The Zealot and the Grifter

Required reading: Ryan Lizza on Michele Bachmann in the New Yorker.

While looking over Bachmann’s State Senate campaign Web site, I stumbled upon a list of book recommendations. The third book on the list, which appeared just before the Declaration of Independence and George Washington’s Farewell Address, is a 1997 biography of Robert E. Lee by J. Steven Wilkins.

Wilkins is the leading proponent of the theory that the South was an orthodox Christian nation unjustly attacked by the godless North. This revisionist take on the Civil War, known as the “theological war” thesis, had little resonance outside a small group of Southern historians until the mid-twentieth century, when Rushdoony and others began to popularize it in evangelical circles. In the book, Wilkins condemns “the radical abolitionists of New England” and writes that “most southerners strove to treat their slaves with respect and provide them with a sufficiency of goods for a comfortable, though—by modern standards—spare existence.”

Reading the piece, it occurred to me once again that Michele Bachmann is the real deal, a home-schoolin’, witch-burnin’, dyed in the wool thumper. She’s often compared to Sarah Palin, but the two couldn’t be more different — Palin is a consummate grifter, a narcissist willing to say anything she needs to in order to get the attention she craves, but I don’t think even she believes half of what comes out of her mouth (the half that’s comprehensible, that is). Bachmann, on the other hand, is infinitely scarier not only because she is a fanatic, but because she possesses not an ounce of self-doubt. She has a zealot’s unwavering trust in her mission. If empowered, she truly would attempt to reorder American society to her fundamentalist viewpoint (good luck with that in this crooked timber nation). Her true calling is not as a democratically elected president but rather as Joan of Arc in a pink tailored suit, with a gay husband and a fuzzy notion of history (her own as well as this country’s). Or maybe she’s the Kwisatz Haderach from Frank Herbert’s Dune saga, leading her Tea Party followers on a Personal Mobility Scooter pogrom to get big gummint out of Medicare. She doesn’t want to govern, she wants to tear down the whole secular edifice and rebuild it in the image of her creator.

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