"On so many issues, we're clearly on the wrong track."
For Michele Bachmann, those words were an unintentionally fitting way to call it quits.
Of course, this was essentially the anti-Obama mantra that once facilitated the congresswoman's rise as a populist conservative hero. For years, her bold and vigorous style gave voice and comfort to a deep conservative anger across the country.
Then something changed. Slowly, many conservatives realized that unmitigated anger is destructive, and alienates the many for the satisfaction of the few. Michele Bachmann didn't get that. She remained on the wrong track.
Most commentators see Bachmann's retirement as an acknowledgment of basic political reality. Facing federal investigations and a well-financed Democratic opponent, they argue, Bachmann's 2014 re-election was very much in doubt.
I'd also wager that being a member of Congress wasn't enough for Bachmann — she wanted major power. When she realized that wouldn't happen in Congress, she decided to depart.
But regardless of her rationale, count this conservative glad that Michele Bachmann will soon be gone.
Bachmann's unyielding aggression was profoundly damaging to the conservative cause. Whether in waging anti-Muslim witch hunts, or couching her opposition to homosexuality as "spiritual warfare," Bachmann has reveled in her absolutism. As a nationally known Republican, her aggression has had consequences. For one thing, it helped situate the GOP in a toxic political frame — untrusted and disliked by many Americans. The politics of division are undeserving of celebration.
Bachmann's anti-Obama rhetoric was particularly problematic. Sure, we conservatives strongly disagree with a lot of the president's policies. And yes, many Democrats were far from civil to George W Bush. But when a conservative congresswoman insinuates that the president might be a Manchurian candidate, or questions the expense of his necessary security, she dishonors herself, her party, and her country. Fortunately (and perhaps signifying her political decline), last summer other conservatives began condemning Bachmann's conspiracy theories, too.
Ultimately, Bachmann's retirement is the signifier of a Republican political evolution.
Bachmann is the proud purveyor of angry conservatism. In her wake, we're now witnessing the transition to idea-centric conservatism, illustrated by bold thinkers like Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie.
Of course, Bachmann still doesn't get it. At one point during her retirement video, the congresswoman declared that the Middle East is a "devastating, evil jihadist earthquake." That isn't the language of a conservative. It's the rash statement of a political clown.
I won't be sorry to see her go.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- How Israel's hawks intimidated and silenced the last remnants of the anti-war left
- Why China thinks it could defeat the U.S. in battle
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- What you need to know before you support the police in Ferguson
- How the West produces jihadi tourists
- Why your employer should clean your house and do your laundry
- Welcome to the age of ambivalent feminism
- The real lesson of Rick Perry's mug shot
Subscribe to the Week