The rocky road faced in politics by former congressman Paul Mitchell reached a new, strange plateau today as he was saluted by members of Michigan’s congressional delegation on the House floor after receiving a dire medical diagnosis of stage 4 cancer.
Mitchell received a prognosis out of the blue earlier this month that he faced a deadly form of renal cancer. After a surgery, he thanked his doctors at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital for saving his life. He said they had estimated the chances of surviving the surgery at about 10 percent.
“They give me a 50/50 chance of getting into remission,” Mitchell told The Detroit News. “But either way, I’m going to go down swinging.”
Mitchell, a Dryden Township Republican who represented northern Macomb County and the Thumb Area, announced in July 2019, just 2 ½ years after entering Congress, that he would not seek re-election. A traditional conservative Republican, he had soon morphed into an anti-Trump critic from across the GOP side of the aisle. While preparing to depart office last December, he renounced his association with the Republican Party and declared himself an independent.
So, it’s rather telling that the speaking time set aside on the House floor this afternoon to salute Mitchell and wish him well was largely initiated by Michigan Democrats. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a moderate Democat from Holly led the tribute, and Rep. Haley Stevens, a liberal Democrat from Rochester Hills, spoke out in support for Mitchell’s fight for survival.
GOP Rep. Tim Walberg of the Adrian area also joined in the well-wishing. But Republicans were largely hard to find for this homage.
Is this a classy move by Slotkin and Stevens? Or is it a cynical attempt by the two Democrats from wing districts to score some points with selective, suburban Republicans as they both face tough re-election races in 2022? After all, Mitchell, until recently, was not their brand of politician.
I would never wish ill will on any political figure, regardless of their ideology or history, but Mitchell clearly had a biography as a wealthy corporate exec in search of a place in Washington politics.
Yet, his evolving views – and his obvious disenchantment with Capitol Hill – became apparent during his brief stint in the House.
It appears that his Republican successor, Lisa McClain of Bruce Township, was a no-show for these accolades. And for obvious reasons.
In January, Mitchell denounced McClain after her first speech in Congress after she soft-pedaled the impact of the Capitol insurrection. On Facebook he said that McClain failed to acknowledge that then-President Trump was “inciting a riot — storming the Capitol. That is what he did — plain and simple.”
In response, many Facebook commentators quickly dismissed Mitchell as a fraud, a RINO (Republican In Name Only). After his June 7 announcement of his battle with cancer, few Republicans came forward on Facebook to offer their thoughts and prayers.
All of this is surely a statement on divisive politics in 2021.