According to an extensive report from Politico's Zack Stanton, the Republican Party leadership would do well to take a hard look at what has happened in a once-reliable Michigan district that has increasingly gone Democratic and how Donald Trump has impacted the fortunes of GOP lawmakers there for the worse.
Echoing previous reporting that the Republican Party is increasingly unpopular in the suburbs, Politico's Stanton wrote that a look at Oakland County, Michigan -- home to Republican National Committee head Ronna Romney McDaniel -- and how it has flipped to the Democrats should send up warning flags for the GOP.
Getting right to the point, Michigan GOP strategist Jeff Timmer, who headed up the state party from 2005-2009, explained, "Oakland County was kind of the quintessential suburban Republican stronghold over the postwar period," with Stanton adding, "It was (and is) a huge source of campaign donations for the party and its candidates. It had massive influence in Lansing, and an influential bipartisan delegation in Washington. It was a must-visit locale for every aspiring Republican presidential candidate."
But things have changed.
"Ten years ago, Republicans held two of the four GOP-drawn U.S. House seats in Oakland (the other two were safe Democratic); now, all four are in Democratic hands. Democratic women now represent the Romney family's hometown in the state House, state Senate and U.S. House (Rep. Haley Stevens)," the report states. "Ten years ago, Brooks Patterson, the silver-tongued sun-God around whom all local politics orbited, was county executive, and Republicans held four of the six countywide elected posts; Democrats now hold five of them, including the executive. After GOP-controlled redistricting in 2012, Republicans had a 14-7 majority on the Oakland County Board of Commissioners; now, Democrats have an 11-10 edge and will control the county-level redistricting process for the first time in a half-century."
Calling what has happened in Oakland "a national warning light for the Republicans at the highest levels of the party," the report goes on to state the voters in the district have become more inclusive of others at a time when prominent Republicans -- led by Donald Trump -- have run on divisiveness.
According to Michigan pollster Stanley Greenberg, Oakland "...represents the dominant trend in the country because it combines the most affluent and college graduates in increasingly diverse suburbs becoming increasingly and emphatically Democratic."
Mari Manoogian, a Democrat who represents the 40th District in the Michigan House of Representatives, claims that the GOP's obsession with cultural issues like transgender kids playing sports is turning off voters more worried about schools and quality of living, telling Stanton, "The 'Oakland Hills Country Club set' is changing, or at least having some serious reservations about the current version of the Republican Party. Knocking doors in 2018, … people would say, 'I've voted Republican my whole life, but I'm not voting Republican anymore. … They're not focused on the issues that matter to us. They're focused on these culture-war issues.'"
A former GOP lawmaker agreed and pointed the finger at Donald Trump as a major factor in Republican losses not only in Oakland, but nationally.
Speaking with Politico's Stanton, Martin Howrylak (R), who represented Troy in the state's House until 2018, explained, "It's the opposite of a big-tent party right now. That was really the game plan of Trump: to create lines: 'You're either with me or against me. And if you're not with me, you might as well—politically speaking—die.' And that 'take no prisoners' approach is the antithesis of what's needed here. As long as the party continues to embrace the former president, it's going to have trouble in Oakland County."
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