Michele Bachmann has announced her retirement from Congress. I consider this good news for a very selfish reason: her name is just too easy to misspell. You're typing along, and where there should be a double letter there isn't... and then a little later there is one where there shouldn't be. It's annoying.
But that's just one man's opinion -- one man who has enough problems typing politicians' names correctly, and (one might point out, in all honesty) one man who really doesn't have a leg to stand on when complaining about difficult-to-spell last names. Ahem.
I'm sorry... where were we? Oh, right, Michele Bachmann... annoying... got it.
OK, I guess this column's going to be a little loopy today, as I join in the rampant and gleeful schadenfreude across the Lefto-blogo-sphere. Call it Bachmannenfreude, I guess.
But rather than reveling in the fact that we're not going to have Michele to kick around any more (to put it in Nixonian terms), or guffawing loudly at her claims that her exit is due to a previously-unrevealed love of term limits and not (pay no attention to the FBI agents behind the curtain, dammit!) due to the multiple investigations into wrongdoing in her presidential campaign, and most definitely not due to the fact that she would have a very tough re-election race in front of her -- nay, these are mere bagatelles or perhaps just mainstream media catnip -- Michele just suddenly really really believes in term limits, that's all. I will leave that sort of thing to be pointed out by the legions of others commenting on her exit, because it would be so unseemly for me to bring it up. Well, for more than a good, solid paragraph, I suppose.
OK, this is just getting off on the wrong foot. This is supposed to be a helpful column with a serious suggestion, after all. Let's throw some Shakespeare into the mix, to raise the level of the discourse:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts
Shakespeare goes on to list seven ages of man, but most of them are irrelevant to the political theme, so we'll just leave the quote at that. Michele Bachmann has played a part for the last few years on the American political stage, and she will exit this arena next year. If I had to sum up the role she played in a single word, I suppose it would have to be "flamboyant." The term "lightning-rod" did spring to mind, as well, but pedants will argue that it's not a single word, so I'll leave it as "flamboyant."
Michele Bachmann was very good at her role, and she will likely be playing the same role on a different stage (cough, cough... Fox News... cough) soon after she departs the Capitol. The role requires her to say outrageous things on a regular basis. Her remarks are judged on how effectively they roil the political-media world, and on no other criterion (such as being factual, for instance). Her effectiveness at actually doing the job of a House member was immaterial to her role, which was a good thing since her legislative track record is all but non-existent. She played the role pretty well, although somehow she never had quite the folksy charm of her true mentor, Sarah Palin. Palin, not unlike Stephen Colbert, always seemed to know she was merely playing a role (wink, wink), whereas Bachmann's eyes always (unwinkingly) shone with the scary light of the true believer just a little too much.
Sarah Palin is relevant to my modest proposal for the Tea Party, as are the other pioneers of the path Bachmann is now going to take: Jim DeMint, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, and even Mike Huckabee. All had their fling in the political world, and then moved on to much more lucrative jobs fulminating from the wings of the political stage. This has a freeing effect, since appearing on Fox News or running a lobbying organization (oh, excuse me, "think tank"...) means only having to keep a small group of people happy about how you're playing your role. It's a lot easier than keeping the voters happy enough with you to re-hire you every two years, that's for sure. And it's a lot more fun as well, since nobody expects a Fox News "personality" to actually get anything done in the political arena.
Hence my modest proposal for the Tea Party folks. Since getting things done in Congress has been so elusive, even with a large Tea Party contingency in the House, since it's more enjoyable both for the role-players and the audience when you move on from politics anyway, and (of course) since you believe government is broken, ineffectual, and threatening even on the best of days -- why not just cut out the middle step?
Instead of getting elected as a Tea Party darling to some office where your presence will be largely meaningless, why not just move straight into the world of punditry, lobbying, and think-tankery? The upside will be huge and immediate: no pesky campaign finance laws to fall afoul of, no boring work in the dusty chambers of Congress, no having to hobnob with Democrats and RINOs. Instead, you will be celebrated and feted for your every utterance -- the more provocative the better! -- and you will enjoy a much larger audience and paycheck.
It's really hard to find any sort of negative side to this modest proposal, really. One might wonder how budding Tea Party stars will get noticed if they don't have the path of being invited on to cable news chatfests, but this problem isn't all that hard to solve. Anyone got Simon Cowell's phone number? America seems to be getting tired of singing competitions on television, so how about "So You Think You Can Rant?" instead? Every season there would be a nationwide competition for up-and-coming Tea Party personalities, and they could have rant-offs with each other in front of a panel (perhaps headed by Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, to draw in the viewers). Heck, even Donald Trump could join in the fun somehow (emcee, perhaps?).
I think this modest proposal would do wonders for both the Tea Party and the American public. The Tea Party could get their views aired on a weekly basis to millions of viewers and Tea Party wannabes could get "discovered" and move directly into the infotainment industry known as Fox News. They wouldn't have to do all that boring stuff like committee meetings and the like, and they wouldn't have to deal with any kind of constituents. As for the American public, well, the benefits to them should be obvious. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to draw this final conclusion on your own.
-- Chris Weigant
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant