How a Michigan county was turned against itself by far-right propaganda
miOttawa screen grab, YouTube

A reliably Republican county in Michigan is now in turmoil after far-right commissioners took over the local government and vowed payback against those who imposed mask mandates on their community.

Ottawa County was known for its low taxes and low-key board of commissioners meetings until eight new members of the board were elected in the wake of outrage over Covid-19 health mandates, according to a deep-dive look at the issue provided by the Washington Post. At the head of the charge is Joe Moss, the 37-year-old new chair of the board who was inspired by his church and Covid mandates at his kids' schools to run for the local office, it reported.

"By his own admission, Moss had not paid much attention to local politics. He ran a small technology business and was focused on raising his children. Then, in the fall of 2020, the Ottawa County health department learned of a coronavirus outbreak at his daughter’s Christian school and ordered the school’s leaders to comply with the governor’s mask mandate," the outlet reported. "When they refused, state and county officials chained shut the school’s doors for more than a week and warned parents that continued resistance could bring fines and imprisonment."

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Moss considered himself a "threatened parent," and decided to fight back by co-founding Ottawa Impact as a means to elect more officials who agree with him, according to the report.

That is the setup for what would become an enormous fight not just among board members, but between members of the population in town, too. The sparsely attended meetings reportedly became more filled, and more characterized by divisive language.

Among the first order of business was to change the county slogan from "Where you belong" to "‘Where freedom rings," according to the Washington Post.

"The commission’s lone Democrat gazed out in disbelief. A few seats away, the commission’s new chair savored the moment," the outlet reported. "A cheer went up in the room, which on this morning was about three-fourths full, but in the coming weeks it would be packed with so many angry people calling each other 'fascists,' 'communists,' 'Christian nationalists' and 'racists' that the county would have to open an overflow room down the hall."

There is now a legal battle brewing between the new board and an individual who works for the health department. It will be up to the courts to decide how the municipality manages from here on out, according to WaPo.