For Democrats, Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema really is the gift who keeps on giving. Agema, a former airline pilot and state legislator, seems morbidly obsessed with gay people.
He loathes them, and seems creepily fascinated by his mythical version of their lives. Earlier this year, he made headlines by posting a scurrilous, wildly inaccurate, and bizarre article about what he likes to call “homosexuals” on Facebook.
The article, by some mysterious figure who claimed to be a doctor, would have been hilarious if it hadn’t been so filled with hate. It claimed that gay people commit up to half the murders in large cities, and are all horribly diseased because of their filthy sexual practices. It also claimed that gangs of lesbians march through the streets chanting “recruit, recruit, recruit.”
Well, Agema is at it again. Last week, he told the Berrien County Republican Party that gay people, quote, “want free medical because they are dying between 30 and 44 years old."
He claimed when he was a pilot for American Airlines, some employees would say that gay people with AIDS were their partners so the dying homosexuals could get medical benefits.
Then he bizarrely added, “those in our party who oppose traditional marriage are wrong.” Frankly, I wasn’t aware that anyone opposed traditional marriage, outside of a 1970-era commune or two.
But it seems clear that Agema is an embarrassment to his party. What is even a bigger disgrace, however, is that his party’s statewide leaders are silent on this.
Though Governor Rick Snyder finally denounced those statements today, other state officials have been mostly silent, including the other member of the GOP on the national committee, Terri Lynn Land, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Last month, we were watching clips of President John F. Kennedy, saying: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
There are a few Republicans who have spoken out, Dan Pero, a top strategist to former governor John Engler, for one. Yesterday, Pero called on every member of his party to “reject Agema’s silly bigoted comments in the strongest terms," saying, “he has no place in the party of Lincoln and Reagan at all.”
He was joined by anti-affirmative action crusader Jennifer Gratz, who understands strategically what’s at stake. She said “comments like these are hurtful and unproductive and cause those who are on the fence … to vote Democrat and never look back.”
Yet the governor was silent, as was every member of Michigan’s GOP delegation in Congress. Today, most people recognize they have gay family members and friends. Same-sex marriage is becoming broadly accepted. This society has come a long way.
Something else happened yesterday some never thought they’d see. A woman was chosen as CEO of General Motors, long one of the most male-dominated corporate cultures in the nation.
Bigotry is no longer cool. But as long as Dave Agema is the national face of the Michigan Republican Party, they make it clear to the world that they don’t understand that. And they may end up paying a terrible price at the polls.
*This post has been updated to reflect Gov. Snyder's comments made through his spokesperson this morning.
Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.