Anyone closely reading the daily papers a few weeks ago may have noticed that Donald Lobsinger is seeking a seat on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners. A small item in the Detroit Free Press quoted some disparaging comments Lobsinger had directed toward Detroit and described him merely as “a Republican candidate from St. Clair Shores.”
Institutional memory is a terrible thing to waste. What the Freep failed to mention is that Lobsinger isn’t exactly new to the scene. And calling him “a Republican candidate from St. Clair Shores” is akin to calling ’30s-era demagogue Father Coughlin “a priest from Royal Oak.”
Lobsinger has been a mainstay of reactionary conservatism in Michigan for years. In the 1960s he started Breakthrough, a pro-Vietnam War, anti-civil rights group that wasn’t exactly shy about its staunch opposition to all things lefty. That phase of Lobsinger’s career did find its way into newspapers at the time.
In March 1966, a Detroit Free Press article had this to say about Breakthrough’s actions at a peace march in Detroit: “Breakthrough invaded the ranks [of peace marchers], pushing, shoving and even using hat pins to provoke. One Breakthrough member was wearing a little pin on his shirt, and a marcher tore it off. It was a tiny swastika.”
The group also made its way to the history books.
“It was really a thug operation, intended to harass people,” says Russ Bellant, who wrote about the group in his book The Religious Right in Michigan Politics.
We called Lobsinger, now 72 and long retired from his job with the Detroit Recreation Department, to see what inspired him to run for local office. It took some effort just to get past “hello.”
“Talking to the Metro Times, from my standpoint, is like talking to a communist,” he told us. “If you run an objective story on my campaign, I’ll stand on my head.”
Things smoothed out somewhat after that, and he explained the motivation for his candidacy. The problem, he says, is that groups such as the Macomb County NAACP, the Macomb County Ministerial Alliance and the Democratic Black Caucus of Macomb County are presenting a direct threat to Macomb’s white majority by stirring up trouble in what he perceives as their quest for control of the entire region.
“I’m convinced that Macomb County was targeted for these attacks by racial agitators a few years ago,” he continued. “Macomb County has a reputation for being kind of redneck. Break Macomb County, and the rest will be easy.”
The burning crosses planted in the front yard of a mixed-race couple in Chesterfield Township in March 2004 is a perfect example, he says:
“We don’t know who committed those crimes,” he told News Hits. “They could have been perpetrated by paid hirelings of the NAACP so they could point to them as examples of hate crimes.”
(Just to be objective about all this, there’s not a shred of evidence to back Lobsinger’s wild supposition.)
This state of affairs will not stand, he says, if he is elected to the commission. It’s not as if he hasn’t warned commissioners of the problems posed to Macomb. For the past three years, he’s aired his opinions on county conditions during the public address section of board meetings while most of the commissioners look away and shift uncomfortably in their chairs. When he wasn’t complaining about perceived racial agitation committed by black leaders, he complained about the commissioners themselves.
“You better hope you don’t have to go to the hospital,” he warned Commissioner Phillip DiMaria at a February commission meeting, after the Eastpointe Democrat suggested the county continue using its ombudsman to investigate claims of racism, sexism and cronyism in Macomb government. “If you do, when the doctors open you up they’ll find that you’re brain-dead.”
This isn’t to say that he’s always on the offensive. In February 2000, he defended Ferdinand Hammer, an elderly Sterling Heights resident who was deported after it was discovered he served as a guard at two Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
“This case has nothing to do with justice,” Lobsinger told The Detroit News back then. “It’s all about vengeance by Jewish hate groups.”
In fact, Lobsinger says, far from being a racist himself, he sees much of what he does as being a defense against racism.
“They say that I attack black people,” he says. “That is absolutely not true. Anyone who has attended [commission] meetings, if they were honest, they would have to say none of my remarks have been directed toward black people. My purpose has been to reply to attacks on this county and its majority white population by the Ministerial Alliance, NAACP and the Black Democrat Caucus. By being a member of that board, I would be in a better position to counter these attacks by black-power racial agitators.”
The commission race is only the latest of Lobsinger’s campaigns. When he ran for a seat in Congress in 1994, Democrat David Bonior beat him. He didn’t get past the Republican primaries when he tried again in 1996 and 1998. Since then, he’s gone local. In 2000, he ran a protest campaign against Macomb’s St. Clair Shores Commissioner Peggy Kennard, but says he didn’t try very hard, figuring he had no real shot at victory.
But now Kennard’s retiring, and Lobsinger says he has a chance. He hasn’t decided how much, if any, money he’ll spend on his campaign, but remains confident he can beat the two other Republicans in the August primary to get a shot at the Democratic challenger in November.
And if he wins?
“I’m going to make it a point to be a voice for the white victims of Macomb County,” he says. “I will be a voice for the majority white population against black racist agitators. I believe I am speaking for one heck of a lot of people in this county.”
So that’s his campaign, in his own words. If that’s considered objective enough, we have a photographer at the ready, anxious to take a photo of an upside-down Lobsinger.News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact this column at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com
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