Quote from Iowa’s Ames Tribune:
“And as nominee for the Republican Party, I will not rest until I elect 13 more titanium-spined senators, and we’re going to finally repeal Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, turn the economy around, create jobs, and it won’t take more than three months to get the whole shooting match already up to speed,” [Michele] Bachmann said. “Iowans get it. We’re going to do it.”
Must be nice to know you’ll never have to back any of that up. In fact, this is the problem with primaries and “soapboxes” at this early stage. It reinforces the worst things about partisan politics – the party extremes and wild promises. This weekend in Iowa was like a clumsy foot race to see who could be more down home American and who could find the most creative way to bash President Obama.
And the winner is…Michele Bachmann. Turns out that that was exacting the right choice for a soapbox-themed day. In fact, the soapbox is a perfect metaphor for two reasons.
First, the GOP has been on a soapbox since at least 2005 and more likely since the Bush Administration invaded Iraq in 2003. Presenting national defense as a black-and-white issue, the GOP created a soapbox, stood on it and dared anyone else to question it. Then the economy crashed. The Far Right responded with a soapbox of its own. Less government and lower taxes. The Republican Party has been dealing with that soapbox ever since.
Second, the soapbox has never been associated with practicality or reality. Wikipedia associates the soapbox with flamboyant, impromptu, and unofficial political speech. In more modern interpretations, I understand the soapbox to be “the ideal.” We stand on our proverbial soapboxes wishing the world was a certain way, wishing we could control everything and wishing everyone agreed with us. Yet, the whole notion of the soapbox is at odds with compromise, common sense and efficiency. Just like primaries and, lately, the Republican Party. A soapbox is not useful, helpful or realistic in today’s diverse culture.
The soapbox is the perfect mascot for the current Republican Primary and the festivities this weekend crowning Michele Bachmann the straw poll favorite.
Bachmann is not being realistic because she does not have to be.
She’s on a soapbox.
When you’re on a soapbox and speaking to a crowd of people who agree with you, it’s not tough to look popular. When you move to a public park, or the public square, and you’re shouting a so-called “parade of horribles” about America today, people start to look at you a little differently. They’re on the way to work or lunch or happy hour and you’re shouting about how their wrong, ignorant and/or misguided, you start to sound like an irrational lunatic. I’m not saying Bachmann is a lunatic, but irrational? (I refer you to the quote at the top of this piece). Likewise, I’m not saying the people of Iowa are irrational either. We’re 14+ months away from the election and every news outlet in the country is lined up to report on today’s soapbox derby. Why not send a message? Why not tell the country the way you wish it was? Why not make a headline? The media wants to make Bachmann appear to be the front-runner or the strongest candidate. In reality, Bachmann describes the way many conservatives want the world to appear, in a vacuum, if they were president. The truth is that no one voted for the candidate they believed could be President of the United States or the candidate who can beat President Obama in 2012. They voted for the best soapbox derby car. Michele Bachmann was that car.
It’s not democracy. It’s not an election. It’s not even realistic. It’s just a person in a park on a soapbox. Literally.