March 6, 2021

Reactionary Republican Berserk Behavior In and Outside of Michigan

Screen grab of Ron Clous brandishing what he called his semi-automatic “varmint” rifle during January 20, 2021 Grand Traverse County Commissioners meeting.

The virus of berserk behavior sickening the Republican Party generated a fresh outbreak of absurd and pathetic conduct by public officers in my home region of Northwest Michigan. First it was Ron Clous, a Republican Grand Traverse County Commissioner, who responded to an appeal by a constituent to formally reject the Proud Boys by brandishing an assault rifle during a virtual County Commission meeting on January 20.

Then it was Rob Hentchsel, the Republican commission chairman, who laughed at Clous’s display one week, and the next offered this response to a petition signed by 1,400 county residents that he and Clous resign. “What happened on the 20th, I accept that a lot of people saw that situation differently than I did at that moment,” Clous said.

Citizens are right to call for the Commission’s five Republicans and two Democrats to reject the Proud Boys, who favor violence as a means of political persuasion, and are under federal investigation for conspiring to organize and lead the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. For Clous and Hentschel to defend such an organization, and then ridicule a constituent in such an ugly way, is a slur on the Grand Traverse region. Censuring Clous and Hentschel, which is proposed at the moment, is not a sufficient response. Grand Traverse County residents must not falter in their campaign to replace the two commissioners with more mature and thoughtful adults, and establish a much higher standard of responsible conduct.

There’s also more at work here that needs to be addressed in and outside of Michigan’s Grand Traverse region. There is an old saying among Civil Rights leaders that when “you can’t beat ’em, you cheat ’em.” The Republican Party has been losing ground on the consequential ideas of culture, law, humanity, religion, compassion, economy, racial justice, environment, energy, and science for decades. The party achieved unnatural influence by directing its organizing energy to cheating. The party developed elaborate lies and ornate conspiracies. It suppressed the vote and gerrymandered legislative districts. It promoted and defended its work at every turn with sympathetic candidates and a pliant reactionary media led by Fox News.

Republican lawmakers in these states propose legislation to restrict and suppress voting. (Source: Brennan Center For Justice)

But it overreached with the election of Donald Trump, who cost the party the House, the Senate, and the White House. Joe Biden won the 2020 election by more than 7 million votes and expanded the support for progressive ideas in the South and the West. Faced with the unassailable evidence that it was losing America, the Republican Party doubled down, turning to intimidation and violence. The attack on the Capitol, seen in retrospect, was a dismal accumulation of reactionary grievance expressed through a grotesque demonstration of the party’s distorted view of its popular esteem.

America began to regain its balance on November 3 with the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The January 20 inauguration was a celebration of American progressive ideals. And the president’s first days in office have been distinguished by factual news conferences, complete sentences, and executive orders to advance big programs about renewable energy, climate change, electrifying vehicles, racial equity, the private prison system, public land conservation, cancelled oil pipelines, and expanded health care.

In an odd way the country’s balance also has been aided by the instability of the Republican Party, which elected more radical burlesque reactionaries to Congress, and is feeding on its own – “reasoned” – I use that term advisedly — lawmakers still in the party.

In Michigan, the Allegan County Republican Party voted on January 21 to “censure and condemn” Representative Fred Upton of St. Joseph for being among the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump.

The Arizona Republican Party censured Governor Doug Ducey, former Senator Jeff Flake, and Cindy McCain for opposing Trump’s vile campaign to overturn Biden’s victory. Flake and McCain actually endorsed the Democratic ticket.

In Oregon, according to the Washington Post, the state Republican Party asserts that the Capitol siege was a “false flag” operation staged to discredit the GOP and silence Trump’s supporters. The state party released a resolution passed by its executive committee that says the supposedly fake operation was meant to undermine Trump and give more power to President Biden.

In Virginia, the state Senate voted to censure Republican state Sen. Amanda F. Chase for praising the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol as “patriots” and repeated the reactionary lie that the Capitol siege was perpetrated by left-wing “antifa or BLM agents of destruction.” Republicans joined Democrats in approving the censure, which followed months of erratic and irrational behavior from Chase, who says she will run for governor and described herself as a version of Donald Trump “in heels.”

Completely steadying the country requires winning innumerable small advances in the public interest. Republican legislators in 28 states, for instance, are proposing measures to suppress and restrict voting. All the proposals need to be beaten. Voting should be easy and efficient in the U.S.

Reactionary and dangerous Congressmen and women need to be expelled starting with Marjorie Taylor Greene, the freshman firebrand reactionary Congresswoman from Georgia. She believes, among other grotesque notions, that the 2018 Parkland school shooting and the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre were staged. She also believes that 2018 Camp Fire that killed 85 people was ignited by an orbiting laser financed by Jews.

This is why Grand Traverse County residents must remove Clous and Hentschel from the County Commission. The responsibility of elected officials in our region is to promote the safety and security of residents, advance the common good, and respect constituents. Neither officer met any of those reasonable requirements. They flouted their authority, intimidated a constituent, and acted with gross indifference to a request — refuting the Proud Boys — that has great merit for the region and the country. Both commissioners must resign.

— Keith Schneider

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