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Coalmine canaries are long dead for Michigan GOP leadership

There is a scene in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” when a miner in Bolivia looks at his new hires with disdain. “Morons,” he says. “I’ve got morons on my team.”

He would be right at home with what passes for leadership in today’s state Republican Party. The ineptness is so obvious and widespread that one insider sets a new standard for understatement when he says the top of his party has “limited skill sets.”

How limited? Let me count the ways. Actually, I don’t have time or space to count all of the ways, but it’s easy to provide a number of examples.

Let’s start with Kristina Karamo, the seemingly unhinged state party chair who, while eschewing transparency, is publicly running the party into the ground, financially and otherwise.

Karamo gained notoriety by convincing fellow election-fraud conspiracy theorists at the state party convention to nominate her for secretary of state in 2022. She then got clobbered in the November election, garnering just under 42 percent of the vote. For perspective, a dead mackerel running as a Republican could expect to win 40 percent of the vote.

An election-denier, she failed to concede defeat even though she lost by more than 600,000 votes. She’s also among those sanctioned by a Wayne County judge with $58,000 in fines for filing a baseless lawsuit alleging fraud in the 2020 election.

Despite such ineptitude, she was elected as the state party’s new chair, defeating a fellow conspiracy spreader who also was clobbered in his hapless run to be state attorney general.

Her short tenure in the position has been a train wreck. Fund-raising has dried up despite the fact that there is a rare open U.S. Senate race in Michigan, providing in theory a chance for Republicans to flip a critical seat long held by Democrats. No serious GOP candidate has surfaced yet and when he or she does, the campaign likely will proceed without meaningful support from the fractured state party.

Not a big deal, since another chance will open up in 25 years or so.

Instead of doing its job, the Republican leadership requires fealty to the discredited election fraud theory. A Karamo predecessor, Michigan Republican Party Co-Chairwoman Meshawn Maddock, was up to her collarbones in a mendacious attempt to present false electors to Congress in the wake of Joe Biden’s 154,000-vote statewide victory over Donald Trump in 2020.

Others linked to the scheme include Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden and the party’s grassroots vice-chairwoman, Marian Sheridan.

To be clear, here you have the state Republican Party in a fit because they think they have found one or two questionable ballots, while the party leadership is trying to nullify the legal votes of millions of Michigan residents.

Are these just outliers? Hardly. Republicans owned the state House for much of the last two decades. During that time, their choices as the best leadership they had to offer was to select House Speakers who mostly – there were a couple of exceptions — have rather questionable habits. Or, shall we say, “limited skill sets?”

Among recent Republican House speakers, there is a guy who was arrested for drunk driving and then, a short time later, had police come to his house because he was intoxicated and holding a gun with his children present; there was a guy investigated for sexually assaulting a teenager, and who also got caught trying to take a loaded gun onto an airplane; there was a guy who pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges; there was a guy who orchestrated a sleazy false-candidate scheme. And then, way down on the list, there was the Speaker who suspended a legislator’s floor rights because she said the word “vagina” out loud. Lord have mercy.

So, to be clear, these were the people that fellow Republican lawmakers thought of as the best of their lot.

I know a Bolivian miner who might describe them differently.

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