Better late to the party than never.
While the storm over Barack the Magic Negro has raged for over a week, our own state senator stayed quiet until the last day of the year. So there is a sort of gratitude that Sen. Bill Hardiman and the local GOP finally spoke out. Indeed they had to, if their party is to have any relevance within Grand Rapids or Kentwood. Indeed, historically the issue of race has been far closer to the hearts of the Dutch members of the GOP.
The reticence to speak out, however, is rather interesting. In part, it no doubt owes to the ambiguous relationship the West Michigan party has had with its state chair, Saul Anuzis. He’s been out front on this in his race for the chair of the Republican National Committee, but his leadership in Michigan has been the source of grumbling here on the West side. After all, this was the heartland for the Huckabee insurgency, and it was Huckabee’s campaign manager who sent out the offending CD.
But talking with area Republicans, there’s a sense in which they are tone deaf to the issue itself. Barack... is considered mere humor –what’s the deal? The embracing of a perceived political incorrectness becomes a kind of self-testimony to their “maverick” nature, their willingness to buck the trends, and in a conservative way, to “speak truth to (cultural) power.” The self-affirmation blinds them to the racial sub-text of their opinion.
Yet this reticence of conservatives in West Michigan cannot be simply chalked up to the whacky doings of the cultural warriors. On both national and state issues, the local party leadership has been noticeably low key. At a time when West Michigan is increasing in prominence in the state, and showing real romise on the economic front, the nominal political leadership remains silent.
In the auto bailout battle last month, who spoke up for the auto makers? It was not the local party, nor the office of our Congressman Vern Ehlers. Instead City Commissioner David LaGrand picked up the charge, and that out of his own pocket. While other GOP leaders spoke out, the locals, including governor wannabe Terri Land said nothing.
Again, this odd reticence.
And in Lansing, the region is largely served by back benchers–reliable supporters but hardly champions of the area or its possibilities. This disease of back-bencherism may be the explanation. A generation of partisan warring has created a mentality that privileges team loyalty over governing or community leadership. So instead we get a hesitation, a caution, a reticence. The failure to speak out and the resulting ceding of voice to extreme elements in the conservative coalition will only lead them further away into the political wilderness.