By Ralph Echtinaw
Congressman John Moolenaar, state Rep. James Lower, state Sen. Rick Outman and Michigan GOP Vice Chair Terry Bowman spoke to the Gratiot County Republican Party at the Alma Elks Lodge on Monday.
The event, called a Lincoln Day Dinner, is an annual fundraiser for Gratiot Republicans, who are gearing up to support President Trump’s reelection campaign and other Republican candidates next year.
Lower spoke of a bill opposing abortion-by-dismemberment currently being worked up in the House. “We’re hopeful most people can agree that’s barbaric and something that should not be allowed in our society,” he said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer opposes abortion restrictions and will likely oppose the bill Lower touted, too. “She could potentially veto it,” he said. “But in doing so, I think she’d be on the wrong side of history and certainly on the wrong side of where the public is at.”
Lower spoke about a new trend to have abortion celebration parties, which House Republicans hope to discourage with a resolution. “It’s sick, sick stuff,” he said, “beyond the pale of comprehension. What the Democrats are doing on that issue is trying to normalize it. They‘re trying to make abortion more normal and mainstream, and they don’t want people to feel bad about it. And they don’t want people to think about it. As a party and civilized society we have to push back on that.”
Turning to auto insurance reform, Lower noted that Lansing Republicans, who control House and Senate, recently passed a bill that would reduce auto insurance premiums by 40-50 percent for most people.
Gov Whitmer asked that a rate reduction schedule be added to the bill, Lower said. It was. Then she asked Democrats in the state legislature not to vote for it.
“She went into the House Democrat caucus and basically begged them on hands and knees to not vote for it,” Lower said. “Why? Because she wants a 45 cent gas tax increase in exchange for it.”
Yes, Gov. Whitmer has told Republicans she won’t sign the auto insurance reform bill unless Republicans agree to a 45-cent per gallon gas tax she has proposed.
“That’s not an option,” Lower said. “Why would we save everybody a bunch of money on auto insurance, then turn around and take it back on gas taxes? Frankly, I think she’s boxed in from a public perception standpoint. because the public wants this. They know our auto insurance rates are the highest in the country and need to come down. If she’s going to be a good governor she’s got to find a way to put the petty politics and petty nonsense aside and get on board with it.”
Lower turned the microphone over to state Sen. Outman, who complimented Gov. Whitmer for at least having a plan but added that the plan relies too much on the aforementioned gas tax increase.
“The problem is she predicated her budget on passage of a 45 cent gas tax increase,” he said. “Without that first domino to fall the whole budget falls apart. And that’s why she’s pushing to marry that with auto insurance reform. Because she has to. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. She’s going to trade the highest insurance rates in the nation for the highest gas tax in the nation. That doesn’t seem like a win does it? Why not lower our insurance rates and not increase our gas?”
Outman also objected to how Whitmer would allocate the $2.5 billion generated by the gas tax.
“It’s going to be weighted on how much those roads are used,” he said. “The most heavily travelled roads are going to get most of the money. (That’s) code for, ‘I’m going to send the money to Detroit, Grand Rapids and everybody that voted for me.’ And people up here? You’re not going to see much.”
Outman faulted the governor and other Democrats for wanting more money for everything. “I’ve never met a department down in Lansing, or probably in Washington, that ever said, ‘Hold it guys. I’ve got enough money. That’s enough. We’re good.’ It’s always I need more.”
Outman gave way to Congressman John Moolenaar, who “truly thinks of us every time he makes a decision.”
Moolenaar recalled a 2018 Trump rally in Washington Township when he and fellow Michigan congressmen Paul Mitchell and Jack Bergman rode with Trump in the presidential limousine from Selfridge Air National Guard Base to the rally site.
“He asked us about Michigan,” Moolenaar said. “What do we need to do in Michigan?”
The congressmen told Trump about the need for improvements to the Soo Locks and worried that it would soon be forgotten. Then, at the speech…
“Next think you know he goes, ‘You know those Soo Locks? They’re going to hell. And we’re going to fix them. And with that the entire crowd went crazy. As a Michigander I was so proud.”
Some $75 million was subsequently added to the federal budget to start that work. “He’s a builder,” Moolenaar said. “He gets this.”
“For me I’ve kind of been living on that (story) for the last year,” he added.
Then came a Grand Rapids Trump rally in March, and Moolenaar got to ride in president’s limo again.
This time he and his colleagues asked the president to restore funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which wasn’t in the budget.
“Newspapers were just ripping on him (for it),” Moolenaar said. And it was deja vu all over again when Trump spoke at the rally.
“He got up announced that he was changing his position and fully support the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” Moolenaar said. “He’s a man of action, and I find that refreshing.”
Moolenaar touched briefly on the president’s appointments of Supreme Court justices. “When I look at some of the arguments being made right now on infanticide I am glad he is appointing the kind of people to the Supreme Court who will respect the dignity of human life.”
At that point, as if on cue, the only baby in the room squalled as if to punctuate Moolenaar’s comment.
The grandson of a Dutch immigrant, Moolenaar said this about immigration. “We want people to strive to come to this country but we want them to do it in a way that’s legal. We need to stop sending the message that if you come to the southern border you can come into America.”
Moolenaar segued into a comment about Democrats obstructing President Trump’s agenda: “Hardly a day goes by when we don’t hear some new freshman legislator – there’s about three of them I can think of right now – getting all the media attention for whatever they say at a given moment. But the fact is there are many Democrats whose only goal is to embarrass the president, to resist the Republican agenda, to impeach if possible, to investigate in any way, to obstruct what we’re trying to do for this country.”
Gratiot County Republican Party Chairman (and county commissioner) Chuck Murphy introduced state GOP Vice Chair Terry Bowman: “He represents the new Republican party, the party of people who want to work,” Murphy said.
Bowman reminded the crowd of visits to Michigan from President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and said, “We’re on their radar. We’re going to have a lot of visits from Donald Trump over the next two years because Michigan is so important.”
Bowman touted the Trump economy, over the big government propositions of Democrats.
“The Trump economy, the free market economy, works exacts like it’s supposed to work,” he said. “We do not need people protesting on the corners saying they need $15/hour for a first time job at McDonald’s. All we have to do is have a president who understands the free market, who knows what it takes to increase wages, and that’s competition for labor. And that’s helping the economy boost itself and letting it work the way it’s supposed to work.”
The state GOP has three goals for 2020, Bowman said: Re-elect Trump. Maintain and grow the state House majority. And defeat Sen. Gary Peters, who is up for reelection.
Taking a page from Trump’s nickname handbook, Bowman referred to Gov. Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as
“Wacky Whitmer, Nutty Nessel and Batty Benson”
Bowman wound up his discourse by saying Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and now Donald Trump were/are uniquely gifted and qualified to serve the country.
“As much as I love Ronald Reagan and as much as I love Abraham Lincoln, this gentlemen over here (gesturing to a cardboard cutout of Trump) I’m getting to the point where I love him even more. Would you agree with me he’s uniquely qualified, uniquely gifted to be the right man to be the right president at the right time?”
That was the last speech, and the event began to wind down.
Full discloser: This reporter is treasurer of the Gratiot County Republican Party.