The announcement that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) will not run for re-election in 2014 means that the Tea Party will lose one of its most outspoken–and controversial–congressional leaders, just as the movement is gaining new momentum from public discontent with big government and the revelations in the IRS scandal. At the same time, the Tea Party will benefit from the emergence of new, and perhaps more effective, voices.
The most consequential defeat of Bachmann’s political career did not come at the ballot box or on the campaign trail, but in the back rooms of Congress, when she was denied a position in the new House leadership after the Tea Party led the GOP back to power in the 2010 elections. Her exclusion slowed the Tea Party’s momentum, as did targeting by the IRS–an agency for which, ironically, Bachmann had once worked.
And yet Bachmann arguably paved the way for other Tea Party leaders in Congress, notably Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who followed in Bachmann’s footsteps this year by giving a separate Tea Party response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. She also–as some on the left grudgingly admit–has been one of the most competent members of Congress, serving with distinction on the House Intelligence Committee.