Commentary Politics

Michele Bachmann Brings Her Softer Side to Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Love” Rally

Andrea Grimes

Last week, conservative pundit Glenn Beck invited his forty thousand closest friends to join him in "Restoring Love" at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Among them: Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who brought her softer side to a special women's event at a nearby megachurch. 

The last time I saw Michele Bachmann speak, the Minnesota congresswoman was firing up the delegates at the 2010 Texas Republican Convention in Dallas, Texas with a 25-minute story about American fighters who once defended themselves wearing only their underwear against a “U2” boat, the unintentional humor of Bono and the Edge launching an adult-contemprary-fueled attack against a nearly naked military brigade lost on a rapt audience.

Since then, Bachmann’s fame—or perhaps, notoriety—has escalated as she continues to capitalize on her “lady conservative” appeal, positioning herself as the wife-slash-mother-slash-politician of every Republican’s dreams, second only to Sarah Palin in her dedication to making offensive, ill-considered or downright indefensible statements with aplomb.

On Saturday, she was back in my homeland, Texas, speaking once again to a crowd of white people inordinately excited about another opportunity to bust out their finest bald eagle-themed couture. The occasion: three days of “Restoring Love,” Glenn Beck’s Tea Partyish party for folks who want to “take back” America from those who would force upon us the travesties of affordable health care, marriage equality and reproductive freedom.

But this was not the fightin’-words Bachmann of rallies past; the woman who spoke at Restoring Love’s “Women’s Conference” was a softer, gentler Bachmann, who issued an old-fashioned church lady sermon about the woman with the alabaster box.

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Tickets to the Women’s Conference were $25—a price I’d happily have paid had I known that as a media representative, I’d be stuck outside the doors of the High Point megachurch’s sanctuary, watching on a monitor as Bachmann and a host of right-wing media personalities decried the state of America—lamenting particularly the plight of the poor, feminized American men who even now are oppressed by the great gynocracy of progressivism.

Instead, I showed up to cover the event only to be told that Michele Bachman’s people had to approve of my presence. I was left standing around waiting for the go-ahead and eventually gave up when the goings-on inside were broadcast on narthex screens  anyway. Apparently Bachmann doesn’t approve of me, which is fine; I don’t approve of her, either. 

The conference began with  20-minute live advertisement for a local chicken joint that sponsored the event—capitalism, y’all!—with the audience of many hundreds of mostly women and kids plus a few dedicated husbands, clapping for home cooking and Christianity. The crowd was certainly age diverse, if not especially racially diverse; at one point I spotted group of pony-tailed teenage girls walking arm-in-arm wearing oversized “Save The Constitution: READ IT!” t-shirts. There was even a woman sporting a bright red Mohawk and a man in tight, baby-pink skinny jeans. Remarkably fashion forward for a bunch of people who can’t decide if they’re more nostalgic for 1951 or 1791.

Bachmann spoke early, launching into a rumination on the classic Gospel story of the woman with the alabaster box who poured priceless oil all over Jesus’ head and feet, wiping the latter with her hair. Jesus’ disciples considered this a waste, but Mary—who Bachmann said she initially found “annoying”—was undeterred.

It’s a lovely story of a woman who stood up for her beliefs and who made a powerful statement in going against the wishes of her male superiors.

“How many times has this happened to you, girls?” Bachmann asked the crowd. “Someone tries to tell you your purpose?”

Would have been pretty inspirational, you know? That is, coming from anyone but Bachmann and her admirers, who in both word and deed have done so much to perpetuate the oppression of women through anti-choice legislation, pride in homophobia, and the idealization of patriarchy.

Right-wing radio host Dana Loesch and Michele Bachmann sister down in Arlington, TX on Saturday. Photo: @ChrisLoesch

Right-wing radio host Dana Loesch and Michele Bachmann sister down in Arlington, TX on Saturday. Photo: @ChrisLoesch

When it comes to telling women their purpose, conservative talk show host Dana Loesch, who followed Bachmann, didn’t hold back. “First and foremost,” she said to ringing applause, “my two jobs are as a wife and mother.” Feminism, she said, is to blame for (figuratively?) neutering the men in her life.

“I feel like my husband has been neutered!” she shouted over a clapping audience. “I feel like my sons have been neutered!”

Loesch, who converted to “hardcore” conservatism after 9/11, said Christianity is “giving women a purpose” they apparently never had before, to raise “strong children,” and to stand by their husbands and work in the community “to take the place of the government so they don’t exploit me, so I can do it and it can be done properly with love.”

To be fair, if I’m given a choice, I guess I’ll also take being exploited properly with love over the alternative.

Loesch went on to give big-ups to the notoriously anti-gay Chick-Fil-A, a move that my fellow Austin-based journalist Dan Solomon has rightly positioned: “In 15 years, photos of politicians posing with Chick-Fil-A will be as shameful as if they were standing at a whites-only water fountain.” But for now, aligning with right-wing poultry purveyors is all the rage.

Loesch’s closing rally cry: “Stand up for your husbands and your sons!”

Exploit those dudes with love, y’all! 

Roundups Politics

Trump Taps Extremists, Anti-Choice Advocates in Effort to Woo Evangelicals

Ally Boguhn

Representatives from radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue praised Trump’s commitment to its shared values during the event. “I’m very impressed that Mr. Trump would sit with conservative leaders for multiple questions, and then give direct answers,” said the organization's president, Troy Newman, who was in attendance at a question-and-answer event on Tuesday.

Making a play to win over the evangelical community, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump met with more than 1,000 faith and anti-choice leaders on Tuesday for a question-and-answer event in New York City and launched an “evangelical advisory board” to weigh in on how he should approach key issues for the voting bloc.

The meeting was meant to be “a guided discussion between Trump and diverse conservative Christian leaders to better understand him as a person, his position on important issues and his vision for America’s future,” according to a press release from the event’s organizers. As Rewire previously reported, numerous anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ leaders—many of them extremists—were slated to attend.

Though the event was closed to the media, Trump reportedly promised to lift a ban on tax-exempt organizations from politicking and discussed his commitment to defending religious liberties. Trump’s pitch to conservatives also included a resolution that upon his election, “the first thing we will do is support Supreme Court justices who are talented men and women, and pro-life,” according to a press release from United in Purpose, which helped organize the event.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, told the New York Times that the business mogul also reiterated promises to defund Planned Parenthood and to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a 20-week abortion ban based on the medically unsupported claim that a fetus feels pain at that point in a pregnancy.

In a post to its website, representatives from radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue praised Trump’s commitment to their shared values during the event. “I’m very impressed that Mr. Trump would sit with conservative leaders for multiple questions, and then give direct answers,” said the group’s president, Troy Newman, who was in attendance. “I don’t believe anything like this has ever happened.” The post went on to note that Trump had also said he would appoint anti-choice justices to federal courts, and repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Just after the event, Trump’s campaign announced the formation of an evangelical advisory board. The group was “convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America,” according to a press release from the campaign. Though members of the board, which will lead Trump’s “much larger Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee to be announced later this month,” were not asked to endorse Trump, the campaign went on to note that “the formation of the board represents Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of those diverse issues important to Evangelicals and other Christians, and his desire to have access to the wise counsel of such leaders as needed.”

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Much like the group that met with Trump on Tuesday, the presumptive Republican nominee’s advisory board roster reads like a who’s-who of conservatives with radical opposition to abortion and LGBTQ equality. Here are some of the group’s most notable members:

Michele Bachmann

Though former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann once claimed that “women don’t need anyone to tell them what to do on health care” while arguing against the ACA during a 2012 appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, her views on the government’s role in restricting reproductive health and rights don’t square away with that position.

During a December 2011 “tele-town hall” event hosted by anti-choice organization Personhood USA, Bachmann reportedly falsely referred to emergency contraception as “abortion pills” and joined other Republican then-presidential candidates to advocate for making abortion illegal, even in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. During the event, Bachmann touted her support of the anti-choice group’s “personhood pledge,” which required presidential candidates to agree that:

I stand with President Ronald Reagan in supporting “the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death,” and with the Republican Party platform in affirming that I “support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.

Such a policy, if enacted by lawmakers, could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception. A source from Personhood USA told the Huffington Post that Bachmann “signed the pledge and returned it within twenty minutes, which was an extraordinarily short amount of time.”

Bachmann has also claimed that God told her to introduce a measure to block marriage equality in her home state, that being an LGBTQ person is “ part of Satan,” and that same-sex marriage is a “radical experiment that will have “profound consequences.”

Mark Burns

Televangelist Mark Burns has been an ardent supporter of Trump, even appearing on behalf of the presidential candidate at February’s Faith and Family Forum, hosted by the conservative Palmetto Family Council, to deliver an anti-abortion speech.

In March, Burns also claimed that he supported Donald Trump because Democrats like Hillary Clinton supported Black “genocide” (a frequently invoked conservative myth) during an appearance on the fringe-conspiracy program, the Alex Jones show. “That’s really one of my major platforms behind Donald Trump,” said Burns, according to the Daily Beast. “He loves babies. Donald Trump is a pro-baby candidate, and it saddens me how we as African Americans are rallying behind … a party that is okay with the genocide of Black people through abortion.”

Burns’ support of Trump extended to the candidate’s suggestion that if abortion was made illegal, those who have abortions should be punished—an issue on which Trump has repeatedly shifted stances. “If the state made it illegal and said the premature death of an unborn child constituted murder, anyone connected to that crime should be held liable,” Burns told the Wall Street Journal in April. “If you break the law there should be punishment.”

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland founded Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM), which, according to its mission statement, exists to “teach Christians worldwide who they are in Christ Jesus and how to live a victorious life in their covenant rights and privileges.” Outlining their opposition to abortion in a post this month on the organization’s website, the couple wrote that abortion is wrong even in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. “As the author of life, God considers an unborn child to be an eternal being from the moment of its conception,” explained the post. “To deliberately destroy that life before birth would be as much premeditated murder as taking the life of any other innocent person.”

The article went on to say that though it may “seem more difficult in cases such as those involving rape or incest” not to choose abortion, “God has a plan for the unborn child,” falsely claiming that the threat of life endangerment has “been almost completely alleviated through modern medicine.”

The ministries’ website also features Pregnancy Options Centre, a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) in Vancouver, Canada, that receives “financial and spiritual support” from KCM and “its Partners.” The vast majority of CPCs  regularly lie to women in order to persuade them not to have an abortion.

Kenneth Copeland, in a June 2013 sermon, tied pedophilia to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, going on to falsely claim that the ruling did not actually legalize abortion and that the decision was “the seed to murder our seed.” Copeland blamed legal abortion for the country’s economic woes, reasoning that there are “several million taxpayers that are not alive.”

Copeland, a televangelist, originally supported former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) in the 2016 Republican primary, claiming that the candidate had been “called and appointed” by God to be the next president. His ministry has previously faced scrutiny about its tax-exempt status under an investigation led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) into six ministries “whose television preaching bankrolled leaders’ lavish lifestyles.” This investigation concluded in 2011, according to the New York Times.

James Dobson

James Dobson, founder and chairman emeritus of Focus on the Family (FoF), previously supported Cruz in the Republican primary, releasing an ad for the campaign in February praising Cruz for defending “the sanctity of human life and traditional marriage.” As Rewire previously reported, both Dobson and his organization hold numerous extreme views:

Dobson’s FoF has spent millions promoting its anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ extremism, even dropping an estimated $2.5 million in 2010 to fund an anti-choice Super Bowl ad featuring conservative football player Tim Tebow. Dobson also founded the … Family Research Council, now headed by Tony Perkins.

Dobson’s own personal rhetoric is just as extreme as the causes his organization pushes. As extensively documented by Right Wing Watch,

Dobson has:

Robert Jeffress

A Fox News contributor and senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Jeffress once suggested that the 9/11 attacks took place because of legal abortion. “All you have to do is look in history to see what God does with a nation that sanctions the killing of its own children,” said Jeffress at Liberty University’s March 2015 convocation, according to Right Wing Watch. “God will not allow sin to go unpunished and he certainly won’t allow the sacrifice of children to go unpunished.”

Jeffress spoke about the importance of electing Trump during a campaign rally in February, citing Democrats’ positions on abortion rights and Trump’s belief “in protecting the unborn.” He went on to claim that if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Hillary Clinton were elected, “there is no doubt you’re going to have the most pro-abortion president in history.”

After Trump claimed women who have abortions should be punished should it become illegal, Jeffres rushed to defend the Republican candidate from bipartisan criticism, tweeting: “Conservatives’ outrage over @realDonaldTrump abortion comments hypocritical. Maybe they don’t really believe abortion is murder.”

As documented by Media Matters, Jeffress has frequently spoken out against those of other religions and denominations, claiming that Islam is “evil” and Catholicism is “what Satan does with counterfeit religion.” The pastor has also demonstrated extreme opposition to LGBTQ equality, even claiming that same-sex marriage is a sign of the apocalypse.

Richard Land

Richard Land, now president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, was named one of Time Magazine‘s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” in 2005 for his close ties with the Republican party. While George W. Bush was president, Land participated in the administration’s “weekly teleconference with other Christian conservatives, to plot strategy on such issues as gay marriage and abortion.” Bush also appointed Land to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2002.

According to a 2002 article from the Associated Press, during his early academic career in Texas, “Land earned a reputation as a leader among abortion opponents and in 1987 became an administrative assistant to then-Texas Gov. Bill Clements, who fought for laws to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion” in the state.

Land had previously expressed “dismay” that some evangelicals were supporting Trump, claiming in October that he “take[s] that [support] as a failure on our part to adequately disciple our people.”

Analysis Politics

Democratic Candidates Diverge on Health Care, Rally Around Family Leave

Teddy Wilson

Each of the five Democratic presidential candidates has supported the Affordable Care Act, but one candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), said during Tuesday's debate he would go a step beyond Obamacare if he won the presidency.

Democratic presidential candidates spent Tuesday night’s debate fielding an assortment of questions from CNN’s moderators, but discussed some critical issues only briefly or not at all.

Health care was among the topics largely ignored during the CNN-hosted debate, with the exception of questions about providing health services to undocumented immigrants. The candidates, however, have in recent months explained in detail where they stand on expanding access to health care.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s signature legislative achievement and a longtime source of Republican scorn, went almost entirely unmentioned. The refrain of repealing and replacing the ACA can still be heard among the Republican candidates, but the lack of focus on the issue during the first Democratic debate may have been driven by the undeniable success of the ACA in expanding health-care coverage across the country.

Since the implementation of the ACA, the national uninsured rate has plummeted from 17.1 percent to 11.6 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll. States that have expanded Medicaid under the ACA have seen dramatic effects. The number of uninsured people dropped by half in Ohio, and two-thirds of previously uninsured people gained coverage in California.

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Each of the five Democratic presidential candidates has supported the ACA, but one candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), said during the debate he would go a step beyond Obamacare if he won the presidency.

Sanders during his closing remarks reiterated his long held support of universal health care. “We should not be the only major country on Earth that does not guarantee health care to all of our people as a right of citizenship,” Sanders said.

Sanders has advocated the creation of universal health care by providing Medicare to all Americans. His campaign, however, has yet to release the specifics of his health-care plan.

The type of plan Sanders advocates, a single-payer system, enjoys significant public support. A little more than half of those surveyed this year said they support the idea of single payer, including one in four Republicans, according to a GBA Strategies poll

CNN debate moderator Dana Bash asked candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to address some of Sanders’ proposals, including making “Medicare available to all Americans.” Clinton never addressed whether she would support that proposal, even when pressed by Bash.

Clinton has a plan to expand affordable coverage and slow the growth of overall health care costs, according to her campaign site.

She has said that she would be open to considering the idea of allowing insurance companies to compete for customers across state lines. “If we’re going to have a free market system, we need a free market where we’ve got people competing on cost and quality, and that may be one thing we need to look at,” Clinton said, reported MSNBC.

Clinton in September released a multi-point plan that focused on reducing health-care costs and building on the successes of the ACA. The plan would more aggressively confront the insurance and pharmaceutical industries than the ACA does, and includes proposals such as capping a patient’s share of the bill for doctor visits and prescription drugs.

“It has gotten to the point where people are being asked to pay, not just hundreds, but thousands of dollars for a single pill,” Clinton said during a campaign speech in Iowa announcing the plan, reported the Associated Press. “And I can tell you, that is not the way a market is supposed to work. That is bad actors making a fortune off of people’s misfortune.”

Health care has for many years been a critical issue for many American voters, and while the ACA has continued to be a controversial political issue, the public’s view on the government’s role in health care has become less divided. Large bipartisan majorities support government intervention in health care, including reducing the cost of prescription drugs, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

“Health is really a pocketbook issue more than a political issue now,” Kaiser Family Foundation president Drew Altman told the Los Angeles Times.

During Sanders’ defense of democratic socialism as an alternative to a “rigged economy,” he said it could be a solution to addressing massive income inequality and expanding health-care access, including paid family leave, to every American.

“When you look around the world you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right—except the United States,” Sanders said. “You see every other major country saying to moms that when you have a baby we’re not going to separate you from your newborn baby because we are going to have medical and family paid leave.”

The benefits of paid family leave include higher productivity, stronger workplace morale, and greater employee retention, as well as significant health benefits, according to a study by Oxford Economics conducted for the U.S. Travel Association. 

Paid sick days are also important to public health, advocates say, given that three-quarters of food service industry and hotel workers don’t have paid sick days.

Sanders announced a legislative package in June to provide paid family and medical leave, paid sick leave, and paid vacation. The Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act, which would provide ten days of paid vacation for employees who have worked for an employer for at least one year, was presented as the centerpiece.

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Sanders co-sponsored Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) FAMILY Act, which would guarantee every employee 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. He also was a co-sponsor of Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-WA) Healthy Families Act, which would guarantee seven days of paid sick leave per year.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley threw his support behind paid family leave, and noted that his state expanded family leave during his time as governor. “We would be a stronger nation economically if we had paid family leave,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley signed the Maryland Parental Leave Act (MPLA) in May 2014. The law requires employers in the state to provide six workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period after the birth of an employee’s child or the placement of a child with an employee for adoption or foster care.

Bash asked Clinton to respond directly to Republican president candidate Carly Fiorina, who is opposed to federal paid family leave, which she claims would be a disincentive for businesses to hire women. Clinton also endorsed paid family leave, and offered a rebuttal to Fiorina’s opposition.

“I’m surprised she says that because California has had a paid leave program for a number of years, and it has not had the ill effects that the Republicans are always saying it will have,” Clinton said. “We can design a system and pay for it that does not put the burden on small business.”

California’s paid family leave law went into effect in July 2004. Under it, new mothers and fathers can take up to six weeks of paid leave to spend with their child. Leave can also be used by employees with a sick child, spouse, domestic partner, or parent.

In the ten years since its implementation, the program has positively affected children and families and has not caused problems for California employers, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Clinton pivoted from paid family leave and specifically addressed reproductive rights.

“It’s always the Republicans or their sympathizers who say you can’t have paid leave, you can’t provide health care,” Clinton said. “They don’t mind having big government interfere with a woman’s right to choose and taking down Planned Parenthood. They’re fine with big government when it comes to that. I’m sick of that. We can do these things.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is the only Republican candidate who has offered anything other than opposition to paid family leave. The key policy difference between Rubio’s proposal and what the other Democratic candidates have endorsed is the way in which it would be implemented. Rubio has proposed creating tax incentives for businesses to provide family leave instead of requiring it from all employers. Those incentives have proven largely ineffective in changing the ways in which companies operate.

While improving the economy, pushing policies that support the economic standing of the middle class, and addressing income inequality were all subjects of discussion among the candidates, raising the minimum wage received only a few brief mentions.

Since Congress has been mired in gridlock, largely due to a relatively small group of far-right conservatives in the House, lawmakers have been unable to increase the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Several states and municipalities have acted independently to raise the minimum wage—a move supported by voters across the political spectrum. During the 2014 midterm, elections voters in four states approved ballot measures to increase the minimum wage.

Sanders said in order to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, people who work would have to unite and confront Republicans who are opposed to a living wage. “Workers are going to have to come together and look the Republicans in the eye, and say, ‘We know what’s going on. You vote against us, you are out of your job,’” Sanders said.

Clinton said she supported raising the minimum wage.

“At the center of my campaign is how we’re going to raise wages,” Clinton said. “Yes, of course, raise the minimum wage, but we have to do so much more, including finding ways so that companies share profits with the workers who helped to make them.”

O’Malley said that the difference between himself and his fellow candidates was that he was able to increase his state’s minimum wage.

During his time as governor, lawmakers in the Democratic-majority Maryland legislature passed measures that O’Malley took credit for during the debate. However, those legislative accomplishments, including the increase in the minimum wage, were modest. O’Malley in 2014 approved an increase to the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2018. That’s a far cry from the $15 per hour that activists are calling for in 2015.