The Bachmann advice about how all conservatives should “slash their wrists” to fight health care is the topic of this post. Two Putt Tommy wrote about that last night in his post here:
Here, I’ll just comment on the remark from the perspective of a long-time Bachmann watcher and student of the extreme right. Here’s the quote from Bachmann’s speech in Colorado the other day.
Addressing an audience of conservatives and speaking of the president’s proposed health care reforms, she said:
“This cannot pass. What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.”
Naturally her counsel to conservatives–that they must “slit their wrists” to stop health care reform–is making its way around the internet today, particularly in the liberal progressive blogs. The remark might be dismissed as the kind of verbal gaffe that Dan Quayle or George W. Bush became famous for. But people will sense that there’s something more disturbing about a “slit our wrists” gaffe coming from this particular politician.
And they’re right, if they’re creeped out by this. I’m gonna play amateur psychologist here, and try to explain why this should disturb voters. I hope the real students of psychology will give me some latitude here with the terminology.
In my opinion, Bachmann’s “slash your wrists” metaphor was a “Freudian slip.” Most people are familiar with the “Freudian slip” concept via inappropriate and unintentional sexual references by a speaker. (For example, if a person meant to say “the best female leader” but instead said “the breast female leader.” Very embarrassing for that speaker, at a public engagement.)
But a Freudian slip need not be sexual. It is supposed to be an example of the unconscious uncontrollably into conscious speech. Michele Bachmann may not know that the way to become “blood brothers” with someone is to prick your fingers and rub the two little droplets of blood together. But Michele Bachmann certainly knows that slashing your wrists is committing suicide.
And that’s the image that unintentionally surfaced in her speech to fellow conservatives–the unintentional message she delivered was: “we must commit suicide in order to fight our elected government.”
In my opinion, this is an example of “what Michele really believes in her unconscious”–bubbling up, for a bare second, in a speech to a friendly audience. And in light of her other public statements throughout the years: she did not mean that “we as a party and ideology, are committing suicide by fight health care reform.”
No, it was not an unconscious slip revealing her true feelings about the future of her party and movement. In my opinion, it was unconscious slip revealing her feelings about “death” as a necessary consequence of opposing the Obama administration. In other words–I think feels what the extreme right feels: that sooner or later, Americans will be fighting each other to the death for control of the country, and that it is necessary for conservatives to embrace that possiblity to the point of suicidal opposition.
Why do I interpret this slip in that way? Because from her earliest days in politics, Michele has viewed the federal government as “the enemy,” she has viewed our federal government as being party to a big global socialist conspiracy. And sought and received the support of like-minded conspiracy theorists, that’s how she got her start in politics (with that support and the support of the evangelical right.)
In the minds of these people, the political struggle going in the United States is apocalyptic. We’re used to seeing people from all parties argue that “the next election is critical, will change America.” But in the eyes of American extremists and the evangelical political movement–the last election results mean more than that. The installation of a black liberal President with a Dem Congress is a sign that “things are coming to a head,” that we are approaching a political apocalypse involving the violent death of many Americans. The phrase often employed by the extreme right to describe this apolcalypse is “when the shit comes down”–when the global socialist conspirators drop the mask of democratic forms and start to round up conservative Americans into concentration camps, begin to confiscate their weapons, use guillotines to execute them by the tens of thousands and harvest their organs. (Yes, that’s what some of them think is about to happen–because liberals are in charge.)
The embrace of (or infliction of) violent death plays a big part in the thinking of American right wing extremists. But the apocalyptic world view isn’t just “an extreme right” thing. It is shared by millions of evangelicals who believe that the Bible inerrantly predicts the End Times of the world, who believe that we are now living in the End Times and that this age will see the violent deaths of millions as a preface to Jesus’ return to earth.
When millions of citizens believe something, it becomes important whether it’s true or not. Because some people will act out on that belief. And Bachmann is the adopted representative of the two constituencies that total in the tens of millions and have adopted this bloody, paranoid and prophetic view of these times we live in.
The message that Bachmann was unintentionally sending conservatives was (in my opinion): reforming American health care in the way suggested by Obama means the end of American democracy, and bloody suicide is preferable to life under a health care system analogous to that of Canada, Britain or France or any of the other developed Western democracies.”
That’s insane, of course, but I think that’s what she really feels in her heart of hearts. People sometimes ask me whether Bachmann really believes the lies she tells, or whether she’s merely being manipulative. In this case, I think you can fairly attribute to her the belief that the violent deaths of many Americans is preferable to expansion of Medicare to Americans of all ages– socialized medicine.
Lots of good background collected in this article posted in the Colorado Independent. For years I’ve been writing about how Bachmann’s ambitions are national. The authors of this article suggest that Bachmann’s speaking engagement at the Colorado Freedom Conference is attempt to raise her profile with Western conservatives.
The “gorilla” in the room that I’ve been writing about since 2003 is the role that the national evangelical right has played in Bachmann’s meteoric rise. Chronicling and documenting that is something that I do–but it’s apparently of little interest to other reporters.
You hear a lot about Bachmann on Maddow and Olbermann and the print and digital journals–but the role that organized evangelical conservatives have played and continue to play in her career is something that they routinely ignore. That’s too bad, because you can’t understand why this particular demagogue rose to national prominence so quickly and effectively without investigating the role of the national evangelical right in her career.
I hope they will catch on, eventually–because Bachmann would be nothing without the evangelical conservatives, and because “more Bachmanns” are on their way into elected office because of the evangelical conservative political machine.
Bachmann rates a mention in this Southern Poverty Law Center(SPLC) article on the resurgence of right wing militia movements in the US. The SPLC tracks hate groups:
A remarkable aspect of the current antigovernment movement is the extent to which it has gained support from elected officials and mainstream media outlets. Lawmakers complaining about the intrusiveness of the federal government have introduced 10th Amendment resolutions (reasserting that those powers not granted to the federal government remain with the states) in about three dozen states. In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry raised the prospect of secession several months after Obama’s inauguration – a notion first brought up there in the ’90s by the militia-like Republic of Texas. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she feared that the president was planning “reeducation camps for young people,” while U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), evoking memories of the discredited communist-hunter Sen. Joseph McCarthy, warned of 17 “socialists” in Congress. Fox News host Glenn Beck, who has called Obama a fascist, a Nazi and a Marxist, even re-floated militia conspiracy theories of the 1990s alleging a secret network of government-run concentration camps.
That’s the difference that makes a difference: the fact that the conspiracy theories are now propounded not only by the extremists–but by the mainstream sources of information: national broadcasters like Beck, legislators like Bachus and Bachmann. That gives the outright lies an aura of “respectability” that they wouldn’t otherwise have. The elected officials and media types who lend credence to these lies by circulating them are pouring gasoline on a smouldering fire–and they know it.