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The Real RINO is?

Jan 15, 2015

For years, hard-right Republicans have been denouncing moderates by calling them RINOs – Republicans In Name Only.

They’ve used this insult for distinguished people like former Governor William Milliken. I’ve even heard it applied to possible presidential contender Jeb Bush.

Yet in the last few days, it has dawned on both state and national Republicans that they have the mother of all RINOs in their midst, and that he is a cancer threatening to destroy their national prospects next year. He is certainly no moderate.

His name, of course, is Dave Agema, and he is Michigan’s Republican National Committeeman.

He is also a hater and a bigot, who has posted racist rants against gays and Muslims, and now blacks and Hispanics, on his Facebook page.

Michigan Republicans have known for years, but kept hoping he’d quiet down or quit.

But Agema won’t. That’s because he clearly couldn’t care less about the Republican Party or its ability to win elections. He cares only about what he wants to do at the moment.

Actually, we’ve always known this. Soon after Agema was elected to the first of three terms in the legislature, there was a huge budget crisis which resulted in a brief shutdown of state government.

However, when the crucial votes were taken, Agema, a former airline pilot, wasn’t there. He had gone off to Siberia, to hunt mountain sheep. Though he was on the state payroll, he didn’t think he needed to bother to show up to do his job.

Later, a survey of Lansing insiders voted him the least effective member of the Michigan legislature. Despite all this, his party’s state convention made him this state’s representative to the Republican National Committee.

Now, they are getting their reward.

There are plenty of bad actors in both parties, of course. One need think only of Kwame Kilpatrick.

But not since the days of Theodore Bilbo in Mississippi have we seen anyone like Agema, who posts wildly inaccurate hate-filled rants. Occasionally, he has responded to criticism by claiming that he didn’t write these things, he just thought they were interesting.

What was almost as bad was that state Republicans mostly ran and hid. Governor Snyder refused to call for his ouster. Some were afraid to try to remove him for fear of offending his Tea Party supporters. Others said they wished Agema would quit, but claimed they were powerless to remove him unless he committed a felony.

Well, now both state and national leaders realize Agema is engaging in the attempted murder of his party’s election prospects. Yesterday, the Republican National Committee’s executive committee voted to censure Agema, but left it up to the Michigan party to find a way to remove him from office. We’ll soon see if they do.

If they don’t, Republicans will go into a national campaign with a national committeeman who has posted that African-Americans are homicidal subhumans, Muslims are parasitical losers, and that most gay people are filled with intestinal parasites and are dying of AIDS.

The GOP has a huge problem on their hands. But to paraphrase the old Johnny Rivers song, they should have known he was a snake before they took him in.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. You can read his essays online at michiganradio.org. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.