It’s the Monday after the state party conventions, which means we’ve reached that quadrennial moment when political hypocrisy shines most brightly on the campaign stage.
After savaging each other for months throughout the primary election season, leading candidates, Democrats and Republicans, turned on a dime and declared that their political foes are actually a great group of people.
Just days before losing in the Aug. 7 primary, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed called opponent Gretchen Whitmer, the eventual winner of the race, a “money launderer” – essentially a felon. Though he backpedaled a bit, that rhetoric matched El-Sayed’s campaign remarks portraying Whitmer as a corporate shill and criticizing the Democratic Party establishment as a liability to the progressive agenda. Some of his ultraliberal supporters vowed to never vote for Whitmer in the general election.
Today, in a show of unity, El-Sayed will appear at a Democratic Party rally in Detroit alongside Whitmer to no doubt praise her as a fantastic nominee who deserves the whole-hearted support of his primary voters.
After the wrap-up of the Republican convention, the GOP faced the awkward attempt to brush aside the bitter mudslinging campaign for attorney general waged between House Speaker Tom Leonard and state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker.
After convention delegates awarded him the AG nomination, Leonard stepped forward, in typical fashion, and congratulated Schuitmaker for the fight she waged during the campaign and said that the senator will serve as an “incredible partner” in his upcoming fall campaign for AG. That’s a message he will repeat often over the next few days as the Republican nominees engage in a statewide bus tour claiming GOP unity in a party that is far from a bonding experience.
Across the state, voters roll their eyes as they witness these phony rituals.
One of the rare, honest outliers from these charades was Gov. Rick Snyder, who declined to attend the GOP convention in Lansing. The term-limited governor has pointedly avoided an endorsement of the Republican nominee to replace him, Attorney General Bill Schuette. Snyder recorded a video for the celebratory occasion, which was played for the delegates, but the outgoing incumbent’s message never mentioned Schuette by name.
The two have been at odds for some time as Snyder’s modest, moderate ways clash with the blustery Schuette, who has appeared especially bombastic in his criminal pursuit of Snyder administration officials for their alleged role in the Flint water crisis.
Just prior to the weekend convention, former Snyder communications director Bill Nowling said: “This animus between the governor and the attorney general is pretty pitched right now. The fissures will be pretty clear to everyone.”
Adding to the tension in the Republican camp was the extraordinary display of disdain when Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement’s name was placed into nomination and was greeted by boos and jeers from a portion of the delegates.
Clement has drawn the ire of some conservatives for her support of Supreme Court decisions blocking guns in schools and the high court’s ruling to place the high-profile anti-gerrymandering proposal on the November ballot.
The animosity created such a stir that Clement was not seen on the convention floor in the moments leading up to the vote on Supreme Court nominees. In addition, she and her fellow court justice and GOP nominee Kurtis Wilder did not address the convention or appear at a post-convention press conference.
To be clear, the anti-Clement sentiment is driven by some outrageous, highly misleading GOP propaganda aimed at defeating the ballot proposal. On Saturday, flyers were distributed and an animated video was played for the crowd that tried to portray the proposal as an “Obama gerrymander” that was a plot to favor liberal Democrats.
In fact, Obama is not associated with the plan, the intent is to end gerrymandering of legislative districts, and the lines would be drawn by an independent commission consisting of four Republicans, four Democrats and five independents. The video also falsely claimed that the proposition, known as Voters Not Politicians, would impact elections for governor and Supreme Court.
So, voters may be pondering which is worse. Is it worse to have politicians ripping each other to shreds, then suddenly claiming that they’re best buddies? Or is it worse to have a politician forced to hide from an angry mob that is driven by phony messages designed to mislead the public?