In honor of my upcoming trip to Minnesota for Netroots Nation, perhaps some thoughts about a prominent Minnesota politician are in order. Not one I am likely to see at the conference, however. Yesterday I saw a story about Michele Bachmann in which she was quoted as favoring drastic cuts in corporate and capital gains tax rates, as the same time supporting an increase in rates for the working poor. Naturally I started composing in my head a satirical interview with Bachmann in which she would explain how poor people have way too much money, and the rich don't have enough. Yet another example of how Republicans are getting our problems exactly backwards. And I still think that is a valid critique.
But then I went back and read the full Wall Street Journal interview with Bachmann, from which these quotes about income taxes were taken, and realized there might be a more important point to make about Bachmann. Namely, that it would be a mistake to under-estimate her. This woman claims to read some serious economics texts. She takes tomes by Ludwig von Mises to the beach. She can speak intelligently about the reasons for the banking crisis that came to a head in 2008. In addition, if you do a little basic research on Bachmann, you find out that she has a masters degree in Taxation in addition to her law degree; she worked as a tax attorney for the IRS for five years; she served in the state legislature in Minnesota for four years, and in Congress for three terms. In addition, she has raised five children of her own, as well as an unbelievable 23 foster children.
On the other hand, Michele Bachmann has in recent years hitched her wagon to the Tea Party, made some outrageous statements, and some spectacular gaffes. And I'm not saying she is an intellectual or that she is any match for Barack Obama. All I'm suggesting is not to dismiss her too quickly as some kind of lightweight or nutcase, and not to lump her together necessarily with certain other female potential Republican presidential contenders. Michele Bachmann is a canny politician, and I would take her seriously. And by debating her ideas seriously, we might even find that they are a bit more nuanced and sophisticated than appears from the persona she displays at Tea Party rallies. Perhaps Michele Bachmann's identification with some of the simplistic ideas of the Tea Party will hurt her with the broader electorate. But she might have made the calculation that embracing the Tea Party could catapult her, as did Ronald Reagan's embrace of the most extreme elements of the Republican Party in the 1970's, to the front ranks of contenders for the Republican nomination for president or vice-president. And she might be right about that.
(Minn. Post photo)