'Mamma grizzly' launches White House bid

A mother of five has emerged as one of the Republican Party's front-runners in the race to challenge Barack Obama in next year's US presidential election.

It was God who told Michele Bachmann to enter politics and she was busy at the time: ‘As if we didn’t have enough to do, He called me to run for the Minnesota State Senate,’ she said in 2006. ‘I had no idea, no desire to be in politics. None.’

Now this divinely-inspired mother of five has announced her candidacy for the biggest prize of all: the presidency of the United States. So who is this 55-year-old from Iowa?

She was a Democrat until a book by Gore Vidal made her change sides. She’s now on the right of the Republican movement and a Tea Party favourite.

‘I was reading this snotty novel called Burr,’ she said, ‘and read how he mocked our Founding Fathers... At that point I put the book down. I looked out of the window and I laughed. And I said, “You know what? I think I must be a Republican. I don’t think I’m a Democrat”.’

A fundamentalist Christian, who fostered 23 teenage girls, she ‘found Jesus’ when she was 16, tried to ban the film Aladdin at her children’s school because it promoted witchcraft and calls gay marriage an ‘earthquake issue’ and the single biggest threat facing the US. Along with Sarah Palin, the other poster girl of the right, she is much laughed at by the liberal media.

One writer called her ‘the funniest thing that has ever happened to American presidential politics.’ She’s seen as a religious zealot ‘whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions’. But she and Palin revel in their power to shock and are proud of their nickname: the ‘mamma grizzlies’.

Bachmann provides material for her critics: she believes that Obama – who she calls ‘unAmerican’ – is plotting with the Chinese to abolish the dollar and that energy-saving light bulbs pose a ‘very real threat to children, disabled people, pets, senior citizens.’ She regards global warming as a ‘hoax’.

But Michele Bachmann is a winner. It has taken her just over 10 years to go from small-town activist to presidential contender, a testament to both her gift for attracting media attention and her determination. Political opponents speak of her indomitable lack of self-doubt.

Divine or dangerous?

Bachmann’s story, in her words, is about a suburban mother chosen by God to be the politician who will restore faith and family values to public life.

Others see her as a relentless attention-seeker, liar and demoniser of others, who sells a vision of old-time America that never existed and who’s got this far only because of her shock value.

You Decide

  1. Is lack of self-doubt a virtue?
  2. Do God and politics mix? Perhaps the answer is different in different countries.

Activities

  1. Create a poster for or against Michele Bachmann as president.
  2. After research, write a piece that weighs the pros and cons of Michele Bachmann, titled: 'The good and bad in Michele.'

Some People Say...

“Religion has no place in politics.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Does she have a chance?
An Iowa poll on Saturday places her alongside Mitt Romney at the head of the Republican field, well ahead of the rest.Bookmakers have her at 20 to one to become President.
So she's a serious contender?
At the moment, yes. Larry Jacobs, a professor of political science, says 'her brand of conservativepopulism speaks to the resentments, frustrations and anxieties of voters. She also has a clear identity. Some of the other candidates, like Mitt Romney – it's hard to say what he believes in.'
How does she handle the press exposing her blunders?
She uses it to her advantage by saying Christians like her are being picked on. The press may mock – but it all feeds the publicity machine and she comes out looking like the downtrodden one, the martyr. It has worked so far.

Word Watch

Tea Party
An influential conservative movement in the US which believes in less government spending.
Gore Vidal
An American writer and Democrat political activist. Related to Al Gore, former Vice President.
Founding Fathers
The political leaders who took part in the American Revolution by signing the United States Declaration of Independence and framing the new constitution.
Fundamentalist
In a religious context, someone with very black and white views about what's right and wrong.
Liberal media
In America, this describes media with a democratic bias, anti-conservative.
Bookmakers
The betting business. 20 to one means that if you put £1 on Bachmann becoming president, and she does, they give you £20. If she doesn't they keep your money. Odds of 20 to one suggest they are not taking her too seriously yet.
Demoniser
Someone who makes a demon out of others, denying them any value or worth.
Populism
A form of politics that simplifies the debate to catch the attention of the people. Complex issues are reduced to simple slogans; it has a 'them' and 'us' feel.

Subjects

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