Those who believe Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema a detriment to the GOP may have recourse to boot him from the party for recent bigoted remarks. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)
Mainstream Michigan Republicans are taking aggressive steps to wrest their party from the extremists who would turn it into a narrow club of narrow thinkers.
Veteran GOP activists met this week to craft rule changes that would allow the state GOP to strip Dave Agema, the controversial Republican National Committeeman from Michigan, of his post.
Agema is under fire for serial anti-gay, anti-Muslim remarks. Betsy DeVos, a major Republican donor and leader, called for Agema to resign two weeks ago, a demand that has since been matched by most of Michigan’s GOP leadership.
Agema has refused to step down. Current party rules allow for his removal only if he commits a felony or fails to support the Republican presidential nominee. The new rules that will be proposed next month at the party’s meeting would allow a committee member to be booted if he becomes a detriment to the party’s success.
That would describe Agema. The vote on the rule change, and the subsequent decision on whether to bounce Agema, will be milestones in deciding the future of the state GOP.
It’s just the beginning of the push-back against GOP fringe groups that have gained influence beyond their numbers over the state and national parties.
Another group of Michigan Republicans this week formed a political action committee, called Advance Michigan, to block far-right candidates from winning primary elections.
“We can sit on the sidelines or we can get involved and help get the right people nominated,” says Paul Welday, a GOP strategist from Oakland County. “Our mission is to promote common sense conservatism.”
Welday says the fundraising committee grew out of frustration that the party has allowed its fringes to control primary elections, nominating candidates with little chance of winning general elections and have a great likelihood of embarrassing the party if they do win.
“We’ve seen time and again Republicans nominating the wrong candidates for seats we should win, but we lose,” he says. “We can be our own worst enemy.”
The PAC will engage in roughly a dozen primaries this fall, Welday says, and is focused on congressional and state House races.
“This will be a broad-based movement to help advance conservative principles,” he says. “The extremists have failed miserably both as conservatives and as Republicans because they hurt the party and the movement every time they open their mouths.”
Some of the state’s largest Republican donors are backing the PAC, Welday says, though he wouldn’t disclose names.
DeVos cracked the cone of silence in the Republican Party when she spoke out forcefully against Agema. After years of allowing its divisive elements to shout them down, the party’s true conservatives are finding their voice. They hope to use it to re-establish the GOP as the party of good government and sound economics, and not of bigotry.
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