Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Taiwanese Perspective on Michele Bachmann

Early last September when I was in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city, I spent an evening with a Taiwanese friend who lives there. While driving to a cafe for desserts my friend told me she was fascinated by Michele Bachmann and hoped she would continue her campaign to be the Republican nominee for the 2012 U.S. presidential election. I found it surprising that a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives and strong supporter of the Tea Party movement might not only be known to at least some people in Taiwan but also have some followers.

The ensuing conversation proved rather enlightening. I will share it here since it provides an example of how American politics are perceived in a part of the world that in recent decades has seen a variety of democratic reforms and last month had an important presidential election of its own. To be sure, my friend's opinion is just one voice out of many in Taiwan, and I make no claims as to whether it is representative.

I recently communicated with my friend and everything she wrote is consistent with my memory of our earlier conversation. So, I will simply provide her recent written responses. [I have made some very minor edits for clarity since my friend is not a native English speaker. I have also reorganized the text for better flow since some content is the result of requests for her to elaborate.]

How do you know Michele Bachmann and what is your opinion of her?
Michelle Bachmann is a public figure so it was hard to ignore her when all of the spotlights were on her. I first noticed her when she appeared on the cover of Newsweek. It seemed she was being bullied by some of the media so I started to wonder if people had been unfair to her. But it turned out she’s a very interesting individual.

She had my attention particularly for her very conservative speech as well as her ambition for the presidency. I understand ambition is sometimes a good thing. It’s the very same quality I see in Hillary Clinton, but she’s not like Clinton at all! I mean, it’s just hard for me to relate a “submissive” wife to also being an ambitious / calculating politician. That didn’t sound very convincing to me.

What also amazed me was that she seemed to have loads of followers/supporters. She won Iowa, right? [She did not. My friend may be thinking of the Ames Straw Poll] I don’t understand why people voted for her. I was confused and also curious. Later I decided to give up wondering why. Like I said, I enjoyed seeing her. Every time she was on the news I had so much fun, like I was enjoying a daytime soap opera. She’s not dull at all!

As a matter of fact, it’s not Bachmann that I am interested in. It’s the world politics that attracts me, and I am particularly fond of US politics because of all the conflicts between parties and all the ups and downs in the recent Republican primary. It brings me a lot of fun.
What makes Michele Bachmann seem like a soap opera?
She's funny. She likes to put things in a dramatic/exaggerative way, and her talks are mostly odd, absurd and ridiculous… and I guess those are the crucial elements of soap opera?
Would you want Bachmann to be President of the U.S.?
NOOOOOOOOo I don’t want her to be the president of the US. I can’t imagine her being the leader of a super power. I think one good old Bush is good enough for all of us.

She and Bush are equally silly, only Bush is funnier (his choking on a pretzel or wiping his glasses on some poor woman’s clothes...). If she became the president, I am afraid the US would return to medieval times, gay rights would be banned, girls would not be allowed to wear bikinis, wives would have to be submissive to their hubbies....
So, Michele Bachmann may feel a little pride in knowing that her celebrity has spread all the way to Taiwan, although maybe not in the fashion she would likely prefer. And I assume my friend now has mixed feelings to know that Bachmann dropped out of the Republican primary after a poor performance in the Iowa caucuses.

I would be curious to hear what others think about my Taiwanese friend's views of Bachmann. In an upcoming post, I will share some photos (and probably video as well) of a large parade I saw in Taipei after I had left Kaohsiung. It highlights an issue that my friend fears would worsen in the U.S. if Bachmann became President. At the very least, I am pretty sure the people in the parade would not agree that they were celebrating, as Michele Bachmann has described it, "personal enslavement".


  1. Sometimes it takes an outsiders view to see to the center of the matter. Your friend is very perceptive. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I agree with your friend 100%. Bachmann was good for a laugh, in ways that Romney and Santorum are not, but she would be a disaster as President -- even in some parallel universe where that might be possible.

    Interesting to hear what others think of our politics. I'm ashamed to know so little of theirs.