CNN reported this morning that Rep. Michele Bachmann will form a presidential exploratory committee later this year.
In our latest issue, TAC contributor Sean Scallon explores Bachmann’s roots in the Midwest, including how she was once a Democrat disillusioned with Jimmy Carter and later became one of Francis Schaeffer’s pro-life foot soldiers. Scallon shows that the story of Bachmann’s rise parallels the decline of the GOP of Bob Dole and Gerald Ford in the heartland — and the rise of grassroots evangelical politics in its place.
As Scallon writes,
Minnesota was just one battleground of a broader intra-party struggle that transformed Republican politics across the Midwest. In 1988, Pat Robertson’s presidential campaign mobilized Christians in Michigan and Iowa, making the evangelical vote an important constituency in the Hawkeye State, particularly in its heavily Protestant west. The Wichita Summer abortion protests and civil disobedience of 1991 helped create a powerful evangelical wing in the formerly progressive Kansas Republican Party, as detailed in Thomas Frank’s book What’s the Matter With Kansas, and laid the groundwork for Governor Sam Brownback’s career. Voters thought to be on the far right in the late ’80s and early ’90s became the party’s mainstream, and indeed its leadership after 2000, the year Bachmann first held office.
… [Today no Midwestern] Republican could get signatures on a ballot petition, let alone win a primary, as a supporter of abortion rights. That wasn’t true just over a decade ago. And the nearly forgotten Ford-Dole ticket of two famed Midwestern Republicans in 1976 wouldn’t elicit much support from GOP voters in the region today.
What made Michele Bachmann who she is today? Read Scallon’s profile and you’ll understand the political upbringing of the woman who may become the Tea Party’s standard bearer.