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On Michele Bachmann, Gore Vidal and political conversions

We’ve posted before about the (I’m being polite) perennially misinformed Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a Tea Party favorite.

I knew that Bachmann is a former Democrat, but I didn’t know the reason for her political conversion. Until now.

In an address to an audience in Michigan, Bachmann said:

I was a Democrat when I grew up. Because in Minnesota, they stamp that on your birth certificate! You know that, that’s how it works.

I didn’t realize until I went off to college one day — this is the honest to God truth — I was going off to college, and I was reading this snotty novel. It was written by Gore Vidal, and I was maybe like a junior in college, or — yeah, I think was maybe a junior in college. I was reading this snotty novel, and he was going after our Founders. And he was mocking them. And he was making fun out of them.

I was a reasonable, fair-minded Democrat. And another secret you need to know: My husband and I met in college. We worked on Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign. It’s true, it’s true. This is like a 12-step meeting here today, you know that. Because I am here to admit to you, I’m a Minnesotan who had “DFL” – that’s what we call Democrats in our state — stamped on my birth certificate, worked for Jimmy Carter. The first time I ever went to Washington, DC, I went to dance at Jimmy Carter’s inaugural ball! It gets worse!

Until I was reading this snotty novel called ‘Burr,’ by Gore Vidal, and read how he mocked our Founding Fathers. And as a reasonable, decent, fair-minded person who happened to be a Democrat, I thought, ‘You know what? What he’s writing about, this mocking of people that I revere, and the country that I love, and that I would lay my life down to defend — just like every one of you in this room would, and as many of you in this room have when you wore the uniform of this great country — I knew that that was not representative of my country.

And at that point I put the book down and I laughed. I was riding a train. I looked out the window and I said, ‘You know what? I think I must be a Republican. I don’t think I’m a Democrat.’

And from that moment on, I recognized that it was the Republican Party, and conservatives in particular, who really got America — who we are, what we stand for, and are unashamed about the values that the Founders lived and died and shed their blood and their treasure for.

Which brings me to a question that has puzzled me for some time: why do some people undergo such drastic political transformations? I haven’t read “Burr”; but if Bachmann didn’t like Vidal’s attitude to the Founding Fathers, why did this turn her into a rightwing Republican? Why didn’t she remain a Democrat who happened not to like Gore Vidal’s snotty novel about the Founding Fathers. (She wouldn’t have been the only Democrat to dislike Gore Vidal.) As far as I know, neither admiring Vidal nor disrespecting the Founding Fathers is a requirement for being a Democrat. Why did it, presumably, necessitate a wholesale change in Bachmann’s beliefs on a whole host of economic, social and foreign policy issues that had nothing to do with Vidal’s alleged mockery of the Founders?

I used to hold what I suppose were much more “radical” leftwing beliefs than I do now. But I’m still a registered Democrat and I still consider myself to be on the Left. I deeply respect and admire the achievements of the Founding Fathers while realizing that they were, like most of us, flawed human beings. And for all my disillusionment and disgust with the anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism of far too many leftists, and for all my understanding of the need for reasonably free (but regulated) markets, I’ve never been tempted to become a (shudder) Republican.