Once upon a time, I counted myself a Republican.  It’s a true story.  And not just a Republican, but a hard-core, social-conservative Republican.  I was anti-abortion-rights, pro-death-penalty, pro-prayer-in-schools.  I was your cliche, full-on, religious-conservative Republican.  And I lived in the US at the time, and was surrounded by friends who felt the same.

*edit*: A point for new readers: this is notable because I am now a passionate supporter of the Democratic party, and interned in the office of a very progressive House of Representatives Democrat.

Yes, I changed.  I changed a lot.  I feel like I learnt a lot about the world, and realised the danger of using one’s personal religious beliefs as the basis of Public Policy.  And my personal beliefs changed too.  But the lasting legacy of all that is that I understand cultural conservatives, and I take them seriously.

Cultural conservatives are serious people.  They are not to be laughed at.  I mean, you can laugh at them if you like, but that doesn’t really help the debate.  They are people who passionately hold a set of beliefs, believe they are right, and that they can invoke a higher authority to justify their rightness, and who will fight, fight, fight for what they believe.

Which is why Michelle Bachmann’s announcement, also, should be taken seriously.

Because, unlike Palin, she speaks a very specific language to a very specific set of people.  And while some may laugh at “authenticity”, to the community she’s a member of, she drips it.  She’s smart and knows policy, and has a set of beliefs that inform her ideas consistently.  You may not agree with that set of beliefs, but to those who do, she is an incredibly powerful figure.

Bachmann isn’t a pale imitation of Palin; if anything, it’s the other way around.

Bachmann may seem like an absurd figure to 80% of Americans, but if she can get those 20% to all vote, and convince a quarter of the rest to all vote and not to vote for Obama, she’ll be President.  Her path to the nomination is not remotely unfathomable: she’s got a strong ground game in Iowa already in place, and her appeal to the base is incredibly strong.  Her capacity to get-out-the-vote among social conservatives is phenomenal.  And she has both social and economic conservative credentials.

Liberals will write her off at their own peril.  I have full faith that Obama can defeat a run-of-the-mill, bland Republican.  Bachmann, on the other hand, scares me.