Michigan Republicans avoid tough questions as they beg lobbyists and multi-millionaires for cash

Real news is rarely made at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, an ostentatious Michigan schmoozefest where politicians beg lobbyists and multi-millionaires for cash and thirsty lesser-known candidates sometimes ditch their contempt for the media and do interviews in hopes they'll break out of single-digits in polling.

Don't get me wrong — it's not always boring. Sometimes political operatives get punched there.

Future GOP presidential candidates have been known to test the waters at the biennial event — although this weekend's selection was decidedly C-List with former Vice President Mike Pence and ex-U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley bowing out. That left attendees with the rhetorical stylings of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who reportedly announced, “I never thought I would go to Michigan and live to tell about it."

The Michigan Advance didn't cover the confab — we were again denied credentials — which is part of an unfortunate pattern of elected officials and politicians ducking tough questions, which has only accelerated during the pandemic.

However, if you turned to the Advance this weekend for political and policy coverage, I don't think you left disappointed, as we strive to cover things other outlets don't. We talked to Black business leaders about the Detroit Chamber of Commerce's focus on inclusion and diversity at its annual conference (also on Mackinac Island) and what more needs to be done. We had an eye-opening look at the pandemic's toll on children, with thousands sickened and more than 1 million orphaned.

And we ran commentary from longtime Georgia political columnist Jay Bookman on the blueprint for former President Donald Trump's coup attempt, known as the Eastman memo (as it was written by Trump legal adviser John Eastman) — and why democracy is in more danger than ever even though it failed.

“In that memo, Eastman lays out a step-by-step scheme by which Vice President Mike Pence could single-handedly overturn the results of the presidential election and ensure that Trump stayed in office, despite having lost the election," Bookman writes. “Trump embraced the strategy wholeheartedly, as subsequent events have proved."

Had the Advance been at the MIGOP affair, you can bet we would have asked leaders about if they supported or condemned the Eastman memo and future attempts to overturn elections. I can't really think of a more pressing issue than whether or not donors, party leaders and elected officials believe that our democratic electoral process can be swept aside if a Republican doesn't win.

That's really the ballgame, isn't it?

We only have two major political parties in the country. If one of them is being led by people who believe that democracy and the Constitution are impediments to maintaining power, what does that mean for America's future? What does that mean for a free and independent press?

The conference featured a “voter integrity" panel in which GOP officials concluded that their big mistake in 2020 was not trying to create legal chaos early enough — not Trump failing to win enough votes or Republicans filing bogus cases lying about election fraud and causing an astroturf scene at Detroit's TCF Center to stop absentee ballot counting.

We would have followed up and asked about the national GOP effort to restrict voting rights in almost every state, including the “Secure MI Vote" voter suppression ballot measure. We would have asked, for instance, why is it even necessary, when the GOP-controlled Michigan Senate Oversight Committee concluded in an extensive report that there was no voter fraud in 2020 and blasted hucksters for making bank off election conspiracies?

But then again, those are probably the kind of hard-hitting questions the GOP party brass wanted to avoid.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.