No Buckleys Here: Michigan GOP Reacts To Dave Agema’s Obama-Muslim Comments
In 1962, William Buckley gathered the titular leaders of the conservative movement to plan a move that would (until the Birchers' sponsorship of the 2010 CPAC conference) expel the John Birch Society from the mainstream conservative politics.
Buckley, along with the likes of Sen. Barry Goldwater and Michigan’s own Russell Kirk, decided they've had enough of the Birchers, who held that fluoridated water was a Soviet plot, and its leader, Robert Welch, who believed Eisenhower was a Russian agent or at least Moscow’s dupe.
Today the political right is infested with a new generation of Bircher-like paranoid loons, from Michele Bachmann, Allen West, and Donald Trump to Michigan Rep. Dave Agema. Agema believes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that President Barack Obama is a Muslim and, again despite all evidence to the contrary, that terrorism is a uniquely Islamic activity. The newly-elected Republican National Committeeman is now longer some backbench legislator. He is now a leader within the Republican Party. His fellow Michigan Republicans must respond to dreck like Agema with the same bravery and force as Buckley and company rejected the Birchers.
Buckley didn’t just attack the Birchers' strange views. He spoke against the organization itself: “The underlying problem is whether conservatives can continue to acquiesce quietly in a rendition of the causes of the decline of the Republic and the entire Western world which is false, and, besides that, crucially different in practical emphasis from their own.”
Now, before we get all weepy about how much better and more courageous everyone was back then, it should be noted that Goldwater was eager to stay out of this fight.
Commentary Magazine: It was [Russell Kirk’s] opinion, he said emphatically, that Robert Welch was a man disconnected from reality. How could anyone reason, as Welch had done in The Politician, that President Eisenhower had been a secret agent of the Communists? This mischievous unreality was a great weight on the back of responsible conservative political thinking. The John Birch Society should be renounced by Goldwater and by everyone else—Kirk turned his eyes on me—with any influence on the conservative movement.
But that, Goldwater said, is the problem. Consider this, he exaggerated: “Every other person in Phoenix is a member of the John Birch Society. Russell, I’m not talking about Commie-haunted apple pickers or cactus drunks, I’m talking about the highest cast of men of affairs.”
The Arizona Senator and presidential candidate, mindful of his own political fortunes, publicly said little except to criticize Welch’s “leadership” and only then after the more frontal attacks from Buckley, et al began. Still, some conservative leaders were willing to say an unpleasant truth about dangerous elements within their ranks and conservatism, decoupled from the JBS’ lunatic rantings, gained credibility of among the electorate. Two years later, Goldwater became the GOP’s presidential nominee and 18 years later, Ronald Reagan was elected president.
With the Buckley-Bircher anecdote in mind, we asked Michigan Republican leaders what they thought about Agema's comments. Reaction was requested from Governor Rick Snyder, the Michigan Republican Party, and the three candidates vying to be the GOP’s Senate nominee. All but Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra responded. Here is what they had to say.
Gov. Rick Snyder, via spokeswoman Sara Wurfel: “Gov. Snyder doesn’t engage in that kind of rhetoric. Michigan has a strong (and peaceful) Muslim community that’s a huge part of the fabric of our state. He wants Michigan to be a welcoming place and believes that people of different backgrounds and religions add to Michigan’s culture, and believes that a global Michigan can make a tremendous difference in generating positive economic activity that benefits us all.”
Michigan Republican Party: “Rep. Agema is entitled to his opinion, but the Michigan Republican Party is squarely focused on talking about Pres. Obama’s failed record that’s hammered middle class families. The national economy is stalling out, resulting in Michigan’s unemployment rate to increase by .1%, and when asked why the President has not met with his ‘Jobs Council’ in six months, we’re told it’s because his ‘plate is too full’ with fundraisers and golf outings.
“Middle class families and job creators deserve more than a President who puts his fundraisers and golfing ahead of turning the U.S. economy around.”
U.S. Senate candidate Clark Durant: “This is America. One is free to worship under our 1st amendment. It is not President Obama's religion that is relevant. It is his economic policies that are making it hard for people of all religions.”
U.S. Senate candidate Randy Hekman (endorsed by Agema): "I generally agree with Dave Agema's comments. I would add that not all religions are created equal. It is helpful to consider the impact various religions have had on the nations that have embraced them as reflected in their governmental structure and culture. All laws are a reflection of someone's sense of right and wrong; and all moral codes are inescapably grounded in a worldview or religious perspective. It is historically accurate to say that America was founded upon the Judeo-Christian worldview. In large part due to this reality, we, in 200 short years, grew to become the richest, most powerful and most free nation in the history of the world. Would most women rather live in the US or under a regime that restricts the liberty of females? Would most people rather live where they are free to choose which, if any religion they want to embrace, or where they are subject to the death penalty by converting to another religion? The answer to these and similar questions should be obvious. I would also add that I feel America's decline in recent years has been related to our losing track of our foundational truths that helped form our nation and helped it grow. But that is a discussion for another day."
One wonders if, following the state party’s logic, Dave Agema is entitled to an opinion that 2 + 2 = 5?