“To dream the impossible dream. To fight the unbeatable foe.”
Watching Democrats battle Republicans in the Allegan County political arena is like watching the Washington Generals battle the Harlem Globetrotters on the basketball court.
The game too often feels rigged in both instances.
Curiosity got the best of me Wednesday night when I decided to drop in on the WayDems meeting at the Pine Street Elementary library. The WayDems is the northeastern arm of the Allegan County Democratic Party, which has won elections slightly more often than Hamilton Berger beat Perry Mason in court.
The woeful history of Democratic Party fortunes here is well known, but the election news earlier this month from New Jersey, Virginia and Oklahoma has been downright astonishing, so much so that I had to wonder if this fever is catching on where the one-party system has been enjoyed for a long time by the GOP.
Local Democrats spent most of their time talking about the six primary candidates who want to take on Congressman Fred Upton, who will be seeking his 17th two-year term in Washington D.C., if he decides to seek re-election in the Sixth District. Upton, a key figure in the Whirlpool business empire, has been congressman from Allegan County and Southwest Michigan since 1986.
It would be a daunting task to unseat Upton, but stranger things happened earlier this month.
Virginia came up with one of the most astounding political developments ever when Danica Roem, a transgender woman, defeated a longtime incumbent Republican who boasted he wrote the bill that banned “men” from relieving themselves in bathrooms marked “women.”
The huge question here is, how did she do it?
In Oklahoma, 25-year-old Anna Langthorn took over the state Democratic Party that is about as popular there as it is in Allegan County, and flipped four “red” seats to “blue” in the state legislature. Oklahoma is regarded as a really deep red state, almost as red as Allegan County and West Michigan.
Allegan County is so deep red that you have to do a lot of research to find any elected Democrats in office in these parts. Free Market Man has insisted there is just a small island around Watson Township that has elected Democrats. Julie Cowie was elected clerk in Casco Township, but then was slaughtered by incumbent Joyce Watts when she decided to seek the Allegan County clerk’s post.
Dorr Township was a Democratic holdout until about a dozen years ago, mostly because of the abortion issue. I may have witnessed the event that marked the beginning of the end for the Dems in Dorr in 1986.
I attended a GOP dinner that included Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lucas when Rusty Dutkiewicz, wife of the Dorr Township clerk, made an impassioned plea on Lucas’ behalf because of his Pro-Life stance, a contrast with the decidedly Pro-Choice James Blanchard.
Lucas was the only Republican in the last 85 years who failed to carry this county at the polls. He was black.
There have been a few temporary blips on the political screen, such as Democrat Jose Blanco winning election as supervisor of Wayland Township, but they did not start a movement. My old friend Michael Johnston narrowly lost to a 20-year incumbent in 2012 in Kentwood. And Steve Shoemaker broke into the elusive 40 percent column running for 72nd District State Representative a year ago, actually winning the City of Kentwood.
I’ve often made the cynical comment that “If J. Christ ran as a Democrat against Republican A. Hitler in Allegan County, A. Hitler would win.” I stand behind the statement.
But last Wednesday I saw and heard a lot of enthusiasm. They actually had 20 people in attendance, which for them is a really good crowd. And I hear tell the numbers showing up at Allegan County Democratic meetings are increasing. They seem to echo the sentiment that Donald J. Trump has been the Dems’ best recruiting tool in a long time.
But I have one huge question for the WayDems and the County Democrats. Why in the world aren’t you researching how Roem and Langthorn were able to pull off the seemingly impossible? And can such magic work here?
The answer lies in Groucho Marx’s reply to Margaret Dumond at a party when she declared, “I’ve never been so insulted in all my life.”
Groucho responded while looking at his watch, “It’s early yet.”