It’s rather funny to read a Tea Party blog post accusing Michele Bachmann of hurting the Tea Party by focusing on social issues. I mean, how can this be? God chose her after all. But that’s exactly what American Majority President Ned Ryun said in a blog post Thursday. Worse, he said “it’s time for Michele Bachmann to go.”
It’s time for Michele Bachmann to go. For the last two years, I’ve been cautioning about the dangers of individuals or organizations trying to present themselves as leaders of the Tea Party movement. An individual personality or organization purporting to be a “leader” of what is truly a grassroots movement can hurt the tea party brand by creating false impressions about its core beliefs.
Whatever Ryun says here, Bachmann has certainly been a Tea Party favorite, pulling support even from early Tea Party heroine Sarah Palin. Nor is the Tea Party “truly a grassroots movement” but Astroturf as a movement can be. Nor, would it seem, has she created false impressions about the movement’s core beliefs. He goes on with his complaints:
Bachmann, the leader of the so-called tea party caucus in the House and the most vocal about her affiliation with the Tea Party than any other Presidential candidate, has consistently presented herself as a champion of the movement and its values. Bachmann has ridden her tea party credentials from obscurity to a national platform like no other.
Not surprisingly, Michele Bachmann has reacted strongly, blaming the attack – and another by American Majority’s executive director, Matt Robbins – on Rick Perry, calling it a stealth attack.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer she said,
“If Gov. Perry has something to say to me, he can come out to the debates and say it. But this is egg on the face unfortunately for the Perry campaign.”
She also vehemently denied a lack of support from Tea Party organizations:
“It certainly isn’t a blow to my campaign because I’ve had nonstop support coming out of the woodwork from tea partiers all across the country ever since this came out.”
But what Ryun wrote about her campaign in his blog post is certainly true: “Since her meteoric rise this summer and win in the Iowa Straw poll, her campaign has been plagued by losses of top staff, lackluster fundraising and a seeming lack of direction.”
Is Michele Bachmann a serious contender for the presidency? As Ryun wrote, she looked powerful up until Rick Perry’s entry, and she will never be the establishment favorite Mitt Romney is. Her campaign has certainly stumbled since Iowa. Even Iowa Rep. Steve King, who has been a close ally and endorsed her for leadership when the GOP took the House in 2010, declines to endorse her (of course, he declines to endorse anyone at this point) but that even her closet ally won’t jump her her foundering ship as so many others are leaving has to be disheartening to the would-be messiah.
But Ryun looks more like a liar accusing a liar of being a liar as he goes on with his complaints about Bachmann’s politics:
There is nothing wrong with addressing your base during a campaign. However, I suspect that we will hear more from her about social issues and religion to accomplish that goal. As an evangelical who is deeply pro-life, I can say that while many inside the tea party movement are socially conservative, social issues are not what drive the Tea Party.
But all three candidates – all Republican candidates in fact – make social issues a core part of their platforms. In fact, legislating social issues is all the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives – of which Bachmann is a part – have done since 2010. They don’t want to create jobs and have admitted as much, but they sure want to bring the government into your bedroom to ensure you’re not doing something they think of as immoral.
Ryun adopts a no-holds barred attitude toward Bachmann’s candidacy, alleging,
Every day the campaign flounders, it risks hurting the credibility of the movement. If she really is about the tea party, and making it successful, it’s time for the Congresswoman to move on. The Tea Party doesn’t have a spokesperson, and it’s certainly not Michele Bachmann.
But this is ignoring the facts on the ground. Certainly Bachmann appointed herself a spokesman of the Tea Party, but so did an equally shrill Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party supported them both. The truth is, the Tea Party has ranted itself out of support. The Tea Party has made itself increasingly unpopular (and see the Pensito Review study here which ranks the TPM dead last after even atheists, Muslims, and gays) and the fault is not that of Michele Bachmann alone, nor even of Sarah Palin. Ryun is right that the Tea Party has many leaders and there is little difference between any of them.
In fact, Ryun may not want to be one to cast stones. Crooks and Liars examined the movement in 2010, asking, “What do you do when you live in Kansas, are the twin sons of disgraced Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun and you have access to a whole lot of money? What else? Start a non-profit organization to raise up a ‘grassroots army’.”
As the author of this analysis noted, “One pass through their site and any thinking human being knows its about as libertarian as my left foot. It’s a Republican agitation arm disguised with some plasticky-looking grass on it.”
And American Majority for all its talk about grassroots origins is Astroturf. Crooks and Liars cites a Dallas News article:
Ryun estimates that “above 75 percent” of American Majority’s funding comes from the Sam Adams Alliance, a conservative think tank in Chicago. In return for their tax-exempt status, American Majority and the Sam Adams Alliance are required to make their income tax returns available to the public.
Welcome to the club, American Majority – corporate funded and owned, speaking not for the people but for corporate interests. Ryun may be right about Michele Bachmann in the particulars of his argument; the problem is, that the same complaint applies to him and to his organization and indeed, to every other Tea Party organization that comes under the radar. And Ryun can claim that moving too far to the right is dangerous but Ned Ryun himself was a speechwriter for George W. Bush and his brother Drew worked for the RNC as deputy director of grassroots in 2004. Michele Bachmann’s favorite critique of thing she dislikes may be “it’s of the devil” (including gays and Herman Cain’s 999 tax plan) but this hardly makes her crazier than her competitors.
So yes, Michele Bachmann is dangerous. Yes, she is far to the right, but Ryun and his group are hardly far behind her. It is the Tea Party that hurts the Tea Party, and the guilt is collective as there is plenty to go around. Their shrill, uncompromising stance on social issues is a turn off for independents and a sure-fire way to arouse the ire of liberals and progressives. Even the vitriolic Pat Robertson recognizes that all this extremist rhetoric is hurting the Republican cause but as John Stewart observed the other day, “Not the things you are saying are wrong or things you are saying are bad policy, callous, or crazy, but that you’re right, but let’s just keep those our little secret.”
And that may well be Ryun’s problem. It’s so much easier to subvert and overthrow the Constitution when you pretend you’re its supporters.