into Governor Palin's comments on "the real America" (for which she has now apologized); instead, let's look at Representatives Bachmann and Hayes.

Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is up for re-election in her Minnesota district, went on Chris Matthews's show, Hardball, and "said of Barack Obama, "I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views." She then went on to call for a "penetrating expose" by the media into the levels of patriotism among her colleagues on Capitol Hill" (L A Times).

Facing a backlash, Bachmann is claiming media victimization. Per Politico:
MICHELE BACHMANN says that, when she said that BARACK OBAMA may have “anti-American views” and that the media should investigate members of Congress to determine who’s “pro-America” and who’s “anti-America,” she was really just asking: “What does Barack Obama mean by change?”

Bachmann says she’s been the victim of lies from liberal bloggers, distortions from CHRIS MATTHEWS and “a spin machine in overdrive.”

“I never called all liberals anti-American, I never questioned Barack Obama’s patriotism, and I never asked for some House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt into my colleagues in Congress.”
While it's true that Bachmann never called for a commencement of some HUAC-type panel, her suggestion about the media investigating "unAmerican" politicians certainly evoked the spirit of McCarthyism. But in saying "I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views,” she certainly does seem to be questioning Obama's patriotism. Semantics?

Regardless, she's regretting it all now. Not only has her opponent received a significant increase in donations since her Hardball appearance (about $800,000), but now she's facing a Republican challenger to her re-election hopes:
Aubrey Immelman, 52, is a psychology professor at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., who ran against Bachmann in the Republican primary. He finished second, with just 14 percent of the vote, but he got his campaign off the ground again Saturday by announcing he will run as a write-in candidate on Nov. 4 in the hope of knocking Bachmann out. (Star Tribune)
Uh oh.
[Update 10/22: the NRCC has now pulled funds from Bachmann's re-election bid].
A Bachmann aside: this is the same woman who "blamed the recent financial crisis on loans 'being made on the basis of race, and little else'" (MPR). She had to do some backpedalling after that one, too.

Now we get this.

On Saturday, Republican Rep. Robin Hayes warmed up the crowd at a North Carolina McCain rally. According to several reporters and witnesses, Rep. Hayes told the crowd "that "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God" (Politico).

After reporters publicized those comments, Hayes denied and denied that he ever said such a thing. . . at least, until a tape surfaced to prove that he made those remarks. Hayes claims that he doesn't remember making those statements.
As The Plank writes,
Hayes is in a tight reelection race with Democratic challenger Larry Kissell, who lost to Hayes in 2006 by a mere 329 votes. If Bachmann is any precedent, Kissel may find fundraising a little easier over the next few days.
Yup. Uh oh, again. (already, bloggers are calling for folks to donate to Kissel. Here's one examples). [Update: according to Politico, the RNCC is worried about Hayes's re-election hopes as well].

Although the general GOP poll slide seems to have prompted such rhetoric by Bachmann, Hayes, et. al., and while the Republican base loves it, what are the chances that it will play well with the Independents? These voters are crucial to the McCain campaign, but will they find this particular re-ignition of the culture wars appealing? No. They seem pretty fed up with it all, hence the Ayers/terrorism flop and the Socialism bust. Those keywords ain't so hot anymore.

Aside: For more on the Hayes/McCain rally, and some indications of the audience's anxious, and at times tepid, response to McCain's White House effort, do read this piece at the New York Observer. Also, a fine article responding to the flurry of "anti-American" claims, "The Republicans Have Lifted the Lid Off Their Rightwing Id" at The Guardian is worth your reading time.

Added:Here's Glenn Greenwald's excellent discussion of the Republican party and how the "Libs hate America" meme has lost its power.

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