By Alan Resnick / Detroit
Michigan remains blue and the results from the statewide midterm races have left me relieved, yet also despondent and disquieted.
Our incumbent governor, attorney general, and secretary of state — all Democrats — won re-election. But they did so against rivals that Richard Czuba, an independent pollster in Lansing, Mich., called, “the worst ticket I have seen from any party in the last 40 years.” All happened to be election deniers who were endorsed by twice-impeached, disgraced, ex-President Donald Trump.
Tudor Dixon, the Republican candidate for governor, believes that abortions should be illegal even in cases of rape and incest. She ran a TV ad claiming that her rival wanted to put a drag queen in every classroom. She mocked the attempted kidnap attempt against her opponent, incumbent Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. And Dixon was the most moderate of the three statewide Republican candidates.
Matthew DePerno, a tax attorney who was the GOP’s candidate for attorney general, called Democrats, “radical, cultural Marxists who want to silence you" at an October 1 rally headlined by Trump. DePerno added “If that doesn't work, they want to put you in jail.”
DePerno supports an abortion ban with absolutely no exceptions. He has compared the morning-after pill to the drug fentanyl, suggesting that both be banned. The New York Times has reported that, “At least five times, Mr. DePerno’s clients or legal colleagues have asked Michigan’s Attorney Grievance Commission to investigate his conduct.”
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that DePerno remains under investigation for whether he should be criminally charged for attempting to gain access to voting machines after the 2020 election.
But Dixon and DePerno are positively mainstream compared to Kristina Karamo, the Republican nominee for secretary of state. She has called abortions “child sacrifice.” On her podcast Coffee and a Mike, Karamo blamed Antifa for carrying out the Jan. 6 insurrection. In another episode, she referred to yoga as a "satanic ritual." And in yet another, she claimed the Democratic Party “has totally been taken over by a satanic agenda.”
Even with this level of crackpot extremism, Dixon, DePerno, and Karamo each received approximately 45 percent of the popular vote. I know that, by some definitions, the Democrats’ margin of victory is considered a landslide. But this level of support still depresses and concerns me. How could so many people vote for these three candidates?
It’s not because so many Michganders voted Republican. I’ve done so in the past for candidates at the state and federal levels and have no qualms about doing so in the future. It simply depends on the candidates and the issues I view as important in any particular election.
I would describe myself as more liberal with regard to social issues and more conservative about fiscal matters. I don’t think that makes me terribly unusual. And this year’s Michigan election tended to be one that the Republican candidates framed as a cultural war. So my choice was easy.
I suppose it sounds as if I consider my values to be somehow superior to those of many of my fellow citizens. But I’ve always thought that concepts like voting rights, fair, free and safe elections, the peaceful transition of power, and respect for all people were American values, beliefs that defined us as a people. Instead, a large percentage of my state’s population appear to consider me woke, a Marxist, or the spawn of Satan.
On October 16, the lead story on CBS Sunday Morning was about a small political movement in Oregon known as Move Oregon’s Border. The story profiled a few people who live in the rural portion of Oregon, east of the Cascade mountain range. Republicans, they feel their cultural values and political priorities are not recognized and represented in their home state. The Western side of the state, which is more urban and densely populated, and decidedly Democratic, consistently has greater representation at the state level. Rural population interests therefore are invariably outvoted.
The solution? Make the rural portions of Oregon part of Idaho. This would leave Oregon only one-third its current size, but with a still significant and homogeneous population. And it would increase both the size of Idaho and the homogeneity of its citizens. Nine counties in Oregon have already approved such a measure, and another two counties voted on it Tuesday.
The simplistic response to this dilemma is, “If you don’t like it here, move.” And the CBS story profiled a man who did exactly that. A libertarian, he uprooted his family from the suburbs of Eugene to Idaho. He acknowledged that it was painful to leave friends and colleagues behind, but he and his family feel welcomed among neighbors who share a common set of values and beliefs, and a government that represents their concerns
At the heart of this story is the idea of feeling disenfranchised. And it’s obvious that a large percentage of the population feels that way, both here in Michigan and around the country. Moreover, the percentage seems to be growing.
I intellectually understand the idea of voter disenfranchisement, although I don’t feel that I’ve ever experienced it. So I can appreciate why people who feel their values and priorities are consistently not represented by their elected officials would respond to politicians whose rhetoric resonates with them.
But I don’t believe for one second that Donald Trump, who incited and gave license to many of the extremist politicians who ran here and elsewhere around the county, cared about the disenfranchised at all. To him, they were simply rubes, suckers, marks, dupes, and losers, nothing more than political contributions and votes.
And I believe that the Trump-backed candidates who ran in this week’s elections have been playing and manipulating the disenfranchised in the very same way, as a means for power and personal gain. And that saddens me most of all, even though most of them lost here and in other states. For these politicians, the division, hatred, and havoc they have caused to our society and democracy just seem to be nothing more than collateral damage.
Alan Resnick is an industrial psychologist with over 40 years of professional experience. He and his wife are sheltering at home in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He is passing the time by cooking, exercising, catching up on friends’ recommendations of must-see TV and writing.