What are we to make of State Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton)?
To say she has promoted transphobic legislation is a fact. To say she has been an ardent opponent of LGBTQ+ rights is a fact.
And to that list we can now add that she is willing and able to compare her political opponents to child molesters in the name of raising money for a tough re-election fight.
This latest low began last week when she gave an invocation to a Senate session in which she said children are “under attack” from “forces that desire things for them other than what their parents would have them see and hear and know.”
That prompted three Democratic senators to walk out of the session in protest: Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) and Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills).
McMorrow later tweeted; “Without sharing or repeating closed-minded harmful words from a sitting Senator under the guise of a ‘prayer,’ to every child in Michigan – you are perfect and welcome and loved for being exactly who you are.”
In response to that plea for tolerance, Sen. Theis decided to double down on the rhetoric with a fundraising email freely advancing a point of view in line with the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.
“These are the people we are up against,” the email says. “Progressive social media trolls like Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Snowflake) who are outraged they can’t … groom and sexualize kindergarteners or that 8-year-olds are responsible for slavery.”
The ridiculousness of the language makes it almost laughable.
However, someone who was most definitely not laughing was Sen. McMorrow, who on Tuesday took to the Senate dais to wonder why Theis had accused her by name of grooming and sexualizing children.
“Then I realized,” stated McMorrow, “I’m the biggest threat to your hollow, hateful scheme. Because you can’t claim that you’re targeting marginalized kids in the name of ‘parental rights’ if another parent is standing up and saying no.”
McMorrow then went on to say that her mother taught her at a young age that, “Christianity and faith was about being a part of a community” and that “service was far more important than performative nonsense like being seen in the same pew every Sunday or writing ‘Christian’ in your Twitter bio and using it as a shield to target and marginalize already-marginalized people.”
She concluded by saying “hate will only win if people like me stand by and let it happen,” and that Theis could call her whatever she wanted, but “I know who I am. I know what faith and service means, and what it calls for in this moment. We will not let hate win.”
McMorrow knew in that moment that the only way to respond to hateful bullies like Theis is to look them square in the eye and call them out for what they are.
But here’s the real kicker: Do I think Lana Theis is losing any sleep worrying about trans athletes or LGBTQ+ rights?
I do not. This is now politics as usual in the GOP.
Theis is facing a primary challenge this year from Mike Detmer of Howell, someone who runs to the right of Genghis Khan. Detmer has been highly critical of Theis for accepting the results of a Senate Oversight report last year that found no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
That’s an unpardonable sin in the GOP, which continues to push the lie that Donald Trump won the election. In February, Detmer told supporters they should “be prepared to lock and load” at the polls, which brought condemnation for promoting violence, although none from Republican leaders.
Sen. Theis, with her homophobic, transphobic, bigoted accusations, is also promoting violence.
As Judy Daubenmier, chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party, said, Theis’ comments are “rhetoric designed to encourage political violence” by using “language that accuses your political opponents of actions so vile that it makes them unworthy of even existing so eliminating them is justified.”
But just like with Detmer, no Republican leader has dared to condemn the remarks, including Meghan Reckling, head of the Livingston County Republican Party.
Fun fact: Reckling is also Sen. Theis’ Chief of Staff.
Joseph Welch said it best in 1954 while speaking to Wisconsin Sen. Eugene McCarthy, another politician unflinching in their willingness to place ambition above all else.
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness,” said Welch.
“You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”
While Welch asked that question earnestly, I ask it rhetorically of Sen. Theis. Because I think we know the answer.