Party chairman Reince Priebus delayed the Republican National Committee meeting so committee members could participate in the March for Life — in case there was anyone in America who doesn’t know that the GOP is anti-abortion rights.
But when the meetings get going after the march on Wednesday afternoon, the chairman will have to deal with a more pressing controversy. After months of mild condemnations for the bigoted comments of national committeeman Dave Agema, actual Republicans are calling on the former member of Michigan’s House of Representatives to resign from his prestigious party post.
The party has no means of recalling a member so it’s up to Priebus to call for Agema’s resignation or pass some sort of resolution condemning his continuing outbursts. And no one in America expects him or the party to do that.
Here are four reasons that the RNC should take a stand against this member at this year’s winter meeting — and one reason it won’t.
Photo: @DaveAgema via Twitter
In The Past, They’ve Encouraged Him
Last year, Agema shared a post from a known white supremacist that described gay people as ridden with “filthy” disease. After calls for his resignation, the RNC responded by unanimously passing his resolution reaffirming the party’s stand against same-sex marriage.
This year, after he said gay people only want health care because they’re dying young of AIDS, Republicans punished him by only giving him a partial standing ovation.
After the most recent uproar over his Facebook post endorsing Russia’s anti-gay laws, Agema remains defiant.
“While I was gone it seems the same people are feeding half-truths to the news within the GOP, stirring up divisiveness,” he wrote. “I stand on the same issues I always have — God, family and country.”
Image: Chad Selweski
Agema’s Comments Are Rebranding The Party — As Even More Intolerant
Agema’s recent controversial posts did not just focus on his favorite target– the LGBT community. He also took on Muslims in a post that asked, “Have you ever seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?” Strangely none of his Facebook friends posted a link to the new book by America’s first Muslim congressmember, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).
After this post, prominent Republicans began to call for Agema’s resignation. While Michigan doesn’t have a huge Muslim population, approximately 300,000 Arab-Americans live in the state. “Christian Arabs feel just as put-upon by Agema’s comments as Muslims do,” Corey Saylor, with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Detroit Free Press.
In addition to alienating a key swing vote in a year when Republicans think they may have a chance of picking up a Senate seat in the state, Agema points out that the GOP’s policies on gays and lesbians are Agema’s policies on gays and lesbians.
“Michigan Republicans don’t endorse discrimination, they just endorse Michigan laws that allow you to be fired because you’re gay, and endorse an unconstitutional federal law banning marriage equality, and support upholding the Michigan constitutional amendment banning marriage equality,” Joshua Pugh wrote last year, and none of those positions have changed.
Instead the party is still fighting to defend a ban on same-sex couples adopting.
Image: Chad Selweski
They Need To Send A Message To Primary Candidates
As the Republican primary in Oklahoma is already showing, Republican candidates get especially scary when they are trying to out-Republican each other.
If Republicans want to avoid the inane comments that cost them Senate seats in Indiana and Missouri last election, they should take a stand against Agema’s bigotry now.
“Agema isn’t simply voicing an opinion,” The Detroit Free Press’ Nancy Kaffer wrote. “He’s in a position to craft national policy — as in a resolution reiterating the Republican Party’s opposition to gay marriage, adopted last year by the Republican National Committee.”
Republican policies on same-sex marriage are sorely out of touch with the American public. So the least they could do is to try to distance themselves from the hatred that girds their position for many.
“Michigan party officials say they’re powerless to remove Agema,” Kaffer added. “But at the very least, it seems the RNC could amend its laws to enable effective removal of folks who have proved embarrassing. They just haven’t.”
Agema Could Start Costing The Party Money
Former Michigan Republican Party chair Betsy DeVos made several calls to Agema asking him to step down from the Republican National Committee. When he didn’t respond, she reached out to Reince Priebus with a less-than-subtle message: I may cut my donations.
DeVos’ family has its own history of intolerance but it also has a history of donating lots of money to right-wing causes. For them, Agema may dull the effect of their donations and diminish the return on their investments.
Republican governor Rick Snyder — who signed a state ban on a recognition of domestic partners — took a subtle swipe at Agema but has not called for his resignation. U.S. Senate candidate — and fellow RNC member — Terri Lynn Land hasn’t even gone as far as Synder.
But DeVos going public may have spurred a tipping point. Right-leaning newspaper The Detroit News published an editorial on Tueday insisting that the RNC should “dump” Agema.
“I don’t know what the formalities are, but I would like to be part of a formal ‘we want you to step down’ process versus just a resignation,” Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) said this week.
Photo: Keith A. Almli via Wikimedia Commons
They May Turn Agema Into A Folk Hero
Here’s why the GOP isn’t likely to do anything to formally condemn Agema, and it isn’t just because they actually agree with him on policy.
So far the Agema controversy is just news in Michigan and on blogs that track the terrible things Republicans say.
But he is a hero to some Tea Partiers in Michigan and being forced out of the party’s hierarchy could end up only making him more popular with the base.
Instead of being a marginalized clown, Agema could grow out his beard and become a reality star. And the lower a profile Agema has, the better for the GOP.
AFP Photo/Dimitrios Kambouris