Detroit’s Democratic establishment can’t pretend to be surprised by the accusations that John Conyers abused and misused his congressional staffers. They’ve known about his crazy outbursts for years.
Nearly everyone has heard the rumors of Conyers’ erratic and volatile behavior. I’ve written about it myself more than once.
Reports that Conyers forced his staff to baby-sit his children and do ex-wife Monica Conyers’ college homework were publicly aired, and some of the complaints even made it to the House Ethics Committee, that ethical wasteland, a decade ago.
His congressional offices in both Detroit and Washington have been revolving doors, with numerous staffers fired or resigning because of haranguing by the Detroit Democrat.
Likewise, his increasing senility has been an open secret. Stories of him showing up for meetings in his pajamas are commonplace. In urging him not to run in 2014, I cited numerous incidents of his detachment from reality.
And yet his supporters looked the other way at election time, choosing to put their money and support behind returning him to an office he was no longer fit to hold. Fault lies with the Democratic congressional committee, his fellow Congress members who saw firsthand the condition he was in, and labor unions, most notably the UAW.
Four years ago the UAW sat down with Conyers and urged him not to run again. The union relented when Conyers vowed it would be his final term. When he reneged on the promise in 2016, the UAW shrugged and endorsed him, rather than lend his backing to a challenger.
Now it’s on those Democratic power brokers to end Conyers’ reign of office terror. Many are already pressuring him to resign.
I doubt he’ll do that. My bet is that Conyers will try to keep his seat in 2018, banking on his fast fading “civil rights icon” status to win over voters.
If he doesn’t step down, local Democrats have an obligation to put their muscle behind a strong challenger who can beat Conyers at the polls. It won’t do to have a flock of challengers. If Conyers is on the ballot with several other candidates in the Democratic primary, name recognition alone will land him the nomination.
What’s needed is a single candidate with a good name and a record of service who has the united support of all Democratic factions.
The establishment poohbahs who for so long ignored Conyers’ bad behavior have the responsibility to produce one.
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