LANSING — Despite being the focus of media attention, Congress is not always where the most outlandish Republicans are spewing their vitriol, according to a new report from Mother Jones.
In particular, the report notes that Michigan Republicans are a prime example of how these radical viewpoints legitimizing extreme conspiracy theories and embracing white supremacy are incubating in Republican-led state legislative chambers across America. This includes how Mike Shirkey met with insurrectionists, spoke at one of their rallies after they stormed Lansing, and called the Capitol Hill riot a “hoax” intended to make Trump look bad.
“Thanks to Mike Shirkey, Michigan Republicans have emerged as the head of the pack in the worst way,” said Rodericka Applewhaite, Michigan Democratic Party spokesperson. “His embrace of last year’s paramilitary militia displays at the capitol shows us just how entrenched Trumpism has become at the state level. The Michigan Republican Party has a major extremism problem that’s completely out-of-step with Michigan families.”
Read more below from Mother Jones about how Shirkey hoax-claimed his way to becoming “the face of the Michigan Republican Party’s descent into extremism.”:
Mother Jones: The most radical Republicans aren’t in Congress. They’re in the statehouses.
By Matt Cohen
On April 30, 2020, as [State Senator Erika Geiss] and her colleagues convened for a legislative session in the Michigan Statehouse, a demonstration against the state’s stay-at-home orders took a harrowing turn as the protesters forced their way inside the building. […] In hindsight, the riot at the Michigan Statehouse in April seems like a dress rehearsal for what happened eight months later at the US Capitol. […]
A growing number of GOP lawmakers at the state level are doubling down on their radical viewpoints, dangerous conspiracy theories, and association with paramilitary militias and other violent extremist groups. For every Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) currently in Congress, there are dozens of more like her at the state level—and with close ties with right-wing extremist groups. […]
In the immediate aftermath of the April riot in Michigan, the state’s top Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, initially condemned the local militia that organized the protest, calling them “a bunch of jackasses.” The outrage didn’t last long.
A few days after Shirkey issued that statement, he privately met with one of the organizers of the Michigan riot, according to the New York Times, during which he said “the optics weren’t good” of armed protesters in paramilitary gear storming the Michigan Capitol. After the protesters threatened to return to the Capitol with weapons, Shirkey publicly cozied up with their cause and two weeks later he spoke at one of their rallies against the state’s COVID regulations, where he appeared onstage with at least one member of a local militia who was later arrested for allegedly conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Stand up and test that assertion of authority by the government,” Shirkey said at the rally. “We need you now more than ever.”
Since then, Shirkey has been the face of the Michigan Republican Party’s descent into extremism. In the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, Shirkey was caught on video parroting claims that the Capitol riot was a “hoax” staged by people to make Trump supporters look bad. “It was arranged by somebody who was funding it…It was all staged,” he says in the video, which was first reported by the Detroit Metro Times. Later in the video, Shirkey suggests that McConnell is in on the conspiracy. “I think they wanted to have a mess,” Shirkey said. “They would have had to recruit this other group of people.”
But Shirkey isn’t the exception in Michigan’s GOP. As the most powerful Republican in the state, he sets the tone and manner for which the rest of the party follows. “That is where you have to ask, ‘Is this who the GOP is?’” wonders Geiss. “To a certain degree, I do believe it is. At least, it is who they are trying to become. And it’s almost like the conversion is complete at this point.” […]
Though Trump may be gone from office, the problems he created are growing larger every day. […] “Having someone parrot conspiracy theories and try to sow doubt in our elections is very, very unhelpful to say the least,” says Laurie Pohutsky, a Democratic member of Michigan’s House of Representatives. “It’s dangerous to be completely honest, especially when we’re trying to make sure that more people are participating in the democratic process.”