In a profile of Congressman Paul Mitchell published today, the Washington Examiner presents the Lapeer County Republican as “Mr. Macomb County.”
This portrait of the not-well-known wealthy congressman would stun longtime observers of the politics in this nationally recognized bellwether county.
After all, the freshman lawmaker from the 10th District has represented a portion of Macomb for little more than nine months. And he has never lived there.
Yet, the Examiner chose to portray Mitchell as the guy who truly understands the Macomb County political culture, “an apt representative for Macomb’s working-class residents.”
Trump and Mitchell, the newspaper wrote, appealed to voters there because they’re “straight-talking businessmen” who emphasized jobs, trade and taxes during the 2016 campaign.
The Democrats have lost touch with Macomb County values, Mitchell said. “I guess the best way to view it is elitist East Coast, West Coast values don’t sell in Macomb County.”
That’s a GOP talking point expressed by 2016 Republican candidates nationwide, not a Macomb-centric mantra. Macomb County residents don’t wake up every morning wondering if the Hollywood elites have taken away their job.
A more suitable observation would be that Grosse Pointe and West Bloomfield values and culture don’t play in Macomb.
The Examiner describes Mitchell as a former corporate CEO but they also depict how he grew up in a poor family of seven kids. He then raised a family of six kids.
But there’s no mention that “Mr. Macomb County,” as he is identified on the Examiner website, is a multi-millionaire who moved into the 10th District in the summer of 2015 – to neighboring Lapeer County – to run for Congress. That change of address came after he lost a congressional race in 2014 on his home turf, in mid-Michigan, and briefly held several political jobs outside of Macomb County.
To his credit, Mitchell learned the lay of the land during the 2016 congressional campaign, attending numerous festivals and community events across the 10th District, a Deep Red territory which stretches from northern Sterling Heights to the tip of the Thumb Area.
Interviewed at a pub in north Macomb’s Washington Township, Mitchell told an Examiner reporter that Democrats engage in too much identity politics, with an emphasis on race and gender.
Instead of focusing on racial grievance, more lawmakers should concentrate on the battle between the “haves and the have-nots,” he said. “I’d say the people that get up every day and go to work here in Macomb County, they’re tired of hearing how they owe everybody else something because they have to go to work every day. Flat out, it’s like…first and foremost I’m just responsible for taking care of my family,” he said of most residents’ way of thinking.
The Examiner profile of Mitchell comes just days after Zack Stanton, who grew up in Macomb County, wrote a piece for Politico that smartly describes the county and its electorate.
Stanton notes that Macomb is essentially divided in half, with the area north of Hall Road consisting mostly of upscale subdivisions and small towns, and the area to the south made up of mostly gritty, blue-collar neighborhoods.
Mitchell represents the half where few blue-collar workers live.
Here’s how Stanton describes the essence of Macomb:
What ties both halves together is a sense of something once possessed and now lost, though what that something is depends on where you stand. For a certain generation of white suburbanites, it means the loss of the idealized Detroit of their youth — or maybe one they never even knew, but which has been passed down through the oral tradition by their family elders. For others, it means the lost sense of economic security that used to come with being a white suburbanite with a high-school diploma — there’s no longer the assurance that you can work for the same auto manufacturer for decades; you can’t afford a boat or the little place up north like your parents had; and you can’t even assume that the Big Three automakers are financially sound. And, for at least a segment of Macomb, economic anxiety … is inextricably tied in with racial animosity.