Politics

Dawud Walid: Agema, Patterson fiascos summon need for GOP internal reform

 

Dave Agema exists as a political player because the GOP has been soft on bigotry for a long time.

Dave Agema exists as a political player because the GOP has been soft on bigotry for a long time.

The recent fiascos pertaining to racist discourse from Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson highlight the need for the GOP to systematically encourage diversity and robustly eschew race politics as a top priority for its own survival.

Republican U.S. Representatives Candice Miller, Fred Upton and Justin Amash have called for Agema to resign his position in part to his most recent anti-Muslim comments.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville has been even more firm by saying that Agema should be kicked out. That Agema was elected to his post without major uproar within the GOP, given his controversial history as a state representative of making false claims that Dearborn is infested with “sleeper cells,” his introduction of anti-Islam legislation under the guise of an anti-foreign laws bill, his birtherism and other extremely divisive stances, however, just reflects how soft the GOP has been on bigotry.

Patterson, who also has a history of boorish and divisive rhetoric, has not received the condemnation that Agema has within the GOP for his latest offensive talk. Patterson, however, is just as big of a problem for the Republican Party as a solidifier of the frame that the GOP is the not the party for non-white folks.

Just in case you missed Patterson’s interview in the New Yorker Magazine, he’s quoted as saying:

What we are going to do is turn Detroit into an Indian Reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn.

Given that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed “Our nation was born in genocide” as it relates to Native Americans, Patterson’s comments seem even more racist as we just celebrated MLK Day. Making reference to a majority population which is Black being herded like cattle with ethnic cleansing of Native Americans is one of the most outrageous comments that I’ve seen from an American politician in my lifetime. His words read more like a quote from the infamous 1960s-era Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Bull Connor than a 21st century politician in a northern metropolitan area.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s call for civility in his State of State address and his MLK Day message were nice, but don’t reflect real leadership that the GOP needs in this area. The top Republican in state government needs to call people out by name and make an unequivocal call that the GOP must have an honest internal conversation about the bias too many within it project. Anything less is just playing around and not giving serious attention to eradicating the voices of intolerance within the party.

Many of my colleagues and friends actually agree with aspects of the GOP platform. However, as long as the Republican Party appears to be weak on eradicating racism and discrimination against minorities in general, it will never get a sizable percentage of votes from those who I know.

Given shifting populations demographics, the GOP must change or slide into the realm of unelectability outside of small, White segregated districts in the near future.

Dawud Walid
Dawud Walid is currently the Executive Director for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), which is a branch of America's largest advocacy and civil rights organization for Muslims in America. Walid is a preacher of the Islamic religion, who delivers weekly sermons at various mosques throughout Michigan.