By Robert Davies
Michigan Rep. Paul Mitchell does not find it as funny Republican lies about a nonexistent election fraud scheme Democrats used to unseat Donald Trump as the rightful heir to the American throne.
And since he suspects that’s exactly what the public will hear from the GOP for the next four years, Mitchell announced on December 14 he was officially defecting from the party.
Then on December 18, he gave an interview to The Detroit Free Press (DFP) in which he said he will never again run for elected office.
“I have no intention of running for elected office again,” Mitchell told the newspaper.
“I have disagreements with the [Michigan] governor on a whole range of things, but I’m going to go home and inflict my opinion on my family, who will probably tell me to please shut up.”
As the representative of one of Michigan’s most Republican districts, many in the GOP hoped Mitchell would challenge the state’s current Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer when her term ends in 2022.
He has been an outspoken critic of the way she’s handled the coronavirus pandemic, even suing her in May for her use of state police powers to enforce public health orders.
However, Mitchell said he’s become increasingly disaffected with a party that tolerated Trump’s tyrannical attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
In a letter Mitchell sent Republican National Committee Chairwoman Rona McDaniel and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, he said the party’s “raw political considerations” concerning the 2020 election factored heavily in his decision to call it quits.
“I agree there have been some disconcerting aspects to this election,” Mitchell wrote.
“With more than 155 million people voting, both administrative errors and even some fraudulent voting likely occurred…However, the President and his legal team have failed to provide substantive evidence of fraud or administrative failure on a scale large enough to impact the outcome of the election.”
While Mitchell’s absence won’t affect the balance of power on the Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, his defection is a symbol of what’s to come for the GOP if they continue to “stand up and say, Stop” to Trump, Mitchell told DFP.
Republicans fared well in the 2020 election, picking up nine seats in the House and successfully defending a majority of their Senate seats.
The same is true at the local level. To the left is a county-level map of the 2020 election. One glaring conclusion that can be drawn is that the GOP holds a considerable grassroots advantage over Democrats.
At the state executive level, the GOP controls 22 states, including two of the most critical in the 2020 election: Arizona and Georgia. The GOP also has considerable representation in other states with divided governments.
In Michigan, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and North Carolina, the GOP controls both the state House and Senate while Democrats occupy the executive wing.
Mitchell is suggesting that the GOP’s continued kowtowing to Trump will end in an erosion of this advantage, one the party has worked for generations to build.
“If Republican leaders collectively sit back and tolerate unfounded conspiracy theories and “stop the steal” rallies without speaking out for our electoral process, which the Department of Homeland Security said was “the most secure in our nation’s history,” our nation will be damaged,” Mitchell wrote in his letter to McDaniel and McCarthy.
“I have spoken out clearly and forcefully in opposition to these messages. However, with the leadership of the Republican Party and our Republican Conference in the House actively participating in at least some of these efforts, I fear long-term damage to our Democracy,” he added.
It’s hard to imagine a tougher position for Republican voters to be in. On one hand, the national party is openly castigating the electoral process as a Democratic Ponzi scheme.
On the other, the party will expect voters will be to turn out in 2022 to defend the GOP’s 21 gubernatorial seats up for grabs.
How then can the GOP expect to keep its state-level advantage when the party is promoting such a self-defeating message?
To be clear, Mitchell has never been a Trumpist. He spoke out against the president’s statements after Charlottesville, renounced Trump’s anti-immigrant “send them back” rhetoric, and even the racist remarks of his colleagues.
But, this is exactly what makes his message so potent. Mitchell represents the millions of level-headed GOP members that are having second thoughts about supporting the party. These are the voters Republicans have come to rely on during state elections. Rand Paul said as much when he told Fox Business that he is “very, very concerned that if you solicit votes from typically non-voters, that you will affect and change the outcome [of the election].”
So, by symbolically quitting on the eve of his retirement, Mitchell signalled to the entire GOP that their state-level strategy is about to follow him out the door.
But, Trump has made it clear he doesn’t care for level-headedness. Instead, he’s after power. He wants a political party that he can control, and on his terms. That’s why his planned departure spectacle during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration is so damning. He wants to create an entirely new political orbit centred on himself.
To level-headed Republicans like Mitchell, supporting this behaviour is a direct violation of the oath all lawmakers take before they begin work.
“As elected members of Congress, we take an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” not to preserve and protect the political interests of any individual, be it the president or anyone else, to the detriment of our cherished nation,” Mitchell wrote.
*Davies first published this article in Medium