Much to the pleasure of a number of tea party spokespersons who like to seek out and destroy “Republicans In Name Only” (i.e. RINOs), I recently re-watched Rod Lurie’s film “The Contender.” The film focuses on a fictional United States president (played by Jeff Bridges) and the events surrounding his appointment of a new vice president (Joan Allen) who is consistently attacked by a congressman (Gary Oldman).
Tea partiers will say this proves that I’ve been corrupted by the Hollywood elites. I will admit that the film goes a bit over the top to show that partisanship run amuck is destroying American politics to the detriment of civility and honorable public service. Nevertheless, there is a message that is still timely for those who run the Michigan Republican Party.
That is, simply: Enough is enough. It is time for all elected officials, especially Gov. Rick Snyder, to call for the resignation of Dave Agema, Michigan’s Republican National Committeeman.
The long and short of the “The Contender” plot is this: in order to defeat the president’s selection of a woman to be vice president, a congressman starts to say anything, spread any rumor, to defeat the nomination. In the end, we are reminded that the words of hate some spew are getting to “a level where it’s getting hard to separate the demagogue from the truly inspired.”
For the last two years, Agema has authored, co-authored, or re-posted on his social-media accounts disparaging posts about homosexuals, Muslims, RINOs and liberals. About a year and a half ago, he promoted Frank Joseph’s viewpoint that gays and lesbians are “filthy” and “because homosexuals can’t reproduce naturally, they resort to recruiting children.” Shortly after that, he posted the question, “Have you ever seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?”
This caused numerous Republican elected officials and leaders, ranging from Rep. Fred Upton to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, as well as RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, MiGOP Chair Bobby Schostak, to condemn Agema. I was proud to be one of the first county GOP chairs to call for his resignation and removal.
The record shows that Agema considered the calls for his resignation to be a joke and promised to adopt a tone of more civility and understanding. The same record shows that if anything, he’s only increased the venom – this time to include African-Americans.
On New Year’s Eve, he once again posted an article which he called “enlightening,” this time from the American Renaissance (a well-known white supremacist organization). What caught my eye was this paragraph:
“...my experience has also taught me that blacks are different by almost any measure to all other people. They cannot reason well. They cannot communicate well. They cannot control their impulses as well. They are a threat to all who cross their paths, black and non-black alike.”
Enlightening, indeed. I figured, based on his past actions, that Agema was bigoted against homosexuals and Muslims. Now I know he’s bigoted against me, my family, and probably anyone who doesn’t think exactly like he does or shares his skin color.
Throughout Agema’s dramafest, Gov. Snyder has tried to maintain the highest ground possible. While never calling for Agema’s resignation, the governor did take time out of his 2014 State of the State address to rebuke the committeeman. When asked about the most recent comments, Snyder said, “…if you’re in public service or in the public eye, hopefully you can act with a degree of civility and treat people right. I don’t consider those comments to be in line with that.”
As governor, Snyder is the figurative head of the MRP. He, in a way, can be the ultimate umpire when it comes to what direction the party takes going forward. I’m a volunteer umpire during the summer and I think the governor should remember that in baseball, from Little League all the way up to the Majors, it’s three strikes and you’re out.
Some will say that there’s nothing in the MRP bylaws that address this situation, that there’s no way to remove Agema from his post either at the next meeting of the RNC or the next MRP state convention. This week, the party has turned to the national committee to remove him at its winter meeting in San Diego, and on Tuesday voted to censure him.
But in the event Agema survives, Snyder should take a more aggressive stance regarding the continued despicable comments that Agema publicly shares. There are times when the gubernatorial bully pulpit is useful to advance public policy. This is a time where it can be used to advance a moral lesson in our state.
This is one of those times. Action is needed now before the MRP is lost in the shrinking gap between demagoguery and inspiration.