Michele Bachmann is saying goodbye to Congress. Her exit means less work for fact checkers, tougher times for Democrats who tried making her a Republican Party symbol (though they're planning on running against her anyway), leaner times for comedians — and a huge sigh of relief to the Republican Party's establishment. The overwhelming consensus is that her leaving will help the GOP.
The Daily Beast's John Avlon labeled Bachmann "the congresswoman who represented the worst of modern American politics more than she ever tried to represent her Minnesota constituents." In Avlon's words, she "degraded national debate, consistently chose fear mongering over facts, and exhibited every impulse of the demagogue and the ideologue." Avlon focused on one particular statement in her farewell announcement:
She wants the world to know that "this decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff. It was clearly understood that compliance with all rules and regulations was an absolute necessity for my presidential campaign." In a word: bullshit. The Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into her presidential campaign that was first disclosed by The Daily Beast is due to release its initial report soon. [Daily Beast]
Ostensibly, Bachmann's decision not to run is a Godsend to the GOP. She has been a reliable outrageous quote machine who reinforces the perception that the Republican Party's right wing is way, way, way out there. Conservative Intelligence Briefing's David Freddoso further notes that Bachmann's exit removes a huge financial "black hole" for conservatives since Bachmann "may hold a lifetime record" for wasting campaign donations from small donors:
So if you're a true conservative, do you want more Michele Bachmanns in the House? What you probably want are more people who share your principles but who won't subject them to ridicule; who won't make their re-election races needlessly expensive; and who can hold down a safe congressional seat easily so that they're not competing for money that could go to conservatives running for shakier seats. [Conservative Intelligence Briefing]
Bachmann was a political celebrity who accomplished little (only one of the 58 bills she introduced passed the House) but whose push-the-envelope assertions tapped into partisan resentments, anger, and rage. She created a following, making her famous in the conservative media and infamous in the mainstream media.
Veteran editor and blogger Robert Stein asks: "How did a mouthy back bencher parlay ignorance that made Sarah Palin look like Winston Churchill into such prominence? And does her downfall amid murky misuse of campaign funds portend a continuing descent of the GOP into a diehard faction of the major party it once was?"
CNN columnist L.Z. Granderson says her retirement should "help the GOP scrub stupid" away:
The fact is, the brand of spitfire politics Bachmann, [Sarah] Palin et al. employ is usually not patient or intelligent. It's often irresponsible hyperbole designed to generate buzz as opposed to inform. If directed properly, it's an effective way to win an election. But the problem with spitfire is that it's sometimes hard to control. [CNN]
That's why legendary Democratic strategist James Carville remains buoyant. When Morning Joe's Republican Joe Scarborough mentioned Bachmann's retirement, Carville's response was: "It makes me so sad and you so happy, Joe. God closes one door for Michele Bachmann and opens three to [Republican Texas Rep.] Louie Gohmert."
Indeed, the GOP still has many high-profile verbal bomb throwers that will hurt its image — particularly ascending Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who some say talks like the late Sen. Joe McCarthy, looks like McCarthy, and even resembles the evil puppet in the movie Magic.
Meanwhile, all but the most skillful public relations people would declare the Republican Party's more inclusive "rebranding" effort a hair away from being embalmed. Democrats are gleefully hammering Republicans for the party's "recruiting nightmare" for Senate races, and point to the party failing effort to woo increasingly influential Hispanic voters. Reuters reports a strong chance that the Republican House will kill immigration reform.
Bachmann built her career on saying no and appealing to hyper-ideologists — thus highlighting the weakness of the House's Republican leadership. She helped solidify a far-right political style and was instrumental in rallying conservative opposition to ObamaCare. Her retirement means one more member of the Republican Party's right-wing fringe will pass not-too-quietly into the political night. But many independent and centrist voters will unlikely be impressed if one character has dropped out of political Looney Tunes while the high-visibility series still continues its big-cast-of-characters run.