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Dave Agema, one of Michigan’s two delegates to the Republican National Committee, says he will not resign despite a virtual who’s who of Republican leaders demanding his resignation last week. Agema has been in the headlines for months for his antigay and anti-muslim posts on his personal Facebook page.
As party leaders were meeting in Washington D.C. last week, the chorus of voices calling for his resignation grew larger and more diverse. By Friday, the list included Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, and most of Michigan’s Republican Congressional delegation. Agema remained silent, and sent a proxy representative in his place to the meeting in D.C. His proxy was former GOP National Committeeman from Michigan Chuck Yob, who himself was the center of significant pressure for comments he made in 2002 saying women were particularly well suited to the Secretary of State post because “they like that kind of work.”
But Jan. 24, National GOP Chair Reince Priebus and Michigan GOP Chair Bobby Schostak issued a joint statement, calling on Agema to step down. Agema responded with a press release on his personal website. While Agema apologized for his anti-muslim posting, he did not apologize for his posts about the LGBT community. He said he would not resign his post from the national GOP.
At a Jan. 27 fundraiser in west Michigan, attended by about 50 supporters – including Tea Party leaders and potential GOP Lt. Governor candidates Wes Nagakiri and Todd Courser, according to the Detroit News – Agema slammed critics as trying to silence him, and by extension, conservative voices in America.
“This is going on through the United States. You’ve got a small minority of people who are basically shutting down freedom of speech because they speak the loudest, they holler the loudest,” Agema told MLive following his fundraising breakfast. “The easiest thing for me to do is just say, ‘I don’t need the hassle,’ because it doesn’t pay a dime. But all the support I have says, ‘Don’t give up, Dave. We put you in there for a reason. You’re supporting the grassroots and we want that voice heard at the RNC.'”
Agema accused his critics of standing up to him because influential donors were threatening “to remove money” from the political coffers.
He was likely referring to Michigan GOP gatekeeper Betsy DeVos, who Jan. 19 had called on Agema to resign his post. DeVos and her family have a legacy of donating to Republican causes and parties – statewide and nationally. A Mother Jones story reports that the DeVos family has invested at least $200 million in GOP led causes since 1970. Among those groups funded by the family are; think tanks, advocacy groups, media outlets, political campaigns and parties. The family has funded school choice voucher campaigns in Michigan, underwrote the drive for right to work in Michigan, and donated $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage.
Although Republican leaders are now expressing embarrassment over Agema’s diatribes, his record on minority and LGBT issues were well known and documented before he was appointed to represent Michigan at the national level.
In March, Agema posted a link on his page calling homosexuals “filthy,” and alleging “homosexuals account for half of the murders in large cities.” MLive columnist Ken Braun was able to track the essay Agema posted to his Facebook to an admitted racists, and member of the KKK.
Last month, Agema posted a story about Russia’s draconian prohibition of gay propaganda, calling the law “common sense.” This despite reports that neo-nationalist racist groups have been using the law as cover to assault and disrupt gay rights rallies, and are using social networking sites in the country to lure young gay men to meetings where they are beaten, assaulted and humiliated – and videos of the attacks are posted to the internet.
Recently Agema released a video in which he lectures the viewers about the First Amendment. He points to the Duck Dynasty controversy in December, claiming the long-haired patriarch of the popular A&E reality show Duck Dynasty – Phil Robertson – was “fired” from his post in the reality show for sharing his belief in “the Biblical definition of marriage.” Agema claims that pressure on the cable channel resulted in them reversing their decision, and a defeat for activists he accuses of trying to silence opponents.
A&E has reported significant decreases in viewers of the show in the first two weeks of the airing of new episodes this year.
But Agema’s First Amendment essay argues that if he is unable to speak out in support of such ridiculous violence and vitriol, he is losing his precious Constitutional rights.
Boiling behind the scenes in this whole situation is a much larger question about who will own and run the GOP. Tea Party activists, who once stood for challenging government spending, have shifted their tactic to addressing social issues. And Agema’s support is coming from those activists. Agema says he will stay in the party leadership through 2016, and claims his presence is drawing new members to the party. He says he will help the party make gains in 2014 and lay the groundwork towards taking over the White House in 2016.
Meanwhile traditional fiscal conservatives in the party are gearing up for the 2014 election season. With DeVos’ condemnation of Agema, the doors were opened for more timid politicos to step up and condemn Agema’s rhetoric because the money voices of the party were backing them.