The tussle between Michigan Republicans over the re-nomination of Lt. Gov. Brian Calley may be getting the headlines, but it is little more than a proxy war for control of the GOP.

Calley finds himself in an unprecedented offensive position heading into the Republican State Convention this Saturday in Novi, when no more than 2,000 Michiganians will decide something that has always been little more than a pro forma vote as the gubernatorial nominee of both major parties has usually picked their running mate since the adoption of the present state constitution. (Before 1963, the lieutenant governor was elected on a separate ballot line, which on occasion resulted in the occupants of the state’s two great offices being from opposing parties.)

The opposition to Calley’s re-nomination isn’t really about the affable, mainstream conservative who served two terms in the lower house of the Legislature from Ionia County.

Rather, it’s an attempt by a vocal minority of extremists, who seek to overthrow anyone with an established, credible position and instead install a junta atop the party apparatus.

This was evident at GOP county conventions a week ago, when the extremists took over some counties and presided over a reign of terror that is doing more to derail incumbent Gov. Rick Snyder’s candidacy than anything Democratic nominee Mark Schauer could ever do.

These extremists are what Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson rightly calls the “Taliban wing” of the GOP.

While the extremists attempt to portray themselves as principled conservatives fighting against what they claim to be Republicans-in-name-only (aka RINOs), the truth is they are the pretenders.

That isn’t to say everyone in the tea party is a conservative pretender.

Far from it, actually.

Unfortunately, the mothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers who filled parks and courthouse lawns four years ago were preyed upon by all sorts of hucksters and grifters, who declared themselves to be the tea party leaders.

They then aligned with extremists, themselves the descendants of the John Birch Society who were rightfully expelled from the conservative movement by Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley Jr. and Michigan’s own Russell Kirk when these three served as the political and intellectual leaders of conservatism.

That’s why political leaders and activists who were the tea party long before the tea party existed — Macomb County’s Leon Drolet comes to mind — have went to great lengths to distance themselves from the extremists, who have destroyed an otherwise powerful movement for average Americans with genuine concerns over the size and scope of government today.

The extremists have no raison d’être except to hunt RINOs, as if such a thing even exists today. They have no idea how to defeat Democrats. They have no ideas, period.

And they have no manifesto for governance.

Dennis Lennox is a columnist for The Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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