I first saw Michele Bachmann speak in June 2000 after she had knocked off a long-time incumbent state senator for the Republican nomination to run for his seat. The Republican incumbent was a squish; Michele and her supporters at the district convention had had it with him. She appeared before the Twin Cities metropolitan Republican women’s group to tell her story and ask for their support for election to the state senate. I had never heard of Michele previously and was amazed by her presentation of herself. I wondered if she was too good to be true. I’d never seen anyone quite like her.
I’ve gotten to know her a little better over the past ten years, and I have closely followed her career in the Minnesota legislature and in Congress. I nevertheless learned a lot about her from Matthew Continetti’s illuminating Weekly Standard cover story on Michele. I learned from Continetti’s article that there is even more to like and admire in Michele’s personal story than what I previously knew.
Michele is probably the most frequent guest and most popular speaker at our local chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition. She first spoke at a meeting held in her honor the month after her election to Congress in 2006. She told the story of her going to work on a kibbutz in Israel during the summer after her graduation from high school in 1974. In his profile Continetti quotes Michele in great detail on that chapter of her life.
Hearing her express her appreciation of Israel in such personal and emphatic terms had a strong impact on those of us in attendance that night. The first question she took asked her: “Has anyone talked to you about appearing on television to represent the Republicans?” Good question! In any event, Continetti quotes a mysteriously unnamed member of the local RJC chapter who testifies to the favorable impression she made on us in December 2006.
Continetti shrewdly addresses the obvious comparison between Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. Having explored the treatment she received upon her emergence into the national spotlight in The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star, Continetti is something of an expert on Palin,
Reading Continetti’s article, I wonder if anyone can withstand the treatment that Michele will elicit from the media if she emerges as a serious player in the nomination process. If anyone can, Michele might. But can anyone?
JOHN adds: The Freedom Club is an organization of Minnesota businesspeople that supports conservative causes and candidates. The club is co-sponsoring the Power Line Prize competition along with this web site. The Freedom Club’s support has been key to a number of conservative victories in Minnesota, but with hindsight, probably none was more important than Michele’s first races for the Minnesota Senate. The club supported Michele in her campaign to unseat the nominally Republican incumbent, and then in the general election. Those victories gave Michele her start in politics. Among Michele’s many good qualities is that she never forgets her friends, and she has been one of the club’s most frequent guests ever since.
Can she survive the onslaught that the national media are about to unleash? I don’t know, but I will say this: unlike, say, Sarah Palin, she is no newcomer to the Left’s hate campaigns. Minnesota’s Democrats despised Michele from the moment she appeared on the stage, and they have tried to smear her in every possible way, with the support of the dominant local media, throughout her career. Certainly in modern Minnesota history, no public figure has been demonized like Michele Bachmann.
And yet she has never lost a race. In some respects, the Left’s insane hatred even seems to have rebounded against the Democratic Party. People hear terrible things about Michele, and then they meet her: to say that the contrast is striking is an understatement. Michele is a great retail politician, which has enabled her to overcome the Left’s smears here in Minnesota. Whether she can do the same on the national scene–she can’t meet all the primary voters across the country–remains to be seen.
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