Bringing race into the races

Butch Hollowell, who is running for secretary of state, has done something unique in this fall’s otherwise sorry-ass round of political campaigns in Michigan. He has boldly revealed that he, virtually alone among the self-righteous prigs running for office in this state, actually has a delightful sense of humor.

Two weeks ago, Chuck Yob, an aptly named racist and sexist moron who state Republicans have chosen, equally aptly, to represent them on their national committee, revealed his true colors while campaigning for Hollowell’s opponent, Terri Lynn Land.

Without any doubt, if Terri Lynn were a Democrat, she would be cheerfully described by Yob as a large and very homely woman with immense teeth. Not that he is against women; he suggested some months ago that one be nominated for secretary of state because, as we all know, “women like that kind of work.”

Campaigning in the Upper Peninsula, Cheesy Chuck urged the locals, including three black bear and a stand of pine, to support his girl, especially, according to the Detroit Free Press, because she “is running against a black attorney from Detroit. As you know, people in the U.P. don’t like attorneys, and they really don’t like Detroiters.”

Well, isn’t that special! I simply can’t imagine what Chuckie’s favorite six-letter synonym for Dee-troiter must be, can you? Anyway, to his dull surprise, his words were written down and placed in a newspaper, and when he saw them, he did the politically correct thing to do.

That is, he lied. Rhymes-with-slob told the paper he didn’t even know Butch was black. “I thought he was Hawaiian. He doesn’t look like he’s African-American,” the Neanderthal said, after which he presumably crawled back to his sheets.

Other candidates in that position might have run to the NAACP, screamed in indignation, hollered for Yob to be fired, etc. Butch Hollowell had fun instead. Irony of ironies, Hollowell actually is Hawaiian — that is, he was born there when his father, a distinguished surgeon, was stationed at a Honolulu Army hospital in 1959. Butch grabbed the ball and ran with it, proclaiming, “I think it is high time we elect a Hawaiian to high office in Michigan.”

“We Hawaiians like that kind of work,” he added, reeling off a list of new promises, including greeters at every branch office who would serenade customers with ukulele music, new volcano license plates, and Don Ho music in the very welcome bathrooms he has already promised would be added to every branch office.

“I’ll also officially change my name to Butch Aloha-lowell,” he vowed.

How this race will end up is anybody’s guess. Actually, Hollowell, who is, if anything, overqualified for the job, seemed to be slow getting out of the starting gate, and most polls show him trailing Land, who has erected more huge self-promoting billboards across the highways than any politician since the late Chairman Mao.

Hopefully, the Hawaiian affair will give the state’s voters, especially women, minorities and the literate, incentive to show the Republicans that while they may like that sort of work, they despise that sort of campaign.

Republicans, however, just don’t seem to be able to help themselves. To be sure, there are many in the GOP who agree that Chuck Yob is an embarrassment. But that’s just because he isn’t especially slick. The fact is, that when the chips are down, Republicans play the race card, almost every time. That’s what’s been happening in the governor’s race.

Two months ago, I felt I could respect someone who made a reasoned and principled decision to vote for Dick Posthumus, even though I disagreed strongly with the vast majority of what he stood for.

But Posthumus did actually stand for something. He was, I felt, a decent and honorable man, although not overpoweringly intelligent or effective. His opponent was running on charisma, charm, appeal to women, desire for change, and very little else. She actually said, in a comment more worthy of Heathers than Harvard Law School, that she had specific proposals, but her handlers wouldn’t let her talk about them. If you wanted a candidate who took actual progressive stands, you were left with Doug Campbell of the Green Party, who is long on integrity and devoid of any chance to win.

Then, with the clock running out, true to form, once again, the GOP turned to a nightmarish effort to scare or repulse voters. A birdlike, chirpy color image of Jennifer was shown next to a dark, huge and hulking one of Kwame Kilpatrick.

The mayor, as everyone knows by now, wrote a memo demanding that the next governor appoint lots of African-Americans to jobs and build state office buildings in Detroit, etc. But the memo was never sent, nobody alleges she ever saw it, and when it was shown to her she instantly said, as you might expect, that she wouldn’t agree to it.

That hasn’t stopped a torrent of negative, thinly veiled ads designed to stir up anti-Detroit sentiment, meaning largely you-know-what. Negative ads aren’t really designed to change firmly decided minds. Instead, they tend to work by discouraging voters who are on the fence or slightly leaning to the savaged candidate, and causing them to stay home.

This time, odds are it won’t work, though Jennifer Granholm has been slipping slightly. There’s a general recognition that Posthumus just doesn’t have it. But we’ll all find out next week.

Whatever you think, vote.

Grim reckoning ahead: Incidentally, whoever wins may wish they hadn’t. I’ve been looking at the structural mess John Engler has made of state government financing, and however bad you think it is, it is worse. You could be looking at mammoth tuition increases, layoffs and higher taxes next year — and that isn’t all.

Further cheery news on this front soon, but for now, ta. I mean, aloha.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]
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