Michele Bachmann, retiring from the House one step of the ethics investigators and, most likely, her district’s voters. Garance Franke-Ruta watches her announcement video; Jonathan Chait remembers some of her greatest hits.


1. No, she was never the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, or anything more than an extreme longshot.

2. Yes, she certainly did bring The Crazy. If she didn’t really believe the things she said, she did an excellent job of acting as if she did.

3. No, it’s not true that most Republican Members of the House are interchangably nuts. There’s really only a small group, maybe only a handful, who share Bachmann’s true dedication to The Crazy.

4. However, it’s also true that sane conservatives in Congress are not only reluctant to criticize the Crazy Caucus, but are in many cases willing to borrow liberally (or perhaps I should say generously?) from things the Crazy Caucus comes up with or dredges up from Beck or chain emails or wherever.

5. More generally: to the extent that one of the big driving motivations for mainstream, sane conservative politicians is to avoid the “RINO” label — and it appears that this motivation is quite strong — they, the GOP-aligned press, and rank-and-file conservative voters give enormous power to the fringe Crazy Caucus.

6. That is, and to generalize: mainstream liberal Democrats try to differentiate themselves from the most extreme liberals in order to appeal to general election swing voters; mainstream conservative Republicans try to group themselves with the most extreme conservatives in order to appeal to primary election RINO-hunters, and have not found any way to cling to extreme but sane conservatives without also keeping fairly close to the Crazy Caucus.

7. Back to Bachmann: assuming she’s not going to jail, Beck’s network certainly seems like the logical destination for her. I’ve seen some twitter chatter about the possibility she may seek higher office, but it doesn’t much matter; she’s almost certainly never going to be elected statewide in Minnesota, and if she does run for president again she’ll remain a fringe candidate with no realistic chance of doing anything more than (perhaps) crowding out other fringe candidates.

8. All bloggers will, naturally, miss her: our lonely eyes now turn to Louie Gohmert, and to the near-certainty that, as Sarah Posner points out, there will be others.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.