Michele Bachmann on Thursday gave her biggest hint yet that she wants to run for president. Her entry into the race would set up a fascinating showdown with Sarah Palin for the mantle of what historian Richard Hofstadter called the paranoid style in American politics—playing to fears and conjuring conspiracies to stir the rabble, corner the cable market and win votes. Bachmann is a formidable contender in the paranoid primary—an anti-intellectual conservative with a plain-spoken anti-establishment appeal.
It is worth noting, then, that one of her closest advisers is a die-hard devotee of William F. Buckley, icon of the old-line Republican elite—and certainly owner of its most impressive vocabulary. Also noteworthy: this adviser happens to be her son.
According to a recent Star Tribune profile, Bachmann’s brain trust is anchored in-house. Her husband, Christian therapist Marcus Bachmann, and their 28-year-old son Lucas Bachmann, a recent med school grad, are among her most trusted advisers.
The younger Bachmann isn’t just a fan of the late Buckley, the legendary founder of National Review and longtime host of Firing Line; he appears to be a full-on Buckley fiend, namechecking the conservative lion every chance he gets. Lucas lists WFB—along with India—as one of his two interests on his Facebook page. He tells the Star Tribune that he is a “William F. Buckley libertarian conservative.” In December 2008, Bachmann wrote a tribute to the editor, eulogizing Buckley in a local newspaper, the St. Cloud Times.
“[M]ovement intellects such as Buckley are indelible,” Lucas Bachmann wrote. “Like the majority of conservatives, I watched and marveled at his eloquent didacticism drawn from a prolix lexicon that can only be described as Buckleyesque.” Mom wouldn’t be caught dead talking like that.
But more than mere verbal style would appear to divide mother and son. Bachmann’s stump speech includes a jab at “the arrogant elites in Washington D.C.” Buckley wore that epithet like a nicely tailored tuxedo.
Whatever their differences, there’s no mistaking young Bachmann’s fiercely protective instincts toward his mother. Back in 2006, a report in Minneapolis’ City Pages erroneously stated that none of Bachmann’s children—she has five biological children, along with 23 foster kids-- attended public school. Lucas wrote in to correct the record: “Just thought that you would like to have all the facts, for journalistic integrity.”
On Mother’s Day last year, Lucas boasted about his mom’s down-to-earth qualities. "We don't think she's famous. I think for us she has always been mom and that's just kind of how it is," he said.
Bachmann, in turn, thinks her son has the makings of a fine husband. In a 2003 Christmas card, Bachmann included a parody of a personal ad for Lucas: "Chick magnate [sic] needs wife to put him through med school, clean house, pay bills and run his life. Must be willing to gamble against onslaught of socialized medicine diminishing return on investment."
Lucas likely cringed. And not just because his mother was promising to “crank up the heat” on finding his better half. No fan of Buckley’s “prolix lexicon” would ever confuse a chick magnate for a chick magnet.
Samuel P. Jacobs is a staff reporter at The Daily Beast. He has also written for The Boston Globe, The New York Observer, and The New Republic Online.