As Minnesota congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann gains momentum in public opinion polls — some have her leading former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by as many as five percentage points — the intense media scrutiny that often makes or breaks perceived frontrunners is slowly revealing questions that must be answered if Bachmann is to prove successful in pursuit of the GOP nomination.
Last week’s major controversy centered upon a pledge that Bachmann signed suggesting that the black family unit was stronger during slavery.
This week’s major controversy focuses on Marcus Bachmann, Michele’s husband, who owns a clinic in Minnesota that claims among its services the ability to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals through Bible-based therapy.
As to the effects of slavery on the black family structure, Bachmann’s gaffe is but another example of how revisionist historical analysis serves to the detriment of otherwise politically viable candidates.
Whether one is a historical scholar or simply watched the television adaptation of Alex Haley’s seminal classic “Roots,” it is widely known that American slavery was destructive to the concept of family. Blacks were routinely separated from each other by profit-driven masters.
Among the more enduring legacies of Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration are interviews with former slaves by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. These narratives revealed that at the conclusion of the Civil War, many freed blacks embarked upon a sometimes futile quest to be reunited with family members who had been sold away.
Remarkably, despite slavery’s ill effects, from 1865 to 1961, the black marriage rate peaked to a high of 70 percent.
Since then, the black marriage rate has dropped precipitously to the upper 20 percentile, according to recent Census figures.
While this issue is important to address from both a political and policy standpoint, black voters are almost certain to question any arguments that Bachmann may make out of a palpable fear that she lacks credibility on the subject.
As to Marcus Bachmann’s clinic, there are a number of issues worth exploring, including whether the avocation or political views of a presidential spouse be imputed to the candidate, whether a private clinic that receives Medicare funds base its services on theological principles, and whether a clinic receiving Medicare funds practice a treatment procedure that is considered questionable by experts in the field.
While Eleanor Roosevelt arguably was the precursor of the modern professionally accomplished political wife, the truth is that since Hillary Clinton was first suggested as a “co-president” during her husband Bill’s 1992 campaign, presidential spouses have been rigidly vetted by the press. In 2008, Michelle Obama’s views and even her undergraduate writings about racism at Princeton University were imputed to her husband’s campaign by Republicans seeking to question the Obama’s fealty to America. That said, Marcus Bachmann’s clinic is fair game.
As to religious considerations of homosexuality, the fact remains that millions of voters, including a number of otherwise solidly Democratic black voters, believe homosexuality to be a sin. This is despite years of research suggesting that homosexuality for many is based upon genetics as opposed to personal choices.
Accordingly, the more pressing issue for these voters is not the theological aspect but whether Bachmann’s treatment programs are scientifically sound. Scientists, of course, often disagree, but once the story broke nationwide, the clinic quickly removed any mention of this service from its Web site. That action deepened suspicion that the clinic’s treatment may not hold up to scrutiny.
One of Michele Bachmann’s best qualities is her candor in an era in which most politicians speak from party-approved talking points. But candor without substance is simply gibberish, and it is clear that her campaign should hire a historian — quickly — to avoid similar mishaps.
If Bachmann is to remain candid, if she and her husband believe that they are providing a sound professional service that is rooted in their faith, then they should exclaim it loud and often, not run and hide once the cameras start rolling. Such behavior could be constituted as weakness in a era that requires strong leadership in the White House.