Michigan was in a sunny spotlight on Sunday – for good news, for a change – when trucks rolled out of the Pfizer plant near Kalamazoo, with people clapping and cheering, to deliver the first Covid-19 vaccinations across the U.S.
One day later, Michigan is in the national news for a more typical case of 2020 mayhem, with militia types threatening to disrupt today’s Electoral College vote at the state Capitol. Security precautions were taken by worried law enforcement teams. The Capitol Building was closed to all but those taking part in the electoral vote. Authorities said the shutdown was initiated because of credible security threats. One elector wore a bullet-proof vest as a precaution.
Worse yet, the state was further stained when it was learned that an elected official was planning to take part in the protest.
Republican state Rep. Gary Eisen announced on a Port Huron radio station this morning that he could foresee violence at the event as he and others would attempt to block the 16 electors who are set to cast Michigan’s votes for President-elect Joe Biden. An attempt to seat alternate, rogue electors for President Trump was apparently part of the plan, though Biden won the state in November by about 150,000 votes.
In the interview with WPHM radio, the St. Clair County legislator said he wouldn’t guarantee no one will get hurt at the Capitol because “what we’re doing today is uncharted.”
State House Speaker Lee Chatfield responded quickly by removing Eisen from his committee assignments for the rest of the year – about two weeks – but that was a punishment largely for show because the committees Eisen serves on are not expected to meet again before January.
The news of Eisen’s behavior resurrected past Facebook posts when the lawmaker seemed to threaten gun violence. Last year, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sought to pass a 45-cent gas tax, Eisen posted a photo of his pistol, saying the “only number I support with a 4 and a 5 in it” is his .45-caliber gun. In another Facebook post last July he posted a photo of magazines and ammunition from his gun collection to show he was prepared for Black Lives Matter protesters.
The national news media today has been quick to point out that the show of force planned by Eisen and his allies comes after a series of bizarre and scary rebellious events in the Great Lakes State: armed militiamen stormed the Capitol in the spring to denounce stay-at-home orders related to the Covid-19 pandemic; thirteen militiamen were charged in October with a plot to kidnap Whitmer and supposedly execute her; mayhem broke out at the TCF Center vote-counting site in Detroit the day after the election; a series of wacky GOP claims about election fraud made Michigan a laughing stock throughout the nation; and pro-Trump hooligans in the dark shouted threats and banged on the door of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s home as she and her 4-year-old son were hanging Christmas decorations.
As for Eisen, he seems to be a right-wing conservative who is obsessed with guns and liberal Democrats. In the fall campaign when he won re-election to a second 2-year term, five of his top 10 contributors were from the wealthy DeVos family, a mainstay in Michigan Republican politics. The larges contributor was Speaker Chatfield, whose Chatfield Majority Fund PAC gave Eisen $10,000.
Eisen, who lives in St. Clair Township, won re-election by an overwhelming 2-1 margin in November. He represents the 81st House District, a highly gerrymandered territory, which includes a selective section of most of St. Clair County, including Marysville, Marine City and Algonac.