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Bachmann's Radical Roots

Now that Rep. Michele Bachmann is in the spotlight as a strong performer in Monday's Republican presidential candidate debate, it's very helpful to know more about what makes the Minnesota conservative firebrand tick. Right on cue, Michelle Goldberg, an authority on the "Christian nationalist" movement, has written an important backgrounder on Bachmann's career and ideology for the Daily Beast.

Goldberg makes it crystal clear that Bachmann's not just some Republican pol who happens to be active in Christian Right causes. She's the expositor of an ideology that views politics as an arena for the imposition of godly rule as intepreted by a radical strain of conservative evangelicalism. And it comes out in strange but understandable ways, if you have the decoder ring:

On Monday, Bachmann didn't talk a lot about her religion. She didn't have to--she knows how to signal it in ways that go right over secular heads. In criticizing Obama's Libya policy, for example, she said, "We are the head and not the tail." The phrase comes from Deuteronomy 28:13: "The Lord will make you the head and not the tail." As Rachel Tabachnick has reported, it's often used in theocratic circles to explain why Christians have an obligation to rule.

To those who wouldn't normally look to Deuteronomy for guidance on U.S. policy towards Libya, this sort of approach seems bizarre. But once you are inside the crusading worldview of people like Bachmann, it all makes sense.