Michele Bachmann: Palin version 2.0? When it comes to gay rights, yes.

Is it possible that Michele Bachmann's position on gay rights makes Sarah Palin look sensible?

Back in 2008, then vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin referred to homosexuality as a "choice". This was hardly surprising. Palin had already established herself as a Bible-bashing "traditionalist". So for her to spout such ignorance in relation to being gay was about as surprising as hearing Nick Griffin mention that he doesn't care much for Muslims.


As much as this talk of the unholy homosexual "lifestyle choice" was expected from Palin, it was still abhorrent. I wasn't aware that I'd "chosen" to be gay -- thank you, Mrs Palin, for letting me know. How much more openly homophobic could a mainstream political figure afford to be? Quite a lot, it turns out.

Enter now Congresswoman Bachmann.

In a recent interview with NBC, which quickly became a YouTube hit, Michele Bachmann was played some audio from a speech she made at a 2004 educational conference. According to the Bachmann of seven years ago, homosexuality is, wait for it... "A part of Satan".


Can't we go back to it just being a "choice"? I'm gay, but I'm at least a little bit more comfortable with being told that I chose to be, rather than the soul-torturing lord of the fiery realms of Perdition having forced me into my sexuality with the business end of his fork.

But anyway, what did the 2011, potential president, Bachmann have to say about her 2004 self's little slur? "I'm running for president of the United States, I'm not running to be anyone's judge". But Congresswoman, surely you've already made a judgement, and not a very nice one at that? The interviewer replied with something along those lines, only to be told again by the squirming Bachmann that she "isn't anyone's judge".

Sadly, the interviewer didn't do a Paxman and demand that the Congresswoman answer the question properly, until she was curled in a foetal position on the floor, weeping and praying for oblivion. She pretty much got away with her pathetically evasive answer.

But enough of Bachmann's rhetoric, let's look at the facts. The Congresswoman has made clear that, if she wins the presidency, she will do everything in her power to reinstate the controversial 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy for the US military, which has only just been abolished.


Palin, on the other hand, made the news earlier this year when she re-tweeted gay conservative Tammy Bruce calling DADT "hypocritical". OK, so the former Governor of Alaska may not exactly have draped herself in a rainbow flag and joined the nearest gay pride parade, but compared to Michele "gays are from hell" Bachmann, she's starting to look very much like the lesser of two evils.

What's more, Palin supported the inclusion of gay Republican group GoProud in this year's national Conservative Political Action Conference. As it turns out, the group was altogether banned from the conference - so all the more props to Palin for having, albeit unsuccessfully, stood up for them.
This, in light of the fact that Bachmann voted 'NO' on enforcing against anti-gay hate crimes, means that Palin is starting to look more and more, well, reasonable.

In the same interview where Plain referred to homosexuality as a "choice", Bachmann's fellow 2012 presidential hopeful, bless her heart, said that she has a close gay friend. As pitiful and "I'm-not-racist-I-have-a-black-friend"-like as this is, I very much doubt that Michele Bachmann has ever knowingly met a gay person, let alone acquired a GBF.

It's bizarre to think that, with President Palin, gay rights would be quite considerably less doomed than with President Bachmann. Both women are staunchly anti-gay marriage, yet Sarah Palin, right at the back of her mind (such as it is) seems to possess some vague notion that it's OK-(ish) to be gay. Bachmann, on the other hand, is to gay rights what an over-excited, muddy puppy is to a pile of freshly washed white bed sheets.
Although a Palin or Bachmann presidency may look too unlikely to worry about, it's still sad that, in mainstream US politics, minorities are so often forced to look for the lesser of evils.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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PMQs review: Theresa May shows again that Brexit means hard Brexit

The Prime Minister's promise of "an end to free movement" is incompatible with single market membership. 

Theresa May, it is commonly said, has told us nothing about Brexit. At today's PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn ran with this line, demanding that May offer "some clarity". In response, as she has before, May stated what has become her defining aim: "an end to free movement". This vow makes a "hard Brexit" (or "chaotic Brexit" as Corbyn called it) all but inevitable. The EU regards the "four freedoms" (goods, capital, services and people) as indivisible and will not grant the UK an exemption. The risk of empowering eurosceptics elsewhere is too great. Only at the cost of leaving the single market will the UK regain control of immigration.

May sought to open up a dividing line by declaring that "the Labour Party wants to continue with free movement" (it has refused to rule out its continuation). "I want to deliver on the will of the British people, he is trying to frustrate the British people," she said. The problem is determining what the people's will is. Though polls show voters want control of free movement, they also show they want to maintain single market membership. It is not only Boris Johnson who is pro-having cake and pro-eating it. 

Corbyn later revealed that he had been "consulting the great philosophers" as to the meaning of Brexit (a possible explanation for the non-mention of Heathrow, Zac Goldsmith's resignation and May's Goldman Sachs speech). "All I can come up with is Baldrick, who says our cunning plan is to have no plan," he quipped. Without missing a beat, May replied: "I'm interested that [he] chose Baldrick, of course the actor playing Baldrick was a member of the Labour Party, as I recall." (Tony Robinson, a Corbyn critic ("crap leader"), later tweeted that he still is one). "We're going to deliver the best possible deal in goods and services and we're going to deliver an end to free movement," May continued. The problem for her is that the latter aim means that the "best possible deal" may be a long way from the best. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.