Opinion

The CP Edit: Capitol offenses

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Last week was a tough one for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Close on the heels of the Michigan Supreme Court ruling that reined in her emergency powers, the FBI arrested a cadre of mouth-breathing morons who were plotting to kidnap or assassinate the governor and launch a coup against state government by storming the State Capitol building and taking hostages. Kudos to the feds for sniffing out the scheme and hearty congratulations to the plotters for likely earning themselves well-deserved life sentences in the federal pokey. We can only hope their trials don’t occur until after Trump is out of office, lest they receive pardons for their patriotism and can-do spirit.

The dignity and resolve that Whitmer continues to show in the face of such threats is yet another illustration of the honor she brings to our state and her national importance as an anti-Trump voice of reason. We’re also fortunate to have a world-class county health officer in Linda Vail, who immediately stepped into the void created by the Supreme Court ruling and issued a series of emergency public health orders reviving the most important parts of Whitmer’s life-saving executive orders. Vail has also received numerous threats, reminding us once again that our public servants and their families sometimes pay a heavy price for their willingness to enter the arena.

The foiled kidnapping and coup plot also gave rise to renewed calls for a ban on firearms in the State Capitol building, especially after it was discovered that several of the arrested individuals were among those who attended the April 30 rally at the Capitol where heavily armed protesters were allowed into the House gallery to intimidate Democratic lawmakers. It’s just a matter of luck that no one was hurt and highlighted once again the insanity of allowing firearms in the Capitol.

Then and now, Republican reaction has been entirely predictable. After mouthing perfunctory platitudes condemning the terrorist plot, House Speaker Lee Chatfield helpfully noted that a firearms ban would not have stopped a small army of well-armed thugs from storming the building. His remarks remind us of the Republican reaction to school shootings like Sandy Hook, where even the sickening massacre of schoolchildren and their teachers wasn’t enough to bring about reforms in the nation’s gun laws. We’re certain that if the terrorists had actually executed their plan to overthrow Michigan’s government, Speaker Chatfield and his ilk would call for even more guns in the Capitol, just like the perverse suggestion that the answer to school shootings is to arm teachers.

Even in the face of a deadly plot against them, Republicans evidently can’t risk alienating the gun-toting, wack-job wing of their party by doing the right thing and prohibiting firearms in the Capitol. It’s a sad reflection on the current state of the Grand Old Party, which has become entirely captive to gun nuts, racists, homophobes and anti-immigrant kooks. The Trumpification of the Republican Party is now complete, and the only thing that will turn it around is a Democratic wave that drives them into irrelevancy, where they can lick their wounds and think long and hard about what they really stand for and whether or not they want to be part of an America that respects all, embraces our nation’s rich diversity, and takes a common sense approach to issues like gun control and containing the COVID pandemic.

Let’s be clear: The middle of a deadly pandemic is no time to settle political scores. It’s no time to continue spewing partisan claptrap that encourages disobedience on matters like masking and emboldens domestic terrorists to plan violent attacks against public officials. As Whitmer said last week, words matter.

Yet the leaders of Michigan’s Republican Party continue to spout nonsense like Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s recent statement that achieving herd immunity should be part of the state’s public health strategy to beat COVID. His suggestion that we should just let the coronavirus infect thousands more people, a particularly twisted take on Darwinian survival of the fittest, drew a swift rebuke from Whitmer and a respected group of national medical experts who pointed out that Shirkey’s strategy would likely result in 30,000 additional COVID deaths in Michigan.

All of which points to the fact that pandemics don’t lend themselves to legislative action, which is a slow, deliberative process by design. A pandemic requires an immediate response and the flexibility to make timely, science-based decisions that the executive branch is best suited to render. Upcoming negotiations between Whitmer and legislative Republicans on which elements of her now-defunct executive orders should be reinstated by lawmakers will no doubt prove the point. Shirkey has already indicated that a statewide mask mandate is off the table, demonstrating once again that the current crop of Republican leaders cannot be trusted to make decisions in the best interests of the people of Michigan.

In less than three weeks, state voters have the chance to send a strong message to Shirkey and like-minded Republicans.  Even though he and his Senate colleagues aren’t on the ballot this year, an electoral tsunami that puts the state house and the White House firmly back in Democratic hands should get their attention.

Please vote accordingly.

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