Politics

05.08.14

Michele Bachmann’s Crazy War on Women’s History

She’s on her way out of Washington, she’s still championing lost causes so extreme her GOP colleagues won’t even get on board.

It looks as though Michele Bachmann has chosen to spend her final year in Congress as she spent so much of her tenure: ranting about issues in a manner so overwrought that not even her own party can stomach her.

Yesterday, Bachmann generated a fresh round of no-she-didn’t buzz when she took to the House floor to beg colleagues to shoot down legislation creating a bipartisan commission to explore construction of a National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) on the National Mall. Many Republicans, including the bill’s co-sponsor Rep. Marsha Blackburn, presumably saw greenlighting the commission as a relatively painless, if largely meaningless, way to say, “See, we love the ladies!” (Cue Tom Cruise bouncing on Oprah’s sofa.)

But not Bachmann. The soon-to-be-ex-lawmaker expressed her grave concerns that “ultimately this museum that will be built on the National Mall, on federal land, will enshrine the radical feminist movement that stands against the pro-life movement, the pro-family movement, and pro-traditional-marriage movement.”

Bachmann allowed that there is much to celebrate about women. But based on her “cursory review” of the museum’s online exhibits, she had sadly concluded that any worthy offerings would be overshadowed by the feminist propaganda of the left. Singled out for opprobrium was the planned exhibit on Margaret Sanger, birth-control crusader and godmother of Planned Parenthood.

The House responded to Bachmann’s clarion call by passing the bill 383-33.

Now, I understand that the gentlewoman from Minnesota wishes (and sometimes, late at night snuggled up with Marcus, maybe even likes to pretend) that she lived in a right-thinking theocracy with an Old Testament approach to dealing with gays and loose women. But the history of the United States is what it is, and any museum celebrating the ladies and exploring their hard-won fight for equal rights will include a few figures that rub Bachmann the wrong way. Most museums feature exhibits that are controversial, if not downright objectionable, to plenty of visitors. (One can only imagine what Bachmann thinks of the Museum of Natural History’s representations of evolution.)

Come to think of it, some gals might object to the NWHM’s decision to create an online exhibit about Michele Bachmann (an irony that Bachmann had the good graces to mention in her floor speech). After all, the four-term Congresswoman is hardly dripping with historical, or even political, import. As a lawmaker, she has always been more of a show pony than a workhorse. Sure, she became a political celebrity as “Queen of the Tea Party,” and in 2011 she won the why-won’t-someone-euthanize-it-already Ames straw poll. But demagogues are a dime a dozen these days, and Bachmann never displayed any talent for transforming her raving into either legislative achievement or higher office. As Politico noted during her 2011 campaign:

Now in her third House term, Bachmann has never had a bill or resolution she’s sponsored signed into law, and she’s never wielded a committee gavel, either at the full or subcommittee level. Bachmann’s amendments and bills have rarely been considered by any committee, even with the House under GOP control. In a chamber that rewards substantive policy work and insider maneuvering, Bachmann has shunned the inside game, choosing to be more of a bomb thrower than a legislator.

But! If Bachmann has been a mediocre public servant (not to mention an appalling influence on political discourse) she was, back in the day, a phenomenal foster mom, which is what the NWHM exhibit is all about. In its “Profiles in Motherhood” section, the museum has Q&As with a number of women in various categories: “Working Mom,” “Stay at Home Mom,” “Military Mom,” “Adoptive Mom,” and so on. As the featured “Foster Mom,” Bachmann talks about the motivations, challenges, and joys of fostering nearly two dozen teens over the years. No matter how toxic many—many—people find the congresswoman, her willingness to embrace so many children in need is beyond controversy. In this one area, at least, Bachmann found a way to walk the walk and accomplish some lasting good.

The folks at NWHM deserve props for finding a way to spotlight this inspiring aspect of Bachmann’s story—despite how loudly she’s tried to stop them.