Snyder's true colors

Feb 18, 2014 at 3:28 pm

"Hi, I'm Dave Agema. Satan may have told you to call for my resignation, but don't listen to him. He's crazy."

I want to begin by saying that I really don't have a whole lot of respect for Dave Agema. The Republican National Committee member from Michigan seems to have a bizarre fear and loathing for anybody who isn't 100 percent heterosexual. In a state that could use investment, residents and taxpayers, you'd think you'd want a high-profile politician to say anything except "We don't want you here."

Then again, Agema's homophobia is probably part and parcel of a worldview that's going by the wayside, that sensibility that longs for the days when American families were synonymous with Ozzie and Harriet — a man, a woman and 2.4 children — and when you could take a homosexual out behind the police station and stomp him into jelly. Agema's outdated politics evidently appeal to his yahoo supporters, who crowd his Facebook page with extra helpings of fear and loathing.

To put myself in Agema's shoes for a moment, it must be a strange and disturbing experience to have your worldview turned upside down, to find that you and your constituents are so out-of-step with the contemporary mores of the country you were raised in. Truly Agema and his ilk are the last gasp of a dying ethos that wants to engrave the bigotries and prejudices of the past generation into law just as they're about to be swept away by the future.

But are Agema's prejudices part of a cohesive worldview? I must admit that they seem to be. It's an ugly worldview destined for history's trash can, and rightly so, but at least Agema seems to be a principled bigot who really believes what he says. The way he expresses himself without the slightest hint of shame suggests he's genuine.

But what about Gov. Rick Snyder? Snyder came into office with a carefully groomed image as a fiscal conservative. You'd expected Snidely to go after his old enemies — labor unions, public workers, social spending activists, educators, etc. — but you got the idea that it would have made him uncomfortable at Ann Arbor cocktail parties to be a real social conservative of the Agema stripe. No, Snyder did not seem to be a fire-and-brimstone fundie who wanted to sock it to women's reproductive rights or the LGBT movement. He seemed to be libertarian, only opposed to sexual freedom when it looked like it might cost the state some money. He got big headlines and mucho kudos for condemning some of Agema's less informed remarks.

So what does it say that Snyder has no problem signing extreme legislation, such as the sweeping anti-abortion laws he endorsed in December 2012? Or that his attorneys are hard at work asking a federal judge to uphold Michigan's ban on domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples employed by state and local governments? Aren't these the very social conservative goals that Snyder and his advisers have downplayed over the years?

In this respect, compared to Snyder's calculating and quiet social regressiveness, Dave Agema looks like a solid statesman. I have to grudgingly respect a politician who can routinely beam to millions of Facebook users the equivalent of "I'm a batshit crazy right-wing nut job, and 100 PERCENT PROUD OF IT!" If there's a politician dumb enough or crazy enough to grab you by the collar and roar that homosexuals are responsible for 50 percent of all murders in the United States, and to then claim that Satan himself is behind the ensuing calls for him to resign, it has to be the Grinch of Grandville. But if there's a politician sneaky enough to systematically go after progressives in the name of "fiscal conservativism" while quietly backing anti-LGBT demagogues like Agema, that would have to be Slick Rick.