Last Friday, one of the guests preceding my segment on MSNBC’s Hardball was a then-little known Congresswoman from Minnesota named Michele Bachmann.
She’s not little known now.
Bachmann said of Barack Obama, “I‘m very concerned that he may have anti-American views.” She then called on the media to “take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?”
I’ve heard a lot of toxic words in my time as Editor of The Nation. The magazine and its editors have been called un-American, unpatriotic, America- haters, and worse. But Bachmann’s name-calling, and brazen channeling of Joe McCarthy made me angry. Really angry. When Matthews turned to me for my response I told him exactly what I was feeling, “Chris, I fear for my country…. This is a politics, at a moment of extreme economic pain in this country, that is incendiary, that is so debased that I‘m kind of almost having a hard time breathing, because I think it’s very scary, because this is a country I love.”
I said what I believed, nothing more. Bachmann’s over-the-top baiting angered many Americans who’ve had it with the fearmongering and division that has characterized our politics for too long. That emotion poured forth in e-mails which I was extremely moved to receive from so many people – across the country – who wanted to tell me that they shared my views and were grateful that I had expressed the fear and outrage they feel about this kind of poisonous politics. Here are some excerpts from those notes:
Paul in California wrote: “…You make me proud to be an American. Keep it up, we are with you.” And from Autumn in Kansas: “Thank you Katrina, for sticking up for all of us out there that might be perceived as ‘anti-American’ by the likes of Rep. Bachmann.” Jan in Arizona: “That took guts. We know how upset you were and want to support you…. So just a note of thanks.” And from Brad in Chicago: “Thank you for sounding the alarm bell, and for speaking for us all.”
Since then, the backlash to Bachmann’s (and McCain-Palin’s) politics of fear and loathing and demonization, division and distraction is reason for hope, and it also looks as though it might lead to this right-wing ideologue’s well-deserved defeat in November.
Bachmann’s challenger, Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg, has raised $1.3 million from approximately 20,000 people since Bachmann gave voice to her politics of (self) destruction. According to the Washington Post, he has quadrupled his television advertising, the Cook Political Report now calls the race a “tossup,” and Bachmann’s Republican primary foe has decided to conduct a write-in campaign. (Support Tinklenberg however you can and make sure Bachmann is forced out of the People’s House.)