Rep. Michele Bachmann

  • August 5, 2011
    Guest Post

    By Steve Sanders, visiting assistant professor, University of Michigan Law School

    The political media are about to begin obsessing over the Iowa Republican straw poll, scheduled for Saturday, August 13.  Recent commentary has focused on how religious conservatives have gained a chokehold on Iowa GOP politics.  Evangelical Christian activists remain outraged at the 2009 decision of the Iowa Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage.  Last fall, they mounted a well-funded campaign to oust three of the justices who signed that ruling.  Their TV ads  – juxtaposing footage of villainish-looking "liberal, out of control judges" against images of hunters in camouflage and a chubby kid saluting the flag – accused the justices of "ignoring our traditional values" and "imposing their own values."

    Now, activist Bob Vander Plaats, who led the anti-court jihad, is pressuring presidential candidates to sign something called "The Marriage Vow," which includes a pledge of "[v]igorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage – faithful monogamy between one man and one woman – through statutory-, bureaucratic-, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same-sex, etc."  Religious-right darlings Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum were the first candidates to enthusiastically sign up.

    The picture of Iowa we get from the mainstream media through next year's caucuses is likely to be of a state in the grip of militant Tea Partiers and theocrats.  That would be a shame, because the agenda of these particular activists – with their narrow view of social equality and hostility toward an independent judiciary – is unfaithful to the state's social and legal heritage.

  • July 13, 2011

    Politicians seeking the Republican presidential nomination are splitting over how closely they want to associate with a Religious Right Iowa group dubbed FAMiLY LEADER, and comedians are having a field day with the organization’s blatantly bigoted “marriage vow” pledge, but in a column for the Des Moines Register Graham Gillette says the group’s “nonsense” is not that funny. (Republican presidential candidates Rep. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, a longtime darling of the Religious Right, have both signed the pledge. Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney has distanced himself from the so-called “Marriage Vow” pledge, TPMDC reports.)

    The group, led by Bob Vander Plaats, who helped lead the efforts to oust the Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled that the state’s anti-gay marriage law is unconstitutional, has a long and tawdry record of using his Christian Right platform to trash the LGBT community. RightWingWatch notes that Plaats “is also tied to an effort that likened being gay to being a cigarette smoker and once said that allowing equal marriage rights for gay couples threatened the system of private property and gun-ownership rights. One former adviser said that Vander Plaats is ‘obsessed with the gay marriage issue.’”  

    The group’s website describes itself as a “consistent, courageous voice in the churches, in the legislature, in the media, in the courtroom, in the public square … always standing for God’s truth.”

    The group’s marriage vow pledge, which it asked the Republican candidates to sign, included in its original preamble the wildly bigoted claim that “African-American families were more secure under slavery than they are today, under an African-American president,” TPMDC reports. That language, TPMDC notes, has since been removed from the pledge.

    The marriage vow, however, still includes some laughably outlandish language.

    For example its preamble states, “Faithful monogamy is at the very heart of a designed and purposeful order – as conveyed by Jewish and Christian Scripture, by Classical Philosophers, by Natural Law, and by the American Founders – upon which our concepts of Creator-endowed human rights, racial justice and gender equality all depend.”

    Moreover “marriage fidelity,” only between men and women “protects innocent children, vulnerable women, the rights of fathers, the stability of families, and the liberties of all American citizens under our republican form of government.”

    The historical inaccuracy and general idiocy of the marriage pledge obviously doesn’t matter to Plaats, and apparently neither to the politicos who have agreed to peddle his far-right “nonsense.”

  • May 13, 2011

    Citing Rep. Michele Bachmann’s frequent inaccuracies and “gross distortions,” a high school sophomore from New Jersey has challenged the Minnesota congresswoman to a debate on the U.S. Constitution, U.S. history and civics, The Minnesota Independent reports.

    In an open letter to Bachmann, student Amy Myers writes:

    As a typical high school student, I have found quite a few of your statements regarding The Constitution of the United States, the quality of public school education and general U.S. civics matters to be factually incorrect, inaccurately applied or grossly distorted. The frequency and scope of these comments prompted me to write this letter.

    … Rep. Bachmann, the frequent inability you have shown to accurately and factually present even the most basic information about the United States led me to submit the follow challenge, pitting my public education against your advanced legal education:

    I, Amy Myers, do hereby challenge Representative Michele Bachmann to a Public Forum Debate and/or Fact Test on The Constitution of the United States, United States History and United States Civics.

    Read the full letter here.

  • April 12, 2011

    U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, founder of the House’s Tea Party Caucus, and weighing a 2012 presidential run, told a gathering at a Christian school in Iowa that lawmakers should restrict the federal courts from ruling on marriage equality.

     “At the federal level with what are called article three courts, article three of the United States Constitution, we can limit the subject matter that justices can rule on,” Bachmann (pictured) told an audience at the Pella Christian High School. “We have it within our authority to decide what judges can rule on and what they can’t. Any time the people speak, they say with one voice that marriage is one man, one woman. Why would we expect any different?”

    Bachmann, who garnered attention for recently saying that the first shots of the Revolutionary War occurred in New Hampshire, also slammed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” saying that the military has been used for “social engineering.” She added, “You’ll hear a lot of phony baloney polls, but our military is set against the policy.”

    Putting aside polling on DADT, top military officials, including Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were supporters of the repeal. In addition, as the Palm Center notes, former Defense secretaries, including Donald Rumsfeld, have also supported repealing the ban on openly gay service members.

    Think Progress has video of Bachmann’s remarks here, and concludes, “At the end of the day, however, Bachmann’s court-stripping plan is nothing less than an assault on the Constitution itself. Bachmann does not like the fact that Constitution requires gay people to be afforded the same legal protections as everyone else, so she wants to hamstring the courts from according equal protection to all Americans.”

    Bachmann’s claim that Congress can and should strip the courts of the ability to rule on marriage equality, also apes the efforts of other politicians bent on catering to the Religious Right. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, weighing another run for the presidency, was the proponent of a “We the People Act,” aimed at stripping the federal courts from ruling on an array of social issues.

    [image via Gage Skidmore]

  • February 14, 2011
    Many Tea Party leaders say they have the market cornered on constitutional scholarship, and that they are out to save the U.S. Constitution from an ever-expanding federal government. But as David Schultz writes in a piece for Salon, those advocates are actually pushing a very cramped view of the Constitution.

    Schultz, a Hamline University professor and professor of law at the University of Minnesota, writes, "If the Tea Party constitutional reading suddenly took sway and we returned to the original document as conceived, what would the American republic look like? Much to the surprise of Bachmann [Rep. Michele Bachmann, a founder of the U.S. House's Tea Party Caucus] and others, there wouldn't be that much freedom and democracy."

    Schultz then notes that the original Constitution did not include many of the rights and protections that we have come to enjoy. For instance, the original document only provided for limited voting rights, he notes. "Voting rights," Schultz points out, "were largely a matter of state law, and in 1787 most states limited the franchise to white, male, Protestant property owners, age 21 or older." Women did not secure the right to vote, he notes, until 1920 with the adoption of the 19th Amendment. "Without this amendment, there is no guarantee that Michele Bachmann would ever have been allowed to vote, let alone run for office," Schultz writes.

    The original Constitution also did not include a Bill of Rights and allowed for slavery.

    Schultz writes:

    Slavery did not end until the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and the adoption of the 13th Amendment in 1865. The original Constitution lacked an equal protection clause, which bans discrimination. It took the 14th Amendment in 1868 and a Supreme Court decision to create it. Lacking this clause, states were free to discriminate, and they regularly did via segregation laws.

    Last week at an ACS event, former N.Y. Governor Eliot Spitzer urged pushback against the Tea Party's rhetoric on the Constitution, saying their members loudly promote a rigid view about constitutional rights and protections.