As the election cycle begins to kick in, there is evidence that the old Dutch/Christian Reformed political connections are alive.
Of course, there is David LaGrand the Democratic Party candidate for the 29th State Senate. Calvin grad, deep roots in the CR, and a strong civic ethic — this has been the traditional template, although of course on the Republican side.
The more interesting has been the emergence of CR members to explore candidacies for State races in the city. Mid January, Lori Wiersma, former director for VIS announced her candidacy for the 29th State Senate. (VIS is a a diaconal ministry of the local Christian Reformed churches). And this Sunday, we read of exploratory thinking on the part of Bing Goei for the 75th State House seat. Now owner of Eastern Floral, Goei was for a number of years the head of Race Relations Commission for the Christian Reformed denomination. Like others before them, both Wiersma and Goei represent an urban brand of the Christian Reformed politician, socially conservative, but fundamentally pragmatic and by Republican terms, moderate.
So does their emergence indicate that the old coalition is again stirring?
Not likely. The long term demographics (e.g. the collapse consolidation of the Christian schools) suggests that the base has fundamentally shifted. That however, does not mean that the Wiersma and Goei candidacies are not interesting, not by a long shot.
The re-emergence of the old political pattern suggests a dis-satisfaction with the current state of Republican affairs, they are each filling a vacuum on the Right.
For Wiersma, it becomes obvious that the GOP needs somebody in the City who can run for the Senate seat. Her stepping up as a rank novice indicates that some segment (the Doyle camp?) finds a novice better than suburban professional politician such as Dave Hildenbrand, or the economic radicalism of a Justin Amash (another possibility). That Wiersma is clearly not of the cloth of political ambition similarly hints that she has been talking to those who are: she is their candidate. Her non-radicalism stakes out a position away from the ideologues, raising the question, “are adults finally entering the room?”
Looking at Goei, the answer may very well be yes.
In considering the 75th, we need to compare him to other candidate presently in the race: Jordan Bush. Bush is cut from a more ideological cloth, and certainly more “Republican.” By contrast, as a small businessman, Goei has been more of a friend of the Chamber, and more recently of Rick Snyder. Against the True Believer, Goei at least toys with the possibility of being a more “sensible” alternative; it is a position that implicitly critiques the hard right turn of the GOP in the Michigan Legislature and in national politics generally.
As political neophytes, both Goei and Wiersma suggest the weakness of the moderate wing in their party. They also indicate that this wing is far from dead, and more importantly, given the challenges facing our State, this wing is perhaps willing to engage in the issues before us. We can only hope.