Josh Venable, a longtime Michigan GOP operative and chief of staff to former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, can trace the arc of the state’s Republican Party clearly.
“This was the state where to be Republican was defined by Gerald Ford and George Romney,” Venable said, referring to the moderate former president and former governor.
Now, he said, it’s defined by Mike Shirkey, the state Senate majority leader who was overheard calling the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot a “hoax”; Meshawn Maddock, the new co-chair of the state party who backed former President Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud; and the Proud Boys.
While the state has swung back to Democrats since Trump’s narrow 2016 win, choosing President Joe Biden by more than 150,000 votes, Michigan’s Republican Party has taken a hard right turn.
Its own Capitol in Lansing was the rallying point in April for armed Michigan Liberty Militia protesting pandemic restrictions, including some members who were later charged with plotting to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The rightward lurch has altered the GOP’s image to one unrecognizable to its pragmatic 20th century standard-bearers, and the direction of the state party here could be an exemplar of other Midwestern battleground states.
If they form a third party they will be forever in the minority. They may be able to hold seats due to voter suppression though.