Skip to content


Blog Posts

For The Week Of November 25, 2016 Through December 1, 2016

Trump’s Biggest Critic Now Seems A Kind-Of Fellow Republican

By John Lindstrom
Posted: December, 1 2016 4:13 PM

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash is a Republican, officially. He’s really a libertarian and cuts both parties or joins with both parties depending on the issue, but officially, technically he’s Republican. Republicans have tried and failed to knock him out of office by running primary opponents against him. He is popular in his district, with his constituents seeming to enjoy his willingness to blast both parties.

But now Mr. Amash (R-Cascade Township) has a really big target in his sights, and the shots he has landed thus far have gained him significant national notoriety. It could also possibly leave an opening against him by another Republican.

Mr. Amash's target is President-elect Donald Trump. No critique probably is more significant than the one he fired this week in response to Mr. Trump’s position on people who burn the American flag.

On Monday, Mr. Trump tweeted: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

Mr. Amash tweeted the next day: "Nobody should burn the American flag, but our Constitution secures our right to do so. No president is allowed to burn the First Amendment.”

Much has been made of how Mr. Trump’s comments vary with his earlier thoughts on flag burning; how the late U.S. Justice Antonin Scalia endorsed flag burning as falling under First Amendment freedoms; and how U.S. courts were unlikely to overturn earlier decisions upholding flag burning.

Mr. Amash’s comment, though, seems to have cut to the heart of the issue more directly, suggesting the president-elect either doesn’t understand the Constitution or doesn’t care about it.

Mr. Amash was never a supporter of Mr. Trump, refusing to vote for him, though offering the president-elect his good wishes when Mr. Trump notched his surprising November 8 victory.

Since then, Mr. Amash has been pretty sharp against Mr. Trump. He criticized Mr. Trump’s efforts to convince Carrier Corporation to keep jobs in Indiana, saying we live in a “constitutional republic, not an autocracy.”

He has also said the swamp Mr. Trump should drain first is that involving his business and international contacts.

Mr. Amash did praise Mr. Trump for choosing his constituent, Betsy DeVos, as secretary of education. And he has urged Mr. Trump to select U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) as his secretary of state.

Otherwise, Mr. Amash has been at least as sharp a critic of Mr. Trump as any Democrat.

Clearly, Mr. Amash is acting on principle, but could this open the door to another Republican taking him on in the 2018 primary?

If Mr. Trump proves to be successful and gets much public support during the first two years of his administration, could Mr. Amash’s criticisms become a political liability? Could another politician run and position him/herself as in Mr. Trump’s corner, there to help the president?

Why not? But that is now less than two years away. Until then, Mr. Amash and the soon-to-be president will likely continue to wage their Twitter tussle.

Back to top

Rethinking The Governor’s Race In The Context Of Trump

By Zachary Gorchow
Posted: November, 29 2016 4:17 PM

One of the lessons of President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise victory is not to rely too heavily on traditional measures when it comes to analyzing an election.

Mr. Trump was outspent, out-numbered in staff, got dominated on the airwaves, trailed in most polls, conducted himself in a way that broke all the molds for a winning presidential candidate (running with an angry, doom and gloom edge as opposed to the optimism about the country’s future that pervaded winning campaign’s post-Nixon). He struggled in two of the three debates.

But some traditional metrics held, namely the power of the change argument (the candidate of the party in charge of the White House for two consecutive terms was 1-6 starting in 1952). The candidate who inspired more passion among his/her voters again won. We also cannot overlook that for the 45th consecutive time, the country elected a man to the presidency, defeating the first woman nominated by a major political party for the office.

How do we reconcile these crosscurrents in the context of the upcoming 2018 open seat race for governor in Michigan?

Both parties are expected to field, by traditional measures, strong candidates.

On the Republican side, Lt. Governor Brian Calley and Attorney General Bill Schuette both are raising big money already. Both have many years of involvement in Republican politics. They know the drill.

Mr. Schuette has the useful perch of attorney general from which to run and a long resume (U.S. representative, Michigan Department of Agriculture director, state senator, Court of Appeals judge and now attorney general). He’s got a knack for retail politics.

Mr. Calley would have the blessing and curse of carrying the banner for the incumbent Snyder administration, a blessing because he can point to the administration’s successes and a curse because his opponents can link him to its defeats. Lt. Governors John Cherry Jr., Dick Posthumus and Jim Brickley saw their gubernatorial bids fail with Mr. Cherry and Mr. Brickley unable even to get past their party’s primary. He’d have youth on his side (he’ll be 40 when the campaign gets rolling).

On the Democratic side, there’s U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) and Ingham County Prosecutor Gretchen Whitmer, the former Senate minority leader.

Mr. Kildee has local and federal experience and has received enormous publicity in the past year for his efforts on the Flint water crisis. Ms. Whitmer has high level legislative experience, having worked the Appropriations process as minority vice chair in the House and risen to minority leader in the Senate. Both have strong built strong followings with Michigan Democrats.

But I can’t help but wonder, even as the early focus among those who work in and around Michigan politics and those of us who cover it is on these four names, whether someone – or someones – will shake up the race with an unexpected bid, similar to Mr. Trump. For that matter, who saw Mr. Snyder winning the Republican nomination when he entered the race against three far better-known Republican figures in the 2010 election?

There’s going to be an opening in both primaries for an outsider, someone not now in state or federal government, or only having recently arrived in one of those spots, to channel the same type of message that Mr. Trump, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and, yes, even Mr. Snyder used to win elections in this state.

Specific names of who could (and would want to) capitalize on that kind of message, I do not know. But Mr. Calley is joined at the hip to the incumbent administration and Mr. Schuette has served in government essentially for the last three decades. There’s an opening for someone to make the case provided they can capture the imagination of the Republican electorate and raise enough money to get their message out. When I recently spoke to Mr. Schuette, he didn’t want to say much about 2018, but one thing he did say is the “key thing” for 2018 is that “it has to be fresh. It can’t be more of the same.”

Mr. Kildee and Ms. Whitmer have an advantage over someone running on a Sanders-type platform in the Democratic primary to the extent that either would still represent an enormous change from Mr. Snyder, Democrats are hungry to win back the governor’s office and they will have the chance to denounce Mr. Trump early and often. Still, the space is there for someone with a populist platform a la Mr. Sanders.

Sure, the race could play out as expected without any surprises.

But if the 2016 presidential race taught us anything, it was to expect the unexpected. Or not to expect the expected. Or something like that.

Back to top

Something New For Michigan, Wisconsin Republicans To Argue

By Alethia Kasben
Staff Writer
Posted: November, 28 2016 4:39 PM

Wisconsin and Michigan Republicans have long battled over where the GOP was founded, with those in Michigan claiming it was founded in Jackson and Wisconsin insisting the party was founded there.

Wisconsin Republicans argue a meeting on March 20, 1854, in Ripon, Wisconsin was when the Republican Party was founded. Michigan Republicans, however, claim a July 6, 1854, convention in Jackson, Michigan, represented the birth of the Republican Party.


Well, after the presidential election this year, the two states’ Republicans may have another argument as to which one put the now president-elect, Donald Trump, past the 270 electoral votes he needed to win the presidency.

Most news media outlets called the race for Mr. Trump after The Associated Press called Wisconsin for Mr. Trump about 2:30 a.m. November 9.

However, some Michigan news outlets, including Gongwer, called Michigan for Mr. Trump prior to the AP’s call in Wisconsin (Gongwer called Michigan for Mr. Trump at 2:20 a.m.). There was no shortage of Michigan Republicans celebrating as some news outlets called the state for Mr. Trump and urged others to do so Michigan would get the credit for putting him over the top.

But that did not happen, and the networks and AP called Wisconsin instead.

In fact, the AP has not formally called Michigan for Mr. Trump other than to report today that the certified margin for Mr. Trump, pending a potential recount, is 10,704 votes.

Republicans in both Michigan and Wisconsin had been waiting a long time for their state to turn red during a presidential election (28 years in Michigan and 32 in Wisconsin). But with the bulk of news outlets calling Wisconsin first, and with a larger margin there, Republicans on the other side of Lake Michigan have some new fodder when arguing with the Michigan GOP about bragging rights in the party.

Back to top