Bachmann the Anti-Totalitarian

August 30th, 2006 – 12:07 AM by Eric Black

Good Wednesday morning Fellow Seekers,

Here’s another example of state Sen. Michele Bachmann’s possible rhetorical overreach, consistent with the theme of “Is Bachmann too Extreme? Is Wetterling coherent enough?”

While covering the May 6 convention at which Bachmann gained the GOP endorsement for the Sixth Congressional District, I was startled to hear her describe herself as presenting voters with an alternative to the “totalitarianism” that was offered by her opponent.

Was Bachmann portraying Patty Wetterling, or Democrats in general, as totalitarians, a word associated with Stalinist dictators?

During the break after her speech, I asked her Bachmann if that was her intent. She assured me that she had not said it, but had only used the word as part of a quotation from Ronald Reagan’s famous 1964 “a time for choosing” speech in which, on behalf of Barry Goldwater’s presidential candidacy, Reagan did indeed describe “totalitarianism” as the alternative America faced if it did not choose correctly.

That wasn’t what my notes indicated, but Bachmann was insistent and I mushed up what I wrote for the next day’s paper because I lost confidence in my transcription.

Later, I acquired a tape of the passage. Here’s what Bachmann said:

Bachmann: “I will offer you a clear choice between the central planners, with their philosophy of totalitarianism.
It’s just like Ronald Reagan said in his famous ‘Time for Choosing’ speech, and it still is our issue for this day.
‘Will we either choose between up or down. Will we choose going down to the ant-heap of totalitarianism where government makes our choices for us, or will we choose to go up for economic freedom and for prosperity.’

“I will be that voice for you this November. And to the voters of the Sixth District, I will be the articulate clear choice between failed government solutions on the Democrat side and the positive voice that we have on the Republican ticket.
I’m a woman on a mission. I’m on a mission to preserve freedom. And I want you, I ask for your vote this morning to send me there on that mission.�?

It’s clear enough that Bachmann quoted Reagan in the second and third sentences of that passage. But the first sentence plainly states that she, Bachmann, in 2006, represents the clear choice against “the central planners, with their philosophy of totalitarianism.”

And since there is no Communist Party candidate in the race and she is running against Wetterling and John Binkowski (and, at that time, Elwyn Tinklenberg was still a possibility), who else could she have meant by “the central planners, with their philosophy of totalitarianism?”

After acquiring the tape, I told Bachmann that she had, apparently quoted Reagan, but also, in her own voice, had described herself as the contemporary alternative to totalitarianism.

Bachmann said that she had meant to use “totalitarianism” only as part of the Reagan quote. And she did not think that contemporary Democrats represented totalitarianism.

But she does believe that her approach to government represents freedom and individual choice, while the other (Democratic) approach is “a bureaucratic central planning approach” that “tends toward socialism.”

165 Responses to "Bachmann the Anti-Totalitarian"

RoyinOslo says:

August 30th, 2006 at 2:13 am

I trust that the same folks who shudder at the comparison of Bush with other war criminals in history will also condemn the comments of MB for her rhetorical excesses, which can be described as anti-democratic (small d).
Her statements speak for themselves. Electing this person to Congress will embarass Minnesota much more than Jesse Ventura ever could.

Joseph says:

August 30th, 2006 at 6:16 am

Bachmann, I’m confident, believes every word she says. You know, she is a very nice person until she starts preaching her moralism. She is the most radically right wing major candidate in Minnesota today.

Justin C. Adams says:

August 30th, 2006 at 6:29 am

She could well be the most radical right wing candidate for congress in the US today. There are a few others that compare, but she’s up there.

Beth says:

August 30th, 2006 at 6:38 am

I think it is probably an overstatementto refer to Michele as “very nice.” Nice people don’t spend so much time viciously attacking other people’s families and loved ones based on whom they choose to love and live with.
Nice peopple don’t talk to me the way Michele did when I declined to shake her hand in the Woodbury parade. I’d say the republicans are running scared in the suburban 6th district. Never have I seen so many red politicians from the top of the ticket in our parade.

Phoenix Woman says:

August 30th, 2006 at 7:39 am

Hey, Michelle’s not very nice to her own lesbian stepsister! Why should she be nice to anyone else?

bsimon says:

August 30th, 2006 at 9:33 am

I would like to hear, in detail, how her approach represents “freedom and individual choice,” while her opponents’ plans do not. Lets start with abortion. Michele, how does your approach on abortion represent freedom and individual choice and not a plan where “government makes our choices for us.”

Paul Schersten says:

August 30th, 2006 at 9:42 am

I’d ask her what she believes Reagan meant by “totalitarian.” I do accept that regardless of that first sentence, she meant to use the word in the same manner.

Justin C. Adams says:

August 30th, 2006 at 10:05 am

The conflation of regulation with government ownership of industuries is widespread in the right wing. Hyperbolic references to totalitarian control of the economy is a means by which fear can be employed to undermine rational decision-making in the electorate.

Even Hoover pointed to regulation as a positive in our economy. “The election has again confirmed the determination of the American people that the regulation of private enterpirse and not government ownership or opweration is the course rightly to be pursued in our relation to business”.

I didn’t notice when Patty called for state ownership (or even re-regulation of) of public utilities, telecommunications, and any of the other industries that produce, according to FDR, commodities considered within the legitimate scope of the public good. I would love to see Patty’s speech where she called for regulation of these industries – it would give me a reason to support her other than that she isn’t Michele Bachmann.

john sherman says:

August 30th, 2006 at 10:39 am

Which party was it that created the Department of Homeland Security?

Howard Miller says:

August 30th, 2006 at 10:43 am

Mr Bush ran against government and then made a real disaster of it as its head ~

Do we really need more people who hate government to join that government and degrade further the public services that that free market can’t or won’t take care of?

How long should the same few soldiers have to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan?

How long is long enough for government services to have done what it could to reconstruct the Gulf region from last year’s devastating Hurricane Katrina?

Where’s the individual freedom philosophy in her central-state- planners-dictate-no-abortions-allowed advocacy? Where’s the freedom-from-her-religion plank in her platform?

There’s more to governing than pushing emotional hot-buttons … what has Ms Bachmann done that has made others live better, more freely, more independently?

BvW » Blog Archive » Going to extremes? says:

August 30th, 2006 at 11:13 am

[...] ?

Going to extremes?

At his Big Question blog, Eric Black has a post about comments Michele Bachmann made at the 6th District conventio [...]

Karl says:

August 30th, 2006 at 11:45 am

“I’m a woman on a mission. I’m on a mission to preserve freedom.”

Yes, Michele, preserving the freedom for the 30 employees of your family’s Christian counseling clinic to get sick without health insurance, because you and your husband provide none for your employees. Same for your campaign workers.

Government programs are socialism unless they’re providing taxpayer-subsidized health care for people like Michele Bachmann and her family.

Eric Zaetsch says:

August 30th, 2006 at 12:21 pm

My explanation of that rhetoric is simple. The woman is or was wholly ignorant of the usage and history of the word, other than Reagan’s use of it, and on hearing the Gip deliver his spiel it rang her bell between the ears without her thinking to check in advance what she would be saying when lifting his lines.

She probably never heard the Reagan speech as “free-world” vs. Marxist, and between the ears interpreted the Gip as saying, GOP vs. Dems. That’s how she used the Gip’s ideas – wrongly.

It’s part of my theory, and it is all only a theory not a representation of fact, that she did not check her intended caucus usage with intelligent and learned people then on her side, because there were none in her caucus cadre. Nosecount, not history, was her immediate concern.

It is a theory. I have no proof. But it probably will not matter because the Rapture’s happening second Tuesday of November in Roswell, NM, and all the Bachmann cadre will be there and not voting in MN 6. I am posting that insight here because of the diverse readership, so that someone may pass the word to the Bachmann loyalists.

Roswell, NM, Second Tuesday, November, be there or be square. It’s the Rapture.

Justin C. Adams says:

August 30th, 2006 at 12:39 pm

It’s not just the social issues where her claims fall flat. Basically, my argument here is that free trade, like the song says, isn’t free.

Organizations like the World Bank could not exist without highly active government. Creating ‘free trade’ has required an unbelievable political effort to break an old and venerable tradition of national economies and protective tarrifs. This would not have been remotely possible without a central plan to remove regulatory protections for labor and consumers.

Besides, as hinted at above by Howard, we had a really free market one time – it is traditionally called a state of nature. In it, life was nasty, mean, brutish and short. You had perfect freedom until someone with more power than you (at the time, a bigger stick with a bigger nail) disagreed with what you were doing. Replacing the stick with a checkbook does nothing to alter the equation. In the end, we’d still need government to protect the rights of the weak against the ambitions of the powerful.

Ryan says:

August 30th, 2006 at 12:51 pm

Excellent points Justin- it gets at the basis of disagreements between democrats and republicans- their views on human nature.

eric zaetsch says:

August 30th, 2006 at 1:00 pm

Justin – I think the terminology has shifted to globalization, with “free rade” an anachronism. It acknowledges the needs and capabiliities of financial engineering. Like econophysics on Wall Street, the Fed is an engineering firm – and many public-sector & semi-private operations exist, the Fed-mortgage entities, the Fed itself (a bankers’ bank), IMF, World Bank, UN agencies, Euro central bank cooperatives; Basel in mandating VaR risk management, etc. are all recognition of what’s happening, besides the buying power and real wage of US citizens going steadily down w/o much comment by career politicians to the regular citizenry.

Aaron says:

August 30th, 2006 at 1:26 pm

Boy, she is really aligning herself with the Kathleen Harris’s of her party. So comparable.

Joe Olson says:

August 30th, 2006 at 1:38 pm

Wetterling may not be the most coherent candidate, but it will really be an embarrassment to the state of Minnesota if Bachmann gets elected. However you come out on same-sex marriage, abortion, etc., if you’re elected to the legislative branch, you should act with civility. I saw this woman screaming and shouting once on the floor of the Minnesota legislature, using language that the children in the visitor’s galleries were not fit to hear. This woman has no place in government.

John says:

August 30th, 2006 at 2:10 pm

“…she does believe that her approach to government represents freedom and individual choice.” Unless of course, you are gay and want to marry your life partner. If this buffoon gets elected, I am moving to Canada.

Justin C. Adams says:

August 30th, 2006 at 2:30 pm

Eric,

No disagreement from me here on globalization vs. free trade as the applicable term. More important, though, do you know where I can get tickets to this rapture? It sounds like a blast, and I hear there is horseback riding to be had there. I heard something about horsemen, anyway.

Eric Zaetsch says:

August 30th, 2006 at 2:44 pm

Justin – Not rapture, Rapture.

Horsemen. Four of them, I think, from Notre Dame, or I confuse things. Different color horses, no two the same.

I can reveal this much: I think it is as with Deadheads, pointing to the sky for tickets – a miracle every day.

I admit I’ve only read about it. Never been to one. Ask John. He wrote about it. Breaking seals. Koresh could have added a thought perhaps. Can’t now.

Paul Schersten says:

August 30th, 2006 at 2:55 pm

Eric Z – reading Reagan’s speech, he does seem to be talking at least in part about the dangerous forces he sees looking to plan and control our own economy, a view he assigns to the Democrats. For what it’s worth.

Eric Zaetsch says:

August 30th, 2006 at 2:57 pm

bsimon, Howard, John – I did not pick up on what you jumped. This I offer you a choice — and that’s the bait I guess — the switch, not your choice. My choice for you. There is an awful lot of that.

The text EB gives, it is a mishmosh.

My guess is her whole point then was,”I got the nomination. I am going on as endorsed candidate.”

All else was detail she probably never thought anyone would listen to carefully or hold her to – and she says Reagan and Ann Coulter are heroes to her. Reagan as to style? Coulter as to style? Who as to substance?

Coulter needs a niceness transplant so if she models herself that way, it fits some of the other comments.

I think there’s an air in the GOP of we have her, endorsed, let’s try to keep the seat. Luke-warm at best. Her base appears to have little money, or little for her, and the desire nationally is to want to hold the seat – not to love the candidate wanting to sit there.

Chip says:

August 30th, 2006 at 3:26 pm

Everybody that can’t stand the exteme right-wing views of Michelle Bachmann, send Patty Wetterling a check, write a letter to the editor of a (print) newspaper, put up a Wetterling lawn sign, display a Wetterling bumper sticker on your car, and work on a phone bank. It’s not enough to complain, get involved in the process. It’s amazing how FEW individuals give to political candidates — no wonder they are so easily bought by special interests.

And if you live in the Second District, give money to Coleen Rowley and display her yard signs/bumper stickers and write letters to the editor. Work on HER phone bank. Because the incumbent John Kline is as radical as Michelle Bachmann, just not as vocal. He plays the duck-and-cover game but is lockstep with Bush, Cheney, DeLay, Randy “Duke” Cunnigham, Bob Ney and the rest of the corrupt Washington, D.C. elite.

We need some real people like Wetterling and Rowley adding to the debate in Washington, D.C., not extreme right-wing lapdogs.

Randy says:

August 30th, 2006 at 3:55 pm

I guess everything but gay rights applies to her “individual choice and freedoms.”

Whysoangry... says:

August 30th, 2006 at 4:04 pm

Well, isn’t it possible that she might have actually meant what she said?

So the uproar is what? Those of you that are upset don’t want to be called “totalitarians”? You aren’t sympathetic to large government? Central planning? Universal government services like healthcare and education? To the mainstream media that has always been a reliable voice and proponent of the left? To indoctrinating the young through academia?

You have many good reasons not to admit it, but me thinks those of you thinking you have found a “gotchya” moment in Ms. Bachmann’s speech doth protest too much.

p.s. Secret: conservatives don’t hang out here, so feign outrage amongst yourselves.

Chris Beckwith says:

August 30th, 2006 at 4:08 pm

Another example of “overreach?” Oh, come on, Eric, what is this passive, puffball rhetoric you’re pitching? It’s 2006 and you know damn well exactly what sort of “overreaching” rhetoric republicans like Bachmann are capable of: sheer demagogic blather, made up of equal parts disinformation, deception and demonization. Bachmannn’s style is pure McCarthy-like bombast and you know it, Eric. Call it what it is. Cripes, the last thing we need is a reporter who is too polite to point out the obvious.

Eric Zaetsch says:

August 30th, 2006 at 4:19 pm

I went to the linked Reagan speech. His nomination speech for Barry Goldwater, arch conservative – about Goldwater:

“This is a man who, in his own business before he entered politics, instituted a profit-sharing plan before unions had ever thought of it. He put in health and medical insurance for all his employees. He took 50 percent of the profits before taxes and set up a retirement program, a pension plan for all his employees. He sent monthly checks for life to an employee who was ill and couldn’t work. He provides nursing care for the children of mothers who work in the stores. When Mexico was ravaged by the floods in the Rio Grande, he climbed in his airplane and flew medicine and supplies down there.”

Well read that, and consider that the Bachmann clinic and campaign have NO health plan – with $500,000 in donations to the latter, it is campaign worker, pray you do not get sick.

To paraphrase Sen. Benson in debating Dan Quayle; Sen. Bachmann, if Barry Goldwater did that, regardless how you prance and dance, you are no Barry Goldwater.

This Michele Bachmann, she is all talk, no walk.

Paul Schersten says:

August 30th, 2006 at 4:21 pm

Whyso -

Actually, the point of this board is to have a range of voices and often it succeeds. This string seems to be dominated by liberals, responding to someone they really don’t like.

Sometimes it’s best to lay low.

Along the general lines of what you’re saying, I would gingerly point out that if health care were in any significant way de-privatized (and admittedly ‘socialized medicine” is a vague term), well, health care is a huge chunk of the economy, suddenly put into some kind of public mode. Just sayin’. Might be worth thinking about.

Eric Zaetsch says:

August 30th, 2006 at 4:21 pm

Whysoangry – Look up the term. You misuse it. Look it up. You have a beef with socialism. Franco in Spain was a totalitarian. Learn something.

bsimon says:

August 30th, 2006 at 4:31 pm

Eric, Conservatives surely aren’t what they used to be. The Republican party is sorely in need of returning to its roots. One positive outcome of a Dem sweep this fall (if it occurs) could be the Republicans dumping the right wing social nutjobs that have become far too large an influence in that party.

Chip says:

August 30th, 2006 at 5:06 pm

I agree with bsimon.

And I think any party in complete control too long becomes lazy and corrupt. I’m listening to last week’s WCCO interview with John Kline where the interviewer pointed out that “earmarks” or “porkbarrel” legislation has increased to 12 times the level that it was when the Democrats held the house. We historically have a (at least) two party system in this country for a reason. Right now, there are no checks and balances.

Booting people like Bachmann (and Kline) will allow the Republican party to clean up its act and return to its fiscally-conservative roots and its old policy of keeping out of people’s private lives (the opposite of what the so-called moral majority does). Then maybe I’ll go back to voting Republican. Can’t do it with the current team in Washington (or Minnesota for that matter).

EvilDemocratz says:

August 30th, 2006 at 5:08 pm

Wow – talk about the kettle….

DEMOCRATS aren’t what they used to be – re: Lieberman. JFK would be kicked out of the party if he were alive today. Talk about nutjobs. Sheesh.

RLW says:

August 30th, 2006 at 5:36 pm

Re: terminology.

Motherland-taken.
Fatherland-shoot, also taken.
HOMELAND, that’s it!

Why don’t people worry?

TH says:

August 30th, 2006 at 5:42 pm

Better a “radical” right-winger than a real radical left-winger like Wetterling

swiftee says:

August 30th, 2006 at 6:00 pm

Got to hand it to Michele’s stalkers..they’re certainly obsessed if nothing else.

Who else could, or would, spend all day, every day persuing her in every comment thread in which she is mentioned?

Whysoangry... says:

August 30th, 2006 at 6:53 pm

Eric Z., so were Lenin, Stalin, Mao, et.al. Why won’t you make an argument instead of anklebiting?

Justin C. Adams says:

August 30th, 2006 at 7:42 pm

I’m amused by the comment calling Patty a radical left winger. Were it only true!

RLW’s point about homeland is less amusing.

Ryan said that my social contract argument gets the basis of disagreements between democrats and republicans. Here too, if only it were true.

Most disagreements between democrats and republicans are cosmetic factionalism like we see discussed in federalist 10. The two parties each have some very loyal and some very disloyal interest groups who align with them to try and win out in the process of governing.

The parties themselves and the interest groups are financed by someone – often times the same someone in all cases. Without the financing, the lobby couldn’t convince the legislature to do its will, and the politicians couldn’t convince us to go along with it.

They call this pluralist democracy, for those who were struggling with ‘totalitarianism’ earlier. I think it is highly problematic because of the points I made higher on the page.

The strong and ambitious use wealth as a means by which to influence the course of human progress – usually in such a way to ensure their own position at the top of society remains intact.

The Democrats in this country have dragged their feet 30 years while other supposedly backwards and less great nations affirmed the first right attributed to man by John Locke – preservation – in the form of access to healthcare.

Some of the other right wing critiques here were valid, too – particularly those calling the D hypocrites in response to some liberals finding pro-life policies hypocritical from the right.

The parties are full of hypocricies.

Eva Young says:

August 30th, 2006 at 8:36 pm

Michele’s used this schtick before on Jason Lewis’s show when she would talk about school to work. If you want samples of some of that rhetoric, go to Edwatch.

I’d love to get a copy of the tape of that speech.

DaveLef says:

August 30th, 2006 at 8:51 pm

Add another item to the Bachmann rhetoric, today, while on the radio, Bachmann said she completely supports the tenets of her church. Big Deal???

Bachmann belongs to the Salem Lutheran Church in Stillwater, which is a WELS synod church.

One of the key tenets of WELS synod is that the Pope and the Catholic Church is the Anti-Christ.

The sources for this interesting tidbit are the Bachmann Campaign website, the Salem Lutheran Church website, and the WELS website.

Lets see where Bachmann goes on this one.

Aaron says:

August 30th, 2006 at 9:01 pm

I’m serious, check this out. I think Katherine Harris is running two campaigns in hopes of getting one.

http://www.electharris.org/

http://www.michelebachmann.com/

It’s uncanny, down to the policies.

Aaron says:

August 30th, 2006 at 9:03 pm

Dave Lef – Isn’t the district Bachmann is running in considerably Catholic, as well? If true, this could not bode well.

Bill Prendergast says:

August 30th, 2006 at 10:11 pm

Is anybody really surprised that Bachmann would tag her opponents as totalitarian, and then lie to the press about having done so the very next day? She’s been doing that kind of thing for years; come on, get up to speed. I have a copy of a document that she co-authored in 2001–when she was already a State Senator–a document in which she makes the bizarre claim that the United States government has a governance structure opposed to “both free enterprise and representative government.â€? In the same document she accuses the US government of trying to implement a national public school curriculum designed to turn America and Minnesota into Soviet Union-style economies. This is a document that *she* *wrote*; she put her name to it, she even copyrighted it! Bachmann’s trying to pass herself off as a mainstream conservative Republican; in reality she’s some kind of a right-wing conspiracy nut who lies about what she says and believes. But for whatever reason, Minnesota newspapers are reluctant to apprise their readers of this fact. Maybe the papers are afraid of alienating Republican readers and advertisers; I don’t know. Anyway–I pulled the document off a pro-Bachmann website before they managed to clean out their archives; I will send a copy to Eric Black, if he asks for one.

bsimon says:

August 31st, 2006 at 9:55 am

EvilDemz says “DEMOCRATS aren’t what they used to be – re: Lieberman. JFK would be kicked out of the party if he were alive today. Talk about nutjobs. Sheesh.”

I don’t disagree with the premise that Dems aren’t all that great either. Though I personally am less scared of the Dems right now than the Rs. The Rs have seriously fouled up the Fed gov’t. We need the Dems back in Congress to balance things out a bit. I think the system runs best when Congress & the Presidency are not controlled by the same party.

The ideal would be to throw out both parties & start over, but thats not a very realistic hope, so I’m looking for at least some incremental change.

Eric Zaetsch says:

September 1st, 2006 at 8:35 pm

Bill Prendergast – That document you refer to – copyright by Bachmann. Is it from Edwatch? If it is not long, how about scanning it and posting it on your blog? Or if it is there, send a link. If you have Eva Young’s email, and she has not posted it, why not send it to her and mention routing a copy to me? What’s fair use? Why did she copyright it? Sounds like a story.

Eric Zaetsch says:

September 1st, 2006 at 8:36 pm

Aaron – I think DaveLef did his homework. That story may have legs.

Eric Zaetsch says:

September 1st, 2006 at 8:43 pm

Whyso – Wiki it. It started in the thirties. Italian fascism. Totalitarinism is separate from the underlying fascist or Marxist or whatever government ideology or nonidelogy is at play. Idi Amin was close to a totalitarian, Mugabe wants to be one. They do not have the media and other infrastructure to do so.

Orwell – 1984, no “ism” underlying the total state, ditto, Brazil. It relates to level of control.

Bill Prendergast says:

September 2nd, 2006 at 2:53 pm

Eric Zaetsch–I sent a copy of the document to Eric Black as an attachment, because Eric Black asked me to do so. I sent an email to him to inquire if he’d received it and read it, but he hasn’t replied to that email yet, so I don’t know if he’s read it or not. If Mr. Black doesn’t write back to me or report on its contents by next Wednesday, I’ll post a copy on my blog and send another copy to the proprietor at Dump Bachmann. Why wait? Because I want to give Black a chance to report this kind of thing first, so the “Bachmann is some kind of right-wing nut” story gets off the web and the blogs and into the big papers (where it belongs.)

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