Farewell To a Forerunner

In an excrutiating video (yes, I watched the entire eight minutes and thirty-nine seconds) from her campaign, Rep. Michele Bachmann announced she would not, after all, be running for a fifth term in 2014. Long as her “announcement” was–she managed to work in her entire biography, talking points on Benghazi! and the IRS, a shot at her “detractors” and a great big shout-out to God–she never really explained why she was hanging it up, though she did allow as how it had nothing to do with her growing ethics problems or with the fact that she was facing what Politico called an “existential threat” in a rematch with 2012 opponent Jim Graves.

Like any left-of-center political writer, I’ve appreciated Bachmann’s hijinks over the years, not just because of her ability to bring The Crazy like no one else, but because she really did complicate the lives of those who wanted to neatly divide today’s radicalized conservative movement into secular and religious “wings,” or treat the Tea Party as something new and different from yesterday’s extremists. She was probably the first nationally prominent pol to consistently label herself as a “constitutional conservative,” a self-identifying term that is still growing like topsy in usage and may well become ubiquitous on the Right before long, despite or perhaps because of its arrogance and its assertion of eternally valid governing models and cultural standards from the distant past. I’ll probably never be able to hear that particular dog whistle blow without thinking of Michele Bachmann. She was a forerunner in a lot of ways, God help us.

As for Bachmann herself, I’m sure she’ll never completely go away. Assuming she survives the ethics investigation into her presidential campaign, she’ll pop up somewhere. If nothing else, she probably has a future as a commercial spokesperson:

One way or another, you best believe we’ll be seeing those crazy eyes again.

UPDATE: For a more precise parsing of Bachmann’s retirement video, see The Atlantic‘s Garance Franke-Ruta.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.