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Democracy Tree: Will expulsion be fate of Gamrat, Courser?

 

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In a teary-eyed press conference late last week, held in the controlled environment of her attorney’s office, husband at her side, State Rep. Cindy Gamrat was clearly distressed yet resolute about not proffering her resignation.

Only the most jaded political hack would question the sincerity of the waterworks — they were genuine. The message though, was carefully crafted to keep her options open as the scandal continues to unfold with a steady stream of comically salacious new developments, each one more ludicrous than the last.

Both Gamrat and State Rep. Todd Courser have vowed to stay put, in spite of a growing public condemnation. MLive is conducting a non-scientific poll that, as of this writing, indicates that over 86 percent of the thousands of respondents want Courser to resign, and 78 percent wish Gamrat ousted.

Democracy Tree absolutely believes that both should resign for the good of the state — not because it’s fun to watch Tea Party lawmakers take the walk of shame. No, it’s owing to the possibility that the House will become preoccupied with the lurid and licentious details of the investigation, along with the looming temptation to initiate the expulsion process, thereby sapping the legislature of its ability to engage in any serious lawmaking at a time when Michigan is desperate for a roads package.

Gamrat’s rather nebulous future:

While Todd Courser clearly and deservedly faces the possibility of expulsion, Gamrat is less likely to get the official boot. As much as Democrats, and in this case Republicans too, would love to see her sent packing for purely political reasons, lawmakers are loath to expel, out of sheer animus, one of their own.

Simply having an affair may not rise to the level of invoking expulsion under Article IV, § 16 of the Michigan Constitution. While the letter of the law is not specific as to what should trigger the measure, history proves that the bar is set very high. Unless it is conclusively shown that Gamrat willfully used and abused government resources, she is probably free to maintain her office (recall possibilities aside) — as ineffectual as she will be rendered after this level of scandal.

Yet, without resignation she would no longer be a serviceable voice for her constituents, assuming she ever was such. As previously reported, due to her extreme Tea Party views, Gamrat — elected from a conservative district to a conservative body — couldn’t pass gas, let alone a law in the Michigan House.

Courser’s not-so-nebulous future:

“Disreputable” best describes Rep. Courser. It’s not just about his extra-marital affair, the untouchable legislator has been busy sealing his fate in the weeks after he purportedly ceased sharing his special legislative package with fellow Representative Gamrat. He likely faces either expulsion or recall, perhaps both contemporaneously, just to be safe.

The disgraced lawmaker has been lashing out at the Republican “establishment,” unabashedly blaming them for his behavior, playing the victim — a classic trait of sociopathy. It wasn’t until yesterday that Courser offered an apology of sorts. Delivered via Facebook, his penitence was liberally laced with scriptural passages and, as is his habit, was of biblical proportions. Courser’s attempt at atonement may never have occurred had Gamrat not so publicly apologized herself.

A brief history of legislative expulsion in Michigan:

There have only been two legislative expulsions in Michigan’s history. One marked by sadness and civility in 1978, and the other, riddled with animus and scandal, in 2001. The current Courser situation perhaps evokes a certain unfortunate déjà vu for those veterans of the Lansing press corp who witnessed the latter ouster.

The 1978 expuAmy Kerr Hardinlsion of Rep. Monte Geralds is remembered as a painful episode for the legislature. Expelling the popular and well-respected representative didn’t come easily, however, in the end his colleagues felt that his felony conviction for embezzlement from a former client was just too much to allow him to stay. John Lindstrom, Publisher at Gongwer News recalls the angst:

“There was real anguish in the House over expelling Mr. Geralds, and in the end 20 House members voted against doing so. At the last, just before the vote, then-Rep. Morris Hood Jr. (father of the current senator) told his colleagues if they had any hint of doubt they could not vote to expel.”

However, the 2001 ouster of the much reviled Sen. David Jaye did not elicit anywhere near that level of anxiety. The truculent senator was known for abusing staffers, multiple drunk driving convictions, jail time, topless photos found on his state-owned computer, and an arrest over a physical altercation with his fiancée.

Jaye, known for his bombastic and often abusive behavior, was the champion of Michigan’s deeply flawed concealed carry law, with its infamous loophole allowing permit carriers to open carry in schools, libraries, campuses, among other public places. He was also consumed with a personal obsession over what he called “perverts.”

A couple of years ago, a video montage surfaced with some of his most colorful comments uploaded to YouTube. When asked about crime, he responded with this pugnacious nugget of public policy wisdom:

“Lock ‘em up for good, or at least till they’re 70 years old, unless they’re perverts — lock them up for good, or until we get the death penalty — which ever comes first. Fry ‘em or keep ‘em forever.”

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Along with his repeated reference to “perverts” (30 in under 8 1/2 minutes according to a Crains Detroit blogger who counted), Jaye also used the expression “the blacks” much in the way Donald Trump employs the qualifier before the words: women, blacks, Mexicans, and any other group to which he does not belong. Jaye singled-out Michigan’s Native American population for extra insult.

Lindstrom made these recent observations about Jaye’s legislative tenure:

“Throughout his years in the Legislature, Mr. Jaye was notorious for being quick to anger, caring not a whit for anyone’s feelings, being willing to insult anyone in the Legislature or in the state, and just acting like an arrogant, boastful, boorish … twit. He seemed to have no sense of propriety. He was actually astonished that people would be upset when he dropped a gun on the floor of the House Republican caucus room just off the House floor.”

Courser channeling Jaye?

Based on his pattern of behavior, we shouldn’t be surprised if Rep. Courser displays a similar lack of basic decorum, marked by acts of reality-defying obstinance. The path he’s chosen it seems, is one of a political and personal death spiral.

So, how’d it all work-out for Jaye then?

Learning curves do not come easily to those puffed up with the hubris of bigotry and intolerance. Just last September, Jaye made the news again when he pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from an incident at a Michigan campground where he was reported as “sloppy” drunk and making wild threats against a jogger who called the authorities.

1 Comment

  • Ever since President Richard Nixon alienated his base in the Republican Party and without support was forced to resign, and President Clinton held his political base and survived, it has become clear that you must be without fault if you wish to break with the Party’s majority. If you pull the tiger’s tail, don’t give it a chance or it will bite you. If a politician wants to crusade against the establishment that politician must be absent fault to survive.

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