The Michigan Democratic Party is being consumed by an appalling and rapidly expanding culture of sexual violence, violence against women, and corruption that have found Chairman Brandon Dillon and the party’s leading gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer paralyzed by inaction.
Since Dillon’s election as chairman in 2015, members of his party have been investigated, sued, charged, convicted, imprisoned and forced to resign. Their behavior has been shocking, violent, misogynistic and criminal. We’ve gone well beyond the need to hold a single politician accountable. Instead, we’ve witnessed over the last two years a complete unraveling of the moral fiber of a once-great political party, and a shocking inability by that party’s chairman and leading gubernatorial candidate to do anything about it.
Whitmer and Dillon have refused to stand up for a single victim, to demand a single resignation, or to address the festering culture of corruption and sexual violence that have become the calling card of the party on their watch. Their refusal to clean house has created a public safety problem for the rest of the state, and enough is enough. If Whitmer and Dillon won’t fix these problems, Democrats must find leaders who will — and do it urgently.
Just look at what’s happened with Dillon at the helm and Whitmer angling for the governor’s mansion.
Democratic state Sen. Virgil Smith was arrested for allegedly beating his ex-wife, chasing her down a public street with a semi-automatic rifle, then riddling her automobile with bullets as she fled in terror. Smith accepted a plea bargain, spent time in prison, and resigned in disgrace.
Whitmer and Dillon refused to stand up for Smith’s victim, call for Smith’s resignation, or otherwise address Smith’s disgusting assault. Since leaving prison, and without anyone in his party holding him to account, Smith has mounted a bid to run for the Detroit City Council.
Democratic state Rep. Brian Banks was forced to settle a lawsuit brought by a former state employee who accused Banks of repeatedly sexually harassing him, then molesting him. Whitmer and Dillon never once publicly defended Banks’ victim or addressed the molestation or lawsuit. Instead, Dillon wrote Banks a campaign check.
Banks resigned in disgrace as part of a plea bargain after being charged with four additional felonies related to alleged bank fraud. Now out of jail, Banks has launched a political action committee to prepare for his next run for public office.
Sitting Democratic state Sen. Bert Johnson has been arraigned on a federal felony charge stemming from the alleged theft of $23,000 taxpayer dollars through the use of a “ghost” or “no-show” employee. Johnson faces years in federal prison if convicted, and also stands accused of serious campaign finance violations. Just last week his lawyers asked the judge to delay his trial in a transparent move to ease pressure on Johnson from good-government advocates to resign. Whitmer and Dillon haven’t been among them.
Dillon has enabled a culture of sexual violence, fraud and corruption to fester for years at the Michigan Democratic Party. Whitmer, who hopes to be the party’s next leader, has done nothing but stand by and watch it happen.
If the party’s chairman and top-of-the-ticket standard bearer are unwilling or unable to demand accountability from men who abuse women, prey sexually on their subordinates, rob their constituents, or disparage women and minorities, then it’s time for Democratic voters to find men and women who will. No wonder Geoffrey Fieger is suddenly weighing a run for the party’s nomination.
Greg McNeilly is chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund.