Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Perry vs. Bachmann: Who’s Scarier?

By Gaije Kushner

Michelle Bachmann is a mesmerizing creature. Like a snake charmer, or the pied piper, she is simultaneously terrifying and entertaining. The wacky Christian hijinks, creepy wifely submission, appalling policy positions, and that hair, combine to make just about anyone look comparatively smart and sane.

No one has benefitted from this more than Texas governor and GOP presidential dreamer, Rick Perry. By focusing attention on a well-constructed economic narrative, he has successfully positioned himself as a more mainstream alternative to Bachmann’s flamboyant crazy train. But look past the spin, at each candidate’s positions on some touchstones of domestic policy, and Perry’s quieter brand of crazy comes into view.

For all of her ranting and raving, Bachmann’s policy positions are essentially what we expect from 21st century Republicans. She’s anti-choice, and she’s pro creationism in public schools. She offers a generic opposition to federal income tax and regulation, but she elaborates on few details beyond a belief that poor people need to stop slacking and start paying their fair share. She has proposed the elimination of Social Security and Medicare—for future generations, not for all those aging baby boomers who’ll be heading to the polls next year. Her general disdain for science can be seen in her assertion that global climate change cannot be manmade, because, “carbon dioxide is a natural by-product of nature.” Yeah, like anthrax and arsenic.

The centerpiece of Bachmann’s campaign is her longing for a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any legal recognition of same sex partnerships whatsoever, by state and federal governments. Homosexuality, she tells us, is, “part of Satan.” Everyone knows Satan can be vanquished via Constitutional amendment. It’s just a wonder it’s taken us this long to get around to it.

Perry is more moderate than Bachmann on exactly none of these issues. Creationism, climate change, he’s right there with her. The only noticeable difference between them is Perry’s tendency to take the crazy to a whole new level.

He’s all for using the Constitution to exorcise Satan from the land. That’s just the beginning of his big plans for our founding document. He wants an amendment banning abortion, of course. Then the repeal of the 16th Amendment, which created the federal income tax, and the 17th, mandating direct election of senators. He pines for the days when state legislatures selected senators. This plan would encourage senators in ideological extremism. It would be a fabulous way for political parties to consolidate power. Any advantage to erstwhile voters remains unclear.

Constitutionally defined checks and balances on governmental power aren’t really working for Perry. He’d abolish lifetime appointments for federal judges, including Supreme Court justices. He’d also empower congress to override Supreme Court decisions with a 2/3 vote, freeing them from silly concerns about legislation’s constitutionality.

Perry’s understanding of the Constitution is idiosyncratic, at best. Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional, in his world. As are civil rights protections, environmental and financial regulations, the minimum wage, and labor laws.

Given his disdain for federal regulations protecting individuals from the workings of corporate power, Perry’s call for a moratorium on federal regulations shouldn’t come as a surprise. Yet it does, being such a colossally bad idea. Do we really want our 8 year olds taking over the counter meth, to keep them awake for their 20 hours working in the coal mines, for $2.50 an hour, washing it down with water chockfull of toxins? Well, Governor Perry does. Because, hey, that’s job creation!

You’re probably scared of Perry by now, but you might be wondering about his entertainment potential. Don’t. It’s huge. He once shot a coyote while out for his daily run, and he was a cheerleader in college.

Michelle Bachmann has never looked so good.

1 comment:

  1. Great column Gaije, and yes, I'm pretty scared now! I really worry that people think voting for a president is something like voting for the next American Idol - that it's all about charzima and entertainment value, and NOT the incredibly important job they must actually do.