Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker has a fascinating profile of Michele Bachmann in this week’s issue. From the article:
Bachmann belongs to a generation of Christian conservatives whose views have been shaped by institutions, tracts, and leaders not commonly known to secular Americans, or even to most Christians. Her campaign is going to be a conversation about a set of beliefs more extreme than those of any American politician of her stature, including Sarah Palin, to whom she is inevitably compared. Bachmann said in 2004 that being gay is “personal enslavement,” and that, if same-sex marriage were legalized, “little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal and natural and that perhaps they should try it.” Speaking about gay-rights activists, that same year, she said, “It is our children that is the prize for this community.” She believes that evolution is a theory that has “never been proven,” and that intelligent design should be taught in schools.
None of the ideas attributed to Bachmann are particularly new. Her views on homosexuality are close to the conventional wisdom of thirty years ago; her views on evolution would not raise eyebrows in much of the United States. As a lifelong believer that one can be a serious Christian as well as a student of evolution, and also as one who believes that bigotry and fear have more to do with traditional popular attitudes toward homosexuality in this country than deep theological reflection, I hope future presidents will be supporters of both tolerance and free scientific research.The horror with which many elite liberals view the rise of politicians like Bachmann, however, doesn’t impress me. Cultural and political elites are losing some of their power to determine what is acceptable political discourse and what ideas are permitted into the public square. The eruption of so many controversial and populist ideas into public discourse is very postmodern and reeks of diversity; it is interesting how little liberals welcome real diversity of opinion and culture when it appears.My own questions about Congressman Bachmann are pretty much the ones I have about Governor Palin, President Obama and, for that matter, about former President George W. Bush. In all of these cases Americans were convinced that an inexperienced politician would make a good president because of ‘instincts’ and ‘values’. Buyers’ remorse quickly set in with the last two presidents.I would like to see Congressman Bachmann gain executive experience governing a state and gain some experience in foreign affairs before making a run for the top office in the country. I wished then and wish now that President Obama had done the same thing, and I wished many times during President Bush’s tenure that he had come to the Oval Office with a better feel for how international relations actually work.Good intentions alone do not good presidents make.