Things aren’t going well for Kevin McCarthy, or the congressional GOP, this week. But I want to draw your attention to west Michigan, where a hard-right takeover of a county commission (Ottawa, in this case) has been going great, if you’re a particular sort of wingnut.
I’ll try to summarize, for you out-of-towners: Ottawa County sits on the Lake Michigan shoreline due west of Grand Rapids, and encompasses several communities within easy commuting distance from G.R., as well as rural areas blending into typical lakefront affluence. It’s a conservative area. That’s just a fact. But as has been happening all over the country, the generally saner conservatives have been falling out with the crazies, and it all reached a crescendo this week.
Last summer, in a story that went national, one of the county’s townships defunded its own library over guess-what. Private donations have kept it open, but it will be officially closing in September 2024. The group that led the defunding, accomplished by defeating a tax millage, got high on its own supply, drunk on its power, and successfully ran candidates to take over the county commission last fall. The new members took their seats and had their first meeting earlier this week, during which they fired the county administrator and killed the office of diversity, equity and inclusion, firing its entire staff. They hired John Gibbs, who lost a congressional race to a moderate Democrat last year, to replace the administrator. They also hired an unqualified “industrial hygienist” to replace the health director, who was also fired. Finally, they changed the county’s motto, from “You belong here” to “Where freedom rings.”
All in one meeting! Whew.
Gibbs is notable for a couple reasons: He defeated the far more honorable and qualified Peter Meijer in the primary, and was one of the GOP candidates whose primary campaign was supported by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in the (correct) view he’d be easier to defeat in November. He’s also a real piece of work; he was a bitter-ender in the Trump administration, working for Ben Carson in the HUD office. An election, denier, of course – in his campaign interviews, he’d say it was a “mathematic impossibility” for Trump to lose Michigan, because he got more votes than in 2016. He was also exposed for his college-conservative lunacy, when he wrote for his own “think tank,” called the Society for the Critique of Feminism, that women’s suffrage was a mistake. LOLOL, just boys being boys!
Anyway, he needed a job, and now I guess he has one.
The health director is a more problematic hire, because it has to be approved in Lansing, and so far, the new guy, “a 39-year-old self-proclaimed industrial hygienist with master’s degrees in health from an online college,” is, um, cut from the same cloth as Gibbs:
In November 2021, during the height of the pandemic, (Nathaniel) Kelly dressed in a parody video as (Gov. Gretchen) Whitmer’s sign language interpreter during a press conference earlier in the pandemic, when she told sports fans stadiums would be shut down. In the video, he could be seen with makeup on, miming gunshots to his head and suggesting those who took vaccine shots could fall ill or die.
There’s video of him presenting at the “America’s Frontline Industrial Hygienists & Multidisciplinary Support Summit,” in which he states that if he were health director of a county, his guidance would be to:
…”send each household a kit with “prophylactic medications and tools,” including “Zinc, vitamin D with K2, vitamin C, ivermectin and NAC.”
“A neti pot with instructions for nasal lavage would also be included,” he claimed.
He also suggested companies upgrade their HVAC systems for better ventilation. The punchline: He works for an HVAC company.
You can’t make this shit up, but here we are. You get a neti pot! And you get a neti pot! Everybody gets a neti pot!
My guess is, Kelly’s ascension will be blocked by saner heads in Lansing, but you never know. Maybe his online alma mater, Columbia Southern University, will go to bat for him.
In other crazy-Republican news at this hour, Michelle Goldberg’s column on the speaker deadlock is good, but likely paywalled for non-subscribers. Best part:
McCarthy evidently believed that by courting Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, an avatar of hyper-performative politics, he could co-opt her wing of the party. He was set to offer her valuable committee assignments, and, according to Draper, had even offered to create a new leadership position for her. But her elevation would be valuable to other Trumpists only if there were concrete things they hoped to accomplish together. Putting Greene on the Oversight Committee does nothing to help those who aspire to her notoriety. They don’t want policy; they want airtime.
One of the most amazing aspects of the House Republican crackup has been watching Greene’s angry exasperation as her shot at real power is imperiled by attention-seeking hard-liners. “They’re proving to the country that they’re just destructionists,” she said on Sunday. It was the embodiment of the Twitter meme: “‘I never thought leopards would eat MY face,’ sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party.”
By bowing first to Trump and then to Greene, all McCarthy has done is show other Republicans how much there is to gain from pushing him around. His downfall isn’t surprising: Almost no one who has sold his or her soul to Trump has come out ahead. (The jury is still out on the Republican conference chair Elise Stefanik.) The reason these deals with the devil always go bad, I suspect, isn’t metaphysical. It’s simply that Trump sycophants are ultimately undermined by their weak and flabby character.
OK, then, happy Thursday/Friday to all you celebrate. See you next week.