Opinion

Shirkey’s speech caps sad end to influential legislative career

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If you’re a scripture reader, you may know 2 Timothy 3. It’s where Paul talks about end times.

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous … .”

You get the picture. 

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey invoked the passage in his farewell speech to the Senate. His point: People are becoming god-like in their own minds, turning modern issues into godlike symbols.

“Little-G gods like ESG,” — environmental and social governance — “climate change, gun control, child sacrifice, trans-whatever we can concoct, central bank digital currencies, artificial intelligence … . The intent behind these little-G gods is to achieve one-world governance, one-world religion, one-world health care, one-world currency and one-world control and the elimination of sovereignty.”

He said that the World Economic Forum, a benevolent group with which Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist is involved, fits into the one-nation world theory somehow. 

Fringe sects of Christianity have theorized about end times for centuries. That’s how the Seventh Day Adventists formed. 

Fears of a new world order sprouted when the United Nations formed after World War II. 

To a certain crowd at a certain time, Shirkey’s new twist on an old narrative might have connected.

On the floor of the Michigan Senate, he came across as a nut, a sad ending to the career of one of Michigan’s most influential legislators in the last decade.

Shirkey’s background is in creating widgets to make things work. When there was a run on N95 masks during the height of the pandemic, Shirkey’s Jackson-based manufacturing company, Orbitform, cooked up a paper-shredder-looking gadget to sanitize paper masks.

If problems happened, he cooked up solutions. Ten years ago in the House, then-Speaker Jase Bolger used Shirkey as his fix-it guy. When Bolger wanted Right to Work passed in 2013, he turned to Shirkey.

Bolger wanted a state exchange for Medicaid expansion. Shirkey cooked up something other Republicans could support in the face of Tea Party opposition.

In the Senate in 2019, he convinced Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to sign a bill designed to lower auto insurance rates, even though her supporters in the association of trial lawyers hated it. 

He offered a scaled-back, 15-cent-a-gallon gas tax hike later that year to give the governor a win of sorts on her Fix the Damn Roads campaign promise. 

When she said no, a constitutional crisis was created with the budget. Shirkey was never the same.

He adopted the role of “loyal opposition” to the Democratic governor, which isn’t his forte. Shirkey is a fixer, not a politician, not an obstructionist. 

Shirkey asked the governor to work together on a less restrictive COVID response, but the bridge was long burned down. Calling her “batshit crazy” probably didn’t help.

Instead, he got caught in the real tragic consequence of COVID: isolation. 

Kept from his staff of policy professionals that always kept the eccentric and quirky Shirkey grounded in reality, the avid reader got his nose into conspiratorial texts. 

He told Donald Trump to fly a kite when the former president claimed widespread fraud cost him the election in Michigan. 

But when Trump loyalists were fingered as the dry tinder that made the Jan. 6 riots explode into chaos, he looked for excuses.

He told Hillsdale County Republicans the whole thing was a “hoax” perpetuated by “puppeteers” in an attempt to cast Trump in a poor light. After those comments made Shirkey look cuckoo, he told Gilchrist on the Senate floor that the FBI was going to identify some Jan. 6 mastermind.

Obviously, another conspiracy theory that never came to pass.

The old Shirkey never came back. Michigan’s full-time Senate met five days after July 4.

His half-hearted attempt to integrate mental and physical health for Medicaid populations this lame duck session needlessly fell apart. 

Instead of showing up to Lansing, Shirkey often stayed home in Jackson. Doing more reading, staying away from people who would challenge him.

On his last day on the floor, Shirkey tried to warn us against “serious and imminent” spiritual threats. Instead, he proved an old proverb:

“An idle mind with enough time on their hands is far worse than a politician.”

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