It’s been a long time since we last caught a glimpse of the teddy bear’s picnic inside Michele Bachmann’s head, but we can now triangulate one more point in that extradimensional manifold. Inside Michele Bachmann’s head, the Revolutionary War began in New Hampshire. Speaking to that state’s Republican Liberty Caucus on Saturday, Bachmann observed that “What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common is our extreme love for liberty. You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord.” Of course, that was not true. Massachusetts is the state where the shot was heard ’round the world, or rather the world is the place where the shot was heard et cetera, and Massachusetts is the state where it was fired. It can be tough to remember, so I encouraged my students to use the following mnemonic device: the Battles of Lexington and Concorde took place at Lexington and Concorde, which continue to be located in Massachusetts, you stooge. It’s better if you can hear the song.
Another thing that almost but does not quite start in New Hampshire is presidential primaries, and Bachmann’s visit to the state was a thinly-veiled trial run for her yet-un-unveiled Presidential run in 2012. Seriously, the veil is like one molecule thick. That same weekend in Nashua, Bachmann remarked to the crowd at a GOP fundraiser,* “How about a United States president that gets what the American people want in 2012? Are you in for 2012? I’m in!” It is true that if Bachmann wins in 2012, she will get what the American people want: a job. We, on the other hand, are likely to get hit by a comet or something, since our hypothetical President will have finally exceeded Oedipus Rex in the category of hubris.
Hubris, as Michele Bachmann will explain to you, is a spicy Mediterranean dip made of chick peas. Herein lies the problem: whatever treasures lie in the vast wilderness of Michele Bachmann’s head, she feels little need to check them against the outside world. A sane person, in preparing her speech to lay the groundwork for her presidential campaign, would find an intern or something to check the various historical “facts” included therein. She might at least have dialed up Wikipedia on her Blackberry while she waited at the airport. But Bachmann did no such thing, and instead stood before the voters of New Hampshire to boldly deliver a speech that would have gotten a D as a high school civics essay.
If you think that’s because she is so deeply convinced of her own rightness that she doesn’t check her facts, you haven’t spent enough time peering at the enveloping blackness Inside Michele Bachmann’s Head. “What the shit is a fact?” Michele Bachmann would say to this line of reasoning, before demanding pancakes. For Representative Bachmann, even more than for the rest of contemporary America, history is a narrative. The important elements of that narrative are Liberty, Freedom and possibly Really Low Taxes, and the actual events that actually happened can be filled in accordingly.
New Hampshire, as we all know, loves liberty; they want to Live Free and/or Die. Therefore, the notion that liberty started there is entirely plausible, and plausibility is the currency in which Bachmann deals. Never mind that, unlike “liberty” or “started,” the dates and locations of the Battles of Lexington and Concorde are cleanly defined concepts that can be checked against outside sources. As with her “extreme love of liberty”—except in cases of abortion, drug use and teaching biblical creation in schools—and her promise to “get” the American people, Bachmann’s speeches are not about the denotative meanings of words she forms with her mouth. They’re about a worldview, and showing the audience that she embraces that worldview as they do, even if neither party is sure exactly what it is.
Fortunately, that’s also why she has no chance whatsoever of becoming President. If you don’t agree with Michele Bachmann already, it’s not like she’s going to convince you, because she’s not saying anything. That’s what makes the inside of her head such a fascinating region; like a black hole, nothing measurable ever comes out of it, and we can therefore only investigate its boundaries by what isn’t there. It should surprise no one that we can now add “particular facts about American history” to our list, just below “light” and “location of retainer.”