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How Trump’s Election Lies Left Michigan’s GOP Broken and Beaten

The Michigan Republican Party is strapped for cash. A group of prominent activists – including a former statewide candidate – were charged this month with crimes related to a bizarre plot to hijack the election machinery. And in the face of these unrest, suspicion and infighting run high. A recent state committee meeting resulted in a fight, a spinal injury and a pair of broken dentures.

This turmoil is a measure of how Donald J. Trump’s lies about the 2020 election trickled down to his party. As Mr Trump has only just begun to wrestle with the consequences of his fictions – including two indictments related to his attempt to overturn the 2020 results – the vast machine of activists, donors and volunteers who feed his party have been foreseeing the consequences for years. .

As the party looks to next year’s presidential election, tensions are glaring.

Mr. Trump’s election lies have spread like wildfire in Michigan, dividing the party state into ardent, pragmatic believers eager to move forward. Bitter disputes, power struggles and contentious primaries followed, leaving Michigan’s Republican Party a shell unto itself.

The battlefield has become increasingly safe for Democrats. No Republican has won a statewide election since Mr. Trump won the state in 2016. (Republicans have won nonpartisan seats on the state Supreme Court.) Officials Republicans in the state are increasingly worried about not having a top candidate to run for the open Senate seat.

“It’s not really going well, and all you have to do is look at the facts,” said Rep. Lisa McClain, a Republican from eastern Michigan. “The ability to raise funds, we have a lot of donors who stay on the sidelines. It is not an opinion. It is a fact. It’s just a simple fact. We have to solve this problem.

She added: “Everyone is in the blame game. We have to stop.

Michigan Republicans have long been a force in national politics. The state has been home to Gerald Ford and George Romney as well as many “Reagan Democrats” who helped transform the party four decades ago. Ronna McDaniel, the current chair of the Republican National Committee, served as Michigan Republican Party chair until 2017. Betsy DeVos, Mr Trump’s former education secretary who resigned after Jan. 6, is a influential intermediary in the state, managing vast wealth and a political network with influence far beyond state borders.

The slow dismantling of the state party began long before the 2020 election. Throughout the Obama administration, the party’s right wing has become louder and more active. After Mr. Trump won in 2016, many party positions that were once largely controlled by megadonor families and the Republican establishment began to be filled by Trump cronies.

In 2021, new activists wanted to support only candidates who believed the 2020 election, which Mr. Trump lost in Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, was fraudulent and were determined to try to do something about it.

These leaders quickly emerged. Matthew DePerno, a lawyer who advanced false election theories, became a folk hero in the state and ran for attorney general. Kristina Karamo, an election worker who signed an affidavit claiming to have witnessed vote theft, became a conservative media star and ran for secretary of state. And Meshawn Maddock, the leader of Women for Trump who organized buses to Washington on Jan. 6, became co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party.

Mr. DePerno and Ms. Karamo did not respond to requests for comment. The Michigan Republican Party did not respond to requests for comment. In a video released on Monday evening, Ms Karamo defended her actions as party chair and lashed out at more moderate Republicans who she said were part of a “one party”.

Their nominations exposed a rift within the party, with more moderate mainstream Republicans like the DeVos family waiving both Mr. DePerno and Ms. Karamo and withholding funds from most state members. Other donors have also expressed their frustration. The county nominating conventions degenerated into open conflict.

“Meshawn was never connected to the donor base, and so having her as vice president for a lot of us was a major roadblock,” said Dave Trott, a Republican former congressman from Michigan who retired in 2018 and is also a former State Party donor. “Because we knew she would never be a rational person in her approach to state party politics. »

Ms Maddock, who is no longer involved with the party, responded to Mr Trott, saying she was ‘not at all surprised that he takes no responsibility for disappointing Michigan voters or whoever whether it be”.

“The party state needs the wealthy RINOs who often fund it to accept what genuine right-wing voters want,” Ms Maddock said. “Instead of constantly undermining the Republican base, wealthy donors should, for once, treat them with an ounce of respect. »

As state party flag bearers during the 2022 midterm cycle, Mr. DePerno, Ms. Karamo and Ms. Maddock have all fueled the lies about the 2020 election. In their campaigns, Mr. DePerno and Ms. Karamo have focused more on the 2020 election, often at the expense of other issues more central to voters.

They were categorically defeated. Republicans also lost control of both houses of the state legislature. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic incumbent, won a landslide victory.

Republicans across the state found themselves pointing fingers. The state party blamed Tudor Dixon, the gubernatorial candidate, for his unpopular stance on abortion and anemic fundraising. Ms Dixon blamed the state party leaders. Ms Maddock blamed big donors for not backing their candidates. Ms. Karamo refused to back down.

A party autopsy a few days after the elections, made public by Mrs. Dixonacknowledged that “we found ourselves constantly faced with a power struggle between Trump and the anti-Trump factions of the party” and that Mr. Trump “issued challenges in a statewide ballot” .

Ms Karamo, who succeeded Ms Maddock as leader of the country, has pledged to recruit a new class of donors. But these donors never materialized. The party has lost money since Ms. Karamo took office, with less than $150,000 in the bank as of June 30, according to federal campaign finance records. At the same time, four years ago, the party had about three times as much cash.

She has been condemned by both Republicans and Democrats for her social media posts linking gun reform to the Holocaust and has faced attempts to limit her power.

The party is in the throes of infighting. In April, two county leaders were involved in an altercation, with one filing a police report for assault, according to video obtained by Bridge Michigan. In July, a brief fight broke out at a state party rally. The County Clare Republican Party chairman told police he suffered stress fractures to his spine, bruised ribs and broken dentures as a result of the fight.

A memo released this month by the state party’s executive director and general counsel, obtained by The Times, warned of a dishonest meeting advertised under the state party’s banner that was not “d ‘no way properly connected or derived from the true and true Republican Party of Michigan.

The problems facing the party go beyond infighting and fundraising; this month, Mr. DePerno, along with a former Republican state representative and a lawyer, were charged with crimes related to a scheme to illegally obtain voting machines. They pleaded not guilty.

“Tell me how it helps. Tell me how it helps attract influential voters,” Ms McClain said. “Voters don’t care about infighting. The undecided voter wants to know how your policies will help me have a better life for my family? »

Prominent Michigan Republicans seem content to let the state’s party wither away. Former Governor Rick Snyder, one of the last Republicans elected statewide in Michigan, launched a fundraising campaign diverting party money from the state to the House Republican caucus in an attempt desperate to win back at least one state chamber. Legislature.

(That effort bears some similarities to one undertaken by Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia, another state where the split over Mr. Trump’s campaign claims has hobbled the state’s party.)

Mr. Snyder’s fundraising, along with some DeVos Family Network activities, has lined the coffers of the House Republican caucus, led by Matt Hall, the minority leader in the state Legislative Assembly that of many party elites see him as the de facto leader. The House Republican caucus, despite being in the minority, tops the House Democratic caucus this year in fundraising, with $2.3 million to the Democrats’ $1.7 million.

Mr. Hall has also helped stoke doubts about the 2020 election. (He once chaired a commission hearing in which Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani spread lies about the election.) But he’s far more likely to attack Democrats on spending or “hog” bills.

Regardless of Mr. Hall’s efforts, the DeVos family and other influential donors began fundraising solely for congressional and state legislature elections, forgoing any presidential or Senate race, according to Jeff Timmer, former state party executive director.

But the problems looming ahead of next year’s election are not just about money.

“What can’t be replicated is the workforce infrastructure,” said Mr. Timmer, who now advises the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group. “You can’t just buy the passion and the zeal of people who are going to knock on doors, put up signs and do all those things that require human labor in a campaign. »

Prominent Republicans view Mackinac’s upcoming Republican leadership conference as a sign of the downfall of the state party. It was once a milestone for presidential candidates looking to make an impression on the critical state, and no Republican candidate for president in 2024 is expected to make an appearance.

Instead, the star speaker at the September conference will be Kari Lake, who lost her Arizona gubernatorial run and has since claimed her loss was tainted by fraud.


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