Brian Banks stood before a judge last week and read a letter resigning from the Michigan House of Representatives. The move was part of a plea bargain that allowed the serial felon to avoid three new charges — charges serious enough to possibly send Banks to prison for the rest of his life, if convicted.
That it took the very real prospect of a life in lock-up to drive Banks from the legislature, though, says more about the state of the Michigan Democratic Party than it does about the disgraced former lawmaker.
In fact, Banks’s story is only one chapter in a shocking partisan hardening that’s occurred in the Michigan Democratic Party over the last few years — a hard leftward drift that threatens to keep the party in the electoral wilderness for years to come.
Last November, voters overwhelmingly rejected Democrats’ vision for the nation, maintaining Republican’s control of Congress and sending Donald Trump to the White House with an overwhelming Electoral College majority. Democrats’ “blue wall” in the Midwest crumbled, as Republicans claimed states they hadn’t captured in decades, including Michigan.
It was a definitive refutation of Democrats’ radical progressive agenda. How have they responded in the months since? Instead of meeting blue collar voters in the middle, they’ve run further and faster to the extreme left wing of their party.
The Michigan Democratic Party’s embrace of extremists spells real trouble for the future of civil discourse — and for the dwindling number of Democratic centrists who find themselves being continually marginalized inside their own party.
An eight-time convicted felon before he stepped foot in the legislature, Banks was soon accused of sexually harassing a state employee. The accusations were so serious, Banks was forced last year to settle a nearly $100,000 lawsuit with the former staffer who accused Banks of demanding sexual favors, then firing him when he refused.
Instead of defending his victims, denouncing his behavior, and demanding better for his constituents, legislative Democrats from Sen. Curtis Hertel to the current House Democratic Leader, Sam Singh, stuffed his campaign coffers. Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon even wrote Banks a campaign check during his sexual harassment scandal.
Shockingly, Banks’ courtroom resignation wasn’t the first in recent months from a Democratic state lawmaker. Former state Sen. Virgil Smith resigned on his way to serving time for pummeling his ex-wife with his fists then destroying her car with a rifle, riddling it with bullets as she fled for her life.
Dillon and Smith’s colleagues in the Senate patently refused to hold him accountable or to demand he step aside for the good of his victim, his district, or his party.
Then there’s the Democratic mayor of Warren, Jim Fouts. The state’s most prominent Bernie Sanders surrogate has been caught repeatedly on tape attacking women, minorities, the elderly, and residents with special needs with some of the most disgusting, inhuman, and racially charged language imaginable.
Dillon continues to offer Fouts safe harbor. He’s denounced the language, but implies, bizarrely, that we don’t know for sure if it’s really Fouts on the tape. Give us a break.
Of course, there’s another part to this story. Several years ago, another Democratic lawmaker from Detroit, former state Rep. Harvey Santana, expressed a willingness to work with Republicans in the House on common sense, middle of the road issues.
Because of his decision to embrace some small modicum of bipartisanship, his Democratic colleagues expelled him from the House Democratic caucus.
Unfortunately for mainstream Democratic voters, their elected and party leaders held a convention last weekend and continued their dead sprint to the fringe left.
It’s a shift their own activists will have to reject if they hope to regularly win elections anytime soon, especially in states like Michigan.
Greg McNeilly is chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund.