The Single-issue Voter: A birder’s look at Michele Bachmann (R)
It’s that time again. As civic-minded individuals do, I’m oft interested in how the platforms of those running for president affect my life, that’s as a birder naturally. With so many candidates and elections still more than a year off I decided to do the work so you, dear reader(s), don’t have to. So here’s what I hope will be a regular look as those who would be birder-in-chief. Starting with the long-shots and working my way up so that you all will be prepared when the time comes to cast your ballot. This is the first of The Drinking Bird’s however many parts it takes series.
Ahhh, Christ. I don’t know of I have it in me to do this.
Deep breaths, Nate. Ok.
So, the way I see it the Republican primary challengers can be roughly broken into two parts. There are the more or less serious acting candidates, essentially limited to Jon Huntsman, political masochist, and Mitt Romney, serial poll chaser, who at least act like they’re aware of the “rest of the nation” that will be making a decision about them next fall, and the total wackaloons who seem to be treating the GOP primary like some bizarro version of Dancing with the Stars where, instead of a professional ballroom dancing contract (that’s what you win, right? I don’t watch the show) the winner gets a one hour slot in the Fox News primetime lineup. Seriously though, they’re not serious. And there’s scarcely a candidate that better fits that unseriously serious attitude that pervades in those seeking the nomination than Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
The former frontrunner, Bachmann has long been considered by those of us on the left as a convenient boogeyman, and for good reason really. Her views are regressive when they’re not nonsensical. She seems to live not so much to promote conservative ideology, but to oppose “liberalism”, and worse, she seems to be willfully and proudly ignorant of even the most basic facts needed to back up her inane assertions. She’s too often written off as an empty head, but I don’t buy that. She knows exactly what she’s doing, and in order to keep the money flowing she’ll continue to be an actor playing a role. Extreme positions are her stock in trade, and what she says is less important than how she says it and how people, particularly liberals, react to it. Victimhood is extremely lucrative to those who know how to milk it.
Her environmental policy is more subtle. Sure, there’s the wild accusations that global climate change is not only incorrect, but a liberal conspiracy, and the railing against the EPA as if it were the origin of all the black helicopters instead of a highly-effective public health organization, and the “drill here, drill now” rhetoric that fails to hold up under even the basest scrutiny. The thing is, this stuff plays well among a certain group of voters most likely to send her money. So it continues and no amount of refutation will change her or her supporters minds. She makes good money pretending to not understand this stuff. So what are you left with? Seriously.
But you, dear reader, don’t come here for resigned cynicism. You come for the examples of malfeasance and/or courageous political stands. I’m sorry to say you won’t find the second here. Bachmann has long been in the pocket of extractive industries, even going so far as to travel to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on a fact-finding mission and conveniently find the very facts she was looking for, that the north slope is a dark, desolate, wasteland that we should pay the oil companies to take off our hands (seriously, that’s essentially her position). In an editorial in 2008, she actually seemed shocked that there were no trees in view and therefore it’s not very wild, is it?
Swirl that one around in your noggin for a sec.
Looking for trees. In the tundra.
There’s also the fact that she’s advocated shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency because of its onerous “regulations”, the burden of clean air and water and healthy citizenry being apparently too much for the national economy to bear*. But fear not, gentle citizen, Bachmann believes that the EPA should instead tackle “conservation”. She says this apparently unaware that there’s an entire Department in the executive branch who’s entire purpose is to deal with public lands in the Interior of the United States. But I guess she wouldn’t know about the Department of the Interior since she’s supported legislation in every incarnation, from budgets intended keep barely enough people on staff to keep the National Parks from closing let along to keep them from falling apart, to bureaucratic hoops intended to handcuff DoI scientists such that they can’t fulfill their mission with regard to endangered species, to the portrait, nay, the Sistine Chapel ceiling of government incompetence and corruption, the Minerals Management Service. If there’s a more important government agency to birders than the Department of the Interior, then I’d be hard-pressed to think of one. As such, anyone who advocates the functional neutering of the DoI, cannot, ipso facto, support birds.
*Seriously though, is this truly where we are as a country that we have to consider clean air and drinking water – literally preventing kids from getting preventable asthma or lung disease – to be too expensive? I think this is what disgusts me the most about the modern Republican Party, that they talk a blue streak about the exceptionalism of this nation, but making an investment in public health for kids is just too much to ask. How the hell is is exceptional to accept, no, sorry, to argue in favor of, kids getting completely preventable illnesses? What the hell is wrong with the sort of person who would say that this is at all acceptable? But I digress…
So, in short, Bachmann shows as astounding ignorance of basic fifth grade level ecology and civics. But don’t worry about her, she makes an amazingly good living because of it. Not in spite of it. Because of it. And that’s why she’ll never ever change.
In the interests of being fair-minded I do have to say I found two Bachmann positions that are actually good policy. The first, her support to make the tax deduction for conservation easements permanent, which a policy that has broad bipartisan approval for good reason. It works, and it’s good not only for hunters, but for birders who enjoy open grassland species. And the second, she took a position against protecting free-roaming horses and burros on federal land. They’re invasive species, they tend to strip the ground of low-growing plants, and they need to be managed aggressively. She may have come to that second decision because the relative pittance allocated for the programs was under the umbrella of “wasteful government spending” (i.e. spending on anything Michele Bachmann doesn’t agree with), but hey, even a blind squirrel finds some nuts occasionally.
Emphasis on nuts.