Opinion: Abrams contradicted bipartisan spirit of Mackinac

Dennis Lennox

Mackinac Island

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual confab here on this idyllic island in the Straits of Mackinac has long attracted politicos from both sides of the aisle.

In this Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams speaks to supporters in Atlanta.

In fact, the Mackinac Policy Conference is one of the few times in the calendar year when Michigan’s leading Democrats and Republicans not only partake in but also headline the same event. This bipartisan atmosphere, which many hoped was renewed after legislators from both parties recently came together to reform the state’s no-fault insurance law, was overshadowed not by their partisanship but instead by the speakers selected by organizers.

Among the headliners was Stacey Abrams, the failed 2018 Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia.

Known by many for delivering her party’s response to the State of Union address by President Donald Trump, she is also a sore loser. To this day, she refuses to concede her loss. Instead, Abrams and her backers on the left have sought to portray her as the rightful governor, which is as absurd as it is outrageous.

Just days before coming to the island Abrams was in Texas, where she kept up her divisive and disgraceful rhetoric, blaming “voter suppression that is unparalleled in America” for her defeat. “We won,” she told attendees at ritzy fundraiser in Houston. “I am not delusional. I know I am not the governor of Georgia — possibly yet.”

Many Republicans have long accused the Detroit Regional Chamber of being too close for comfort to Democrats. Despite its commitment to making Detroit and, by extension, Michigan a destination for innovators, entrepreneurs and job creators, many of the policies it advocates are based not in free market capitalism but instead in the creed of the left: Higher taxes, more spending and bigger government.

Take its support of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 45-cent gas tax increase. If this plan is what Michigan needs to “fix the damn roads,” as the freshman Democratic governor likes to say, then why has no member of her party introduced it in the Legislature? But regardless, the chamber liking Democrats or even backing Democrat policies isn’t objectionable.

What is, however, absurd — and highly objectionable — is giving Abrams a platform.

Her speaking on the island completely contradicted the tone and messaging of this year’s conference. It pushed Republicans, who were already uneasy with the appearances by Never Trump has-beens Jeb Bush and John Kasich, into their corner.

As the 2020 presidential election gets closer it will only be harder for the two parties to set aside ideology and party politics in the name of compromise, which many claim is necessity with Democrats controlling the executive branch and Republicans controlling both houses of the Legislature. Yet the chamber only threw a wrench into things by bringing Abrams to the island.

It could have found someone else to proselytize the left’s creed.

Republicans are right to leave Mackinac disgusted not just at Abrams but in a conference that seemed to deny, if not reject, the political reality facing not just Michigan but the country has a whole.

Dennis Lennox is a political commentator and public affairs consultant.