Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks to the Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council Action, Friday, Sept. 17, 2010, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Jacquelyn Martin)

Michele Bachmann revealed: Gore Vidal made her a Republican

The Minnesota congresswoman was apparently a liberal, until she read "Burr"

Alex Pareene
December 31, 2010 3:20AM (UTC)

Every good conservative icon needs an origin story. The best ones -- the vast majority of them, if you believe them -- are former liberals, "lifelong Democrats," or even former Marxists. They become virulent right-wingers, usually, because of something horrible the Democrats did. Reagan was a Democrat -- and a union leader! -- until, in his formulation, "the party left me." (Around the time the party began supporting civil rights legislation, but that's neither here nor there.) But big events, or supposed betrayals, work best; 9/11 awoke the inner General Turgidson in every supposedly former liberal warblogger.

For Michele Bachmann, it was historical fiction.


Yes, Michele Bachamnn was a liberal until she read Gore Vidal's "Burr." Bachmann tells the tale of her creation about five minutes into the clip:

Until I was reading this snotty novel called 'Burr,' by Gore Vidal, and read how he mocked our Founding Fathers. And as a reasonable, decent, fair-minded person who happened to be a Democrat, I thought, 'You know what? What he's writing about, this mocking of people that I revere, and the country that I love, and that I would lay my life down to defend -- just like every one of you in this room would, and as many of you in this room have when you wore the uniform of this great country -- I knew that that was not representative of my country.

And at that point I put the book down and I laughed. I was riding a train. I looked out the window and I said, 'You know what? I think I must be a Republican. I don't think I'm a Democrat.'

Yep! Gore Vidal's "Burr" created Michele Bachmann. Because it was "snotty" to the founding fathers.

In my perhaps unrepresentative experience, Vidal's historical fiction -- especially "Burr" and "Lincoln" -- are the only things Vidal ever wrote that conservatives like. (I mean, thank god Michele didn't pick up "Myra Breckenridge.") But those are the conservatives who, I guess, are adult enough to read a mostly historically accurate account of the Revolution in which the Founders are portrayed as recognizably human and not become offended that the book is not a literary adaption of the Schoolhouse Rock classic "No More Kings."


Even if you dispute his characterizations, anyone with a genuine interest in our founders can find something worthwhile in "Burr." Unless Bachmann -- who's twice as smart as Palin but a much deeper believer in her brand of revivalist bullshit than the Alaskan opportunist -- never actually read the damn thing, but she knows that Gore Vidal is a gay liberal commie, and therefore to be hated.

And, christ, it looks like Michele's been dining out on this stupid story for years. She told it to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune ("He was kind of mocking the Founding Fathers and I just thought, 'What a snot.'") and she even told it to George Will ("I set the book down on my lap, looked out the window and thought: 'That's not the America I know.'") I'd imagine Will was somewhat confused, because it's a bit like saying his silly baseball books made me a leftist.

Barely related: Here's Pat Buchanan and Gore Vidal talking about Lincoln, syphilis, and Hemingway, in 1984. One highlight comes shortly after the five-minute mark, when Vidal reveals which one film he considers a true work of art.


Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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Historical Fiction Michele Bachmann R-minn. Political Books

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