Opinion

RINO hunting in Michigan threatens traditional conservative Republicans

Posted

The primary is in two weeks, and the most nervous political demographic is the traditional, conservative Republicans with experience. 

It's hard to believe. Ronald Reagan-loving, John Engler-revered Republicans — the people who ran Michigan government for the better part of 25 years — have a pit in their stomach over Aug. 2.  

They're like the guilty boy who isn't sure if he's getting anything under the Christmas tree. They honestly don't know what they're getting.  

Let's start at the top with Tudor Dixon. She was a guest commentator on the fringe right radio network America's Voice with Steve Gruber before she ran for governor. She made a living out of giving news a hard conservative spin. 

Now, only because she accepted the endorsement of the business community and the DeVos family — which other candidates sought, by the way — she's being called a Republican In Name Only. A RINO. Establishment. A Never Trumper. Even though she's a sandwich away from getting the Big Guy's endorsement. 

That's not the only issue. 

Unlike 2000 and 2010, Republicans didn't draw the legislative and congressional maps so they didn't get a chance to protect their incumbents as they did before. 

This cycle, it might not have mattered as far as House Republicans go. Grassroots activists are pissed neither the Republican-led Senate nor House thought enough of Trump's widespread election fraud claims to order up a "forensic audit" of the 2020 presidential election results. 

The conspiracy theories of a "fixed election" have since dovetailed into a belief that liberal agitators caused the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and that Trump and his followers are being made the fall guys for political purposes. 

All of this is being wrapped into an "America First" platform that's protectionist at its core — tariffs, strong immigration policies, no outside wars. It speaks to an insular attitude that is griping and motivating the rank-and-file GOP voter. 

Fueled by COVID, these voters are highly skeptical of everything — the media, incumbent politicians, the       Establishment and much of social media. Some of it is flavored with a hint of Christianity, a common Republican spice, but all of this political energy stems from a belief that "the people" are getting screwed. To them, we've all been fed bull for too long and they're tired of it. 

The frustration spills over into other issues where society seems to be moving too quickly. To these voters, Critical Race Theory and transgender athletes are not progress toward a better understanding of one another. Its liberals altering and dictating societal norms with entirely foreign concepts. 

Little to none of it has to do with running a functional state government. That's where incumbents are running into trouble. 

Practical governance isn't connecting with these obstinate GOP voters. To them, negotiating public policy is oscillating principals to the benefits of leftists and well-heeled special interests … ironically even if it's their interests that are being advanced. 

Talking these "platform Republicans" back to reason takes time. They are combative about reading, watching or listening to any view or news that isn't slanted toward their jaded worldview. 

Some incumbents are navigating these turbulent waters better than others.  

House Republicans are in a tougher position because more "America First" followers were emboldened to run for the House and they need fewer resources than a Senate candidate to get their name out there. 

Also, Rep. Matt Maddock, R-Milford, has jumped into this rising tide headfirst. He is supporting numerous House challengers, at various levels, as he advances his House speaker bid. He and his wife, Michigan Republican Party Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock, opened doors early in the campaign for many of them to receive invaluable Trump endorsements. 

For a Republican in 2022, a Trump endorsement is a political wind gust that even well-respected, established Republican figure Tom Leonard couldn't stand up to. 

I've never seen Republican incumbents working harder to keep what they got. And, for many of them, it still won't be enough. 

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