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Cliff Schecter
Cliff Schecter
Cliff Schecter is an author, pundit and public relations strategist whose firm Libertas, LLC handles media relations for political, corporate and non-profit clients.
Michele Bachmann: The XX Factor
Is sexism to blame for the Minnesotan Congresswoman's decline in popularity?
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2012 15:10
Are there a lot of men who simply wouldn't vote for a woman? [GALLO/GETTY]

Have we lost ye, Michele Bachmann?

The answer would seem to be yes, as the sharp-tongued, googly-eyed Minnesota Congresswoman suspended her presidential campaign after receiving only five per cent of the Iowa Caucus vote in the state where she was born.

To put that in perspective, Michele Bachmann only got 6,000 more votes in Iowa than Johann Sebastian Bach. It was the culmination of a stunning turn of events over the past few months, after her candidacy surged when she won the Iowa straw poll in August.

Soon afterwards, however, her poll numbers went south faster than General William Tecumseh Sherman. Why did that happen? And what does it tell us about the vestiges of sexism still present in our political culture as a whole, and specifically on display among the far-right Christian conservatives currently dominating the Republican Party? A lot, actually.


Fault Lines - Politics, religion and the Tea Party

As someone who looked upon the possibility of a Bachmann presidency with much the same anticipatory glee as I would walking barefoot up Mount Everest or drinking Liquid Drano, one might not expect me to possess even an ounce of sympathy for the Congresswoman.

Sure, I think she's a few kernels short of a corn dog, but then again I am of much the same opinion about Newt Gingrich and either of the Praying Ricks (Santorum and Perry). To base Republican voters, however, preemptively bombing Iran, giving Ryan Seacrest tax cuts on Ascot purchases and sowing firearms into one's forelimbs are likely a part of the panoply of "ideas".

So loony musings were not why Bachmann was kicked to the curb.

'Women's submission'

But I have a sneaking suspicion that gender - and, specifically, Bachmann's lack of a Y chromosome - had a lot to do with it. According to Taylor Marsh, author of The Hillary Effect: Politics, Sexism & The Destiny of Loss: "Once Rick Perry rode in, Bachmann was ignored. By virtue of his macho Texan maleness, he was automatically elevated, even as her debate performances remained stellar."

Or to put it the way writer Michelle Goldberg did in The Daily Beast: "She stumped as much as Santorum, had staff problems no worse than Gingrich’s and made lesser gaffes than Perry."

So how was it that the Texas Two Thought stole her thunder when he entered the race?

Many Christian Right leaders and the voters who dominate the primary in Iowa preach women's submission, so is it really a stretch to believe they thought a female politician should adopt the same role? The optics were certainly there, when during a debate on "family issues" in November, almost out of instinct or perhaps expectation, Bachmann got up to pour water for her male colleagues seated around a table on the stage with her.

There was plenty of other evidence, such as when the Union County, Iowa GOP Chair told an AP reporter, "I've noticed that when her name is mentioned sometimes that there's a lot of men that wouldn't vote for a woman."

Some of Bachmann's advisers agreed with this sentiment.

Comedian and fellow Minnesotan Lizz Winstead - who has toured for Planned Parenthood and is passionate about women's issues - went so far as to tell me, "when I put my tinfoil hat on, I almost think they push forward women of no substance like Bachmann and [Sarah] Palin, because [women such as] Olympia Snowe and Kay Bailey Hutchinson might actually succeed".

When I put my tinfoil hat on I also suspect similar things, but no "conspiracy theories" are even necessary for me to conclude that sexism still plays an active role in our politics - particularly on the extreme right of the GOP.

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

You can follow him on Twitter: @cliffschecter

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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