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The Michigan GOP Gay Conundrum

By |2014-01-20T09:00:00-05:00January 20th, 2014|Michigan, News|

Dave Agema’s Facebook post Jan. 7 supporting Russia’s anti-gay law. On Jan. 9 Agema used his Facebook page to attack Muslims. Longtime Michigan GOP donors like Betsy DeVos called for Agema to step down due to his extreme views.

LANSING – GOP National Committeeman Dave Agema, the former state representative who loves to post vile slanders against the LGBT community and Muslims on his Facebook page, is the center of controversy again.
But this time the controversy has produced two very different responses from leading voices in the Michigan and national Republican parties. Here in Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder was praised for what many saw as a public rebuke of Agema during his State of the State speech Jan. 16.
“In recent days and recent months in the state of Michigan, we’ve had people make comments that were derogatory, that were negative towards other people,” Snyder said. “Publicly tonight, I’d like to make a call to all citizens of Michigan to ask us have a greater degree of civility and respect to others of different backgrounds and different views.”
Snyder’s spokesperson, Sara Wurfel, told the Detroit News that evening that the comment was directed at Agema and others who exhibit “discriminatory behavior and talk.”
Even as conservatives were applauding Snyder for this move – including Kathy Hoekstra at the Detroit News – as an act of leadership, Snyder himself was distancing himself in an interview with Chad Selweski at Macomb Politics Politically Speaking. “This is the State of the Union address so I’m not going to aim my comments at one individual,” Snyder said.
Then on Sunday, Nolan Finley at the Detroit News ran a piece in which he interviewed former GOP Michigan Chair Betsy Devos. In that interview, DeVos slammed Agema and demanded he resign from his post as GOP National Committeeman.
Finney reports DeVos says she has withdrawn from partisan politics because of the move to the extreme right. Here’s what he wrote:
“DeVos is convinced a majority of Republicans feel as she does about the pull to the extremes on issues such as gay rights. But that tiny faction is gaining disproportionate influence.
“There is a fear, untested and unfounded, that standing up to a small minority in the party will have a tremendous backlash,” she says. “Instead, I believe they are going to continue to drive more and more people away from our party and our viewpoints.'”
That declaration mirrors an announcement last week by Jimmy LaSalvia. LaSalvia was the former executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans and co-founder of the right wing gay rights group GOProud. He announced he was leaving the party in part because of its “tolerance of bigotry.”
Devos and her family have deep pockets that have funded the Michigan and national GOP for years. She’s married to Dick DeVos, the former Republican candidate for governor. A family foundation donated $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage which has spurred LGBT activist Fred Karger to run a boycott of both Amway – which the DeVos family co-created – and the Orlando Magic which is currently owned by a DeVos family member.
The question becomes:
Why is there such a distance between Snyder’s weak response to Agema’s bigotry and DeVos’ hardline comments?
The answer may lie in a pitch battle for the Lt. Gov’s post for the upcoming gubernatorial election. Snyder is widely seen as safe in his seat, but current Lt. Gov. Brian Calley has become the scapegoat for Snyder’s support of issues anathema to the hardline right wing of the Tea Party in Michigan. Calley has also enraged conservative activists over plans to expand Medicaid as part of implementing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
As a result of this, Tea Party activists have launched a drive to replace Calley on the November ballot with someone they trust as being conservative. Tea party activist Wes Nakagiri has already launched a campaign to replace Calley on the ballot. Conservative Tea Party darling Todd Courser is also considering a bid to replace Calley, and sent out a survey last week seeking information on whether conservative activists would support his move on the Lt. Gov. slot over Nakagiri and Calley.
At the end of the day, DevVos is not beholden to the Tea Party activists and so has the freedom to call out Agema – who has a huge Tea Party and conservative following – while Snyder has to be more circumspect or see a more concerted move to out flank him on the right.

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