Sports, vaccines, GOP implosion. Mike Wilkinson on fact-checking the politics of COVID-19

February 8, 2021

Michigan Policast for Monday, February 8, 2021

  In this episode:

  • COVID-19 numbers, sports, vaccinations
  • COVID-19 and partisan games
  • Mike Wilkinson of Bridge Magazine on fact-checking left vs right claims on COVID-19
  • Michigan Republican Party MAGA meltdown
  • Political notes
  • Transcript



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COVID-19 numbers, sports, vaccinations



COVID-19 partisan games



Video posted Friday by Punchbowl News recorded maskless Republican Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia declining masks offered by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Delaware Democrat, in the secure room. … Jayapal said the GOP lawmakers in the secure room who refused masks also “recklessly mocked” the colleagues and staff who offered them one. – Source


Mike Wilkinson of Bridge Magazine on fact-checking left vs right claims on COVID-19


Nearly 1 yr into the pandemic, the facts are still getting a workout in MI, as @GovWhitmer and her @MiGOP @MI_Republicans @MiSenate counterparts continue to rely on numbers that advance their agendas. ~@mwilk_BridgeClick To Tweet
A lot of times @GovWhitmer @MiSenate @Mi_Republicans use a number that is correct. But there's always a better number that might not make their point as well as the number that they are using. ~@mwilk_Bridge #COVID19Click To Tweet


Michigan Republican Party MAGA meltdown














Political notes









Elizabeth Hertel  00:06

Today, I signed an amended epidemic order that will allow youth context sports to resume practice and competition with consistent masking, team testing and other precautions beginning February 8.


Walt Sorg  00:19

The state's a new head of Health and Human Services, okays the resumption of indoor high school sports, despite a lack of data on whether it's really safe.


Laura Cox  00:30

I just want to convince you to vote against the ethically challenged Ron Weiser. So whether you think I was a horrible or great chair, it does not matter. I only ask that you consider the facts and vote against backroom payoffs. I only ask that you not let our party become a party of payoffs, not to become a party for billionaires to play with.


Christine Barry  00:54

I'm Christine Barry. The Michigan Republican Party is in turmoil after a contentious weekend state convention. We'll evaluate the casualties.


Walt Sorg  01:05

And I'm Walt Sorg, this is the Michigan Policast. We're all about Michigan politics and policy and the National stories impacting our poisoned peninsulas. We begin our journey this week with the battle against the COVID-19 virus, coupled with the republican battle against governor Whitmer over the virus, a battle which Whitmer is winning but at a price.


Joneigh Khaldun  01:25

That is the lowest it has been since mid October. The percent of beds that are utilized by patients with COVID-19 is steadily declining as well, and is now at 6.6%. So overall, I'm pleased that we have continued to reopen our economy, Michiganders are doing their part by wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and socially distancing.


Christine Barry  01:47

state health director dr. john a khaldoun on Michigan success inconsistently reducing the impact of the pandemic on the state, but at levels that still warrant maximum caution. Even as the state continues to urge everyone to take common sense precautions, the focus is moving towards getting the limited supply of vaccines out as quickly as possible, and where they'll do the most good.


Joneigh Khaldun  02:08

It's really important that we look at not only how we're allocating the vaccine across the state, but also what's happening on the front lines as far as those strategies to get into neighborhoods and really address barriers to access for vaccines. So as part of that, it also means utilizing ems Mobile strike teams, and other vaccinator partners again, thinking about disabled, the migrant or transient workforce and other marginalized communities, we want to make sure no one has a barrier to access because of language or cost. And of course, using social vulnerability index in the vaccination process as well. As of today, the state's goal is for everyone who wants to be vaccinated to get vaccinated by next Christmas, recognizing that the timeline is subject to the national supply of vaccine. That is something that's interim and it's based on the amount of vaccine that we're getting into the state today. We just all learned last night actually that Johnson and Johnson has submitted their application for emergency use approval, we have even over the past couple of weeks gotten an additional almost 20% allocation into the state of the vaccine. So as we get more vaccine, I do expect that calendar to change and for populations to be able to be vaccinated sooner.


Walt Sorg  03:24

So you should be Christine with this whole distribution scheme. They're learning as they go. It's not like they had a preset plan to deal with the pandemic of the size and the distribution of vaccine at this level. And they're learning as they go. And it's very uneven as a result. Here in Ingham County, for example, they're very well organized, they could easily be vaccinated twice as many people as they are today, if they just simply had the supply, other counties not doing nearly as well. But then you've got the controversies because of the shortages of favoritism going on. It's happening all over the state. There have been some state legislators and local public officials all over the state who have been accused of basically cutting in line because and and getting vaccine ahead of those who are higher in the priority list. Normally the people that are elderly, especially in those with pre existing conditions, that's gonna go away as the supply increases. I think that's a short term problem. The longer term issue is whether we can get people to actually get vaccinated because we got to get 80 90% of the state vaccinated to really be sure that we can we can knock out this this virus until then, people are going to be increasingly careless, I'm afraid with their activities outside especially those who have been vaccinated and it's just going to slow down our relief from it. The longer that people procrastinate on doing simple things like masking and social distancing, the longer this is all going to go on if we just cooperate we get out of this lunch faster schools could reopen safely. There wouldn't be any issues with the sports resuming in the winter or in the spring. And we could get back to normal but first people got to really want to do it.


Christine Barry  04:58

They do and we've been talking here about The podcast for a few months about COVID fatigue. So I understand people are getting tired of being so cautious. One point that I would make about people cutting in line, though is that I don't think it's always intentional favoritism. Sometimes, there are situations where the local distributors of the vaccine make a priority of people who they see should be getting as there's one county that's mentioned in our links, where they decided local lawmakers should get the vaccine because they want them protected because they're out there making important decisions, and they're out there mixing with hundreds of people 1000s of people all the time, and they thought they should be a priority. I don't know whether that's right or wrong. But I don't think that investing in the safety of our local leaders is a bad idea. But yet, like you say, it's hard to justify when the people who are elderly and high risk are are not getting the vaccine, that distribution gap is seems to be in matching the people who need the vaccine to appointments where they can have the vaccine, there's one article we'll hit we'll link to that mentions that New York recently eased up on its restrictions as to who could get the vaccine because hospitals and vaccine distributors were throwing away vaccines rather than give them to people who weren't eligible due to the high fines of doing that. So I agree with you, it's going to work itself out I'm only adding that I think a lot of this cutting in line is just is not malicious, or it's not people playing favorites. Sometimes it's just the way that things are prioritized, or it's making sure we use vaccines that would otherwise be discarded.


Walt Sorg  06:47

I worry still, though about people that aren't taking this seriously any longer. You look at all the Super Bowl parties this weekend in Tampa especially. And you see the video of people partying like it's 1999. And we're This is not a prince song we're in folks, this is a real pandemic in Iowa. Effective today, I believe they are actually eliminating all of the restrictions, the mandatory restrictions on COVID, such as masking and restrictions on restaurants and bars and everything else and going back to ever like everything is normal. Yet at the same time in their legislature. This is just hilarious. The Speaker of the House refuses to impose a mask mandate on the House of Representatives to make it a little bit safer workplace. And one of the Democratic members in protest decided to come on to the floor wearing blue jeans, because that's against the rules to wear blue jeans. But apparently there's no need for a rule to require masks. Because the speaker says he can't require people to do that. He refused to recognize her. So apparently blue jeans is a bigger sin than a deadly disease. In Wisconsin, they've got all sorts of battles between the legislature and the governor on mandates. And there's slacking off as a response to. And what's fascinating about all of this is that if you look at our surrounding states, the ones with the lightest and the easiest, or a total lack of restrictions are also the ones with the highest infection rates Michigan is doing as well or better than any state in our region. There's a really excellent analysis in the Detroit Free Press over the weekend on that. And there's no question that Michigan is doing better than most of our neighbors right now. Our numbers are still way too high. But still, they're they're much better than everybody else. And it's just a stupid damn mask for crying out loud. I would I wouldn't go outside without we're actually we're to because I'm a little bit more paranoid than most people. But I figure if one is good twos got to be even better. And of course, on top of that is one of the people who's in a priority group. I'm getting my second shot on Tuesday, and I couldn't be happier about it.


Christine Barry  08:51

And congratulations on that.


Walt Sorg  08:53

Yeah, you'd be an old got its privileges.


Christine Barry  08:55

While the pandemic has certainly been a partisan thing. And of course, legislative republicans can't resist the opportunity to use the pandemic to take even more partisan shots at the governor. They are holding up literally billions of dollars in federal aid, in an effort to leverage major concessions from the governor. And these are concessions they know she will not make


Gretchen Whitmer  09:19

the federal government signed by Donald Trump. Our congressional delegation, a bipartisan group of our own congressional delegation, passed relief to states. Other states are already deploying these resources to help reengage their economy, to help with their vaccine administration to get their kids safely back in school to help people are unemployed. Michigan has not yet because we need to get these dollars appropriated and that's what I've asked our legislature to do $90 million dollars for vaccine distribution $2 billion for schools and our our educators and our kids COVID testing $575 million that is available to us that we just simply need To get appropriated, and I'm eager to work with the legislature to get this done.


Walt Sorg  10:04

Legislative democrats echoed that message is the new House Democratic Leader Donna Lesinski unveiled a counter proposal to immediately utilize all of that available federal money.


Donna Lasinski  10:15

And so our hard working Michigan taxpayer dollars are have taken up residence in Washington DC instead of doing the work we need done here in the state of Michigan. Michiganders across the state need those dollars here now. Legislative republicans right now, as we saw last week are holding this money up, they're holding it hostage with threats of different types of partisan political actions in their fight with the governor when Michiganders deserve action right now,


Walt Sorg  10:45

this battle is ridiculous. You've got the republicans claiming that the governor has emasculated the republicans in the legislature which I don't even want to go there. But they're using this federal money which is desperately needed at the state and local level. It's needed in our schools as leverage to get more power over the governor. And to give more control over the handling of the pandemic to the to the legislature. It is a dangerous game of bluff poker that they're playing right now. And the people of the state of Michigan are stuck right in the middle of the whole thing. And it's just it's incredibly irresponsible.


Christine Barry  11:24

The legislative Republicans, these people are not serious people. They're out there playing a role on stage for their crazy Meshawn Maddock Q-Trump base. And that's the only way to explain this. First of all, if they were serious about the economy, they would not hold billions of dollars from it, which is what they're doing. Second, they must know that Governor Whitmer is not going to give up any powers of the executive. Would they've been fighting over that since she was elected. They started trying to restrict her office before she even was inaugurated. And they have been trying ever since with budget battles and everything else. So she's not going to do that. So they must know that. And even though they're saying things like we, you know, we've been emasculated. We've been neutered, I don't know if they're trying to signal something with that. Or if they're just, you know, pretending like yeah, I don't know why they're using that language. That's just weird. But even when they're talking about that they're stupid about it. I mean, we look constantly talking about Gretchen Whitmer, his numbers and how she's doing with favourability Mike shirkey had an op ed, where he said that a recent Detroit chamber poll found that 46% of respondents and blame Whitmer's  restrictions for the state's economic downturn. Now I'll tell you what, I don't know why that number isn't higher. It's clear that the pandemic and the pandemic restrictions have really hurt the economy. But that same study that he cited, finds that the majority of Michiganders continue to view COVID as a public health threat, threat threat. 63% of respondents give her favorable marks on this, that includes one third of Republican voters, by the way. 46% say that the legislative leaders are not doing enough 40 over 41% say they should work and compromise with Governor Whitmer. And over 68%, went to state legislature to pass a requirement that everyone has to wear a mask indoors in public spaces. So if you have access to that data, and you're using it for your argument on opening up the state, you must know that the majority of people are on governor Whitmer side here. And you mentioned earlier, President Biden as well has numbers in the 60. Based on his response,


Walt Sorg  13:46

he's overwhelmingly popular right now he is 20 points above. Donald Trump's high point is president and approval rating. And he's just getting warmed up.


Christine Barry  13:55

So ultimately, the legislative republicans just not serious. They're not genuine on their economic arguments. Because you can tell by the way, they're withholding billions of dollars. They're upset that they can't, quote unquote, come to the table. They have quadrant meetings all the time. Mike shirkey just doesn't like zoom. And they don't even they're not even willing to wear masks. How can you take them seriously in pandemic response negotiations if as individuals, they won't wear masks? It is it is unbelievable that these people are in a place where we have to listen to them


Walt Sorg  14:31

to show how serious they are, as you mentioned, one of the amendments that they put into their version of allocating the federal money which by the way, their bill allocates about $868 million of federal funds. There's $3.6 billion in the democratic bill and it's it's all federal money as well. But one of the things they put in there was a requirement that anyone receiving a vaccine administered using funds from the supplemental to be provided with information are informed In what manner, the development of the vaccine utilized aborted fetal tissue, or human embryonic stem cell derivation lies. What the hell is that got to do with public health and the pandemic? That's that's simply pandering to their base for absolutely no good reason. But the game they're playing right now, as the governor has been told you can't spend any of this money, unless you also sign legislation that gives basically takes away all of your power, the Department of Public Health's power to deal with the pandemic turns it over to the local governments or to the legislature. And they know she's not going to sign that it's a poison pill.


Christine Barry  15:37

She's not only will she not sign it, they're not going to win this game. We just we just talked about those numbers. They cannot win a game when it comes to public perception. They just can't, the other ones withholding the money. They're the ones who are just summarily rejecting appointments, which they try to build messaging around and say, Well, this is just because we want her to work with us, but that nobody cares about that. Nobody cares about that at all. And and that poll that I cited earlier, over 41% work with Governor Whitmer compromise with Governor Whitmer, over 68%, passed requirement for masks. What are these republicans doing?


Walt Sorg  16:17

What are the reasons why the governor should remain in charges, she can act much more quickly. She's what can be much more nimble, just given the way things happen. And executive order or an order from the Department of Health and Human Services can come out very quickly and be implemented very quickly. Whereas anything that has to go through the legislature is going to take a minimum of two to three weeks. And the numbers are changing constantly. And the situation is changing constantly. Plus our knowledge of how to deal with this pandemic changes constantly. The legislature just because of the way the institution operates is not equipped to handle with a sort of an emergency. And that's why we have emergency powers act in the first place. Take just take a look at the situation with with high school sports. The legislature had its panties in a in a wad over the fact that the governor had shut down temporarily winter indoor contact sports, which makes a whole lot of sense when you think about it, the Michigan State University basketball team, they've got 15 guys on that team. 13 of them have already come down with the virus at some point in the season, their head coach, their assistant head coach, and a couple of other support personnel have come down with a virus too. And that's a much more controlled situation than high school sports. The danger for most high schools athletes is not to themselves, but for the fact that they can become carriers and take it home. And in fact, Mom and Dad and the grandma and grandpa. And that is that's the big unknown but the fact also remains the state is willing to take the gamble but it was able to do so very quickly the legislature is complaining. The next day Elizabeth Hertel, the new head of the Department of Health and Human Services says okay,


Elizabeth Hertel  17:59

context words like other activities where participants gather and interact in close proximity across multiple households naturally pose a higher risk of COVID-19. And it remains our responsibility to protect public health, however, as Michigan's COVID-19 numbers trend down, and we continue to understand best practices to reduce spread in close contact like settings after piloting a testing program for high school teams, and announcing the my safe schools testing program, we believe there are opportunities to be agile and resume youth sports with a combination of public health measures and testing in place. Today, I signed an amended epidemic order that will allow youth context sports to resume practice and competition with consistent masking, team testing and other precautions beginning February 8.


Walt Sorg  18:52

Now the reality of this Christina is this is a big scientific experiment using our high school kids because they don't have the data yet, to be sure that what is being done is safe. They think it'll be safe. They think it can be controlled, but they don't really know. Someone who has been following the data and the lack of data closely is bridge magazines. Mike Wilkinson, who joins us on the Policast.


Walt Sorg  19:15

Mike Wilkinson from Bridge magazine. Thanks so much for joining us on the polycast you've been doing a lot of data checking when it comes to the whole COVID situation in Michigan and found that there's as much we don't know is we do know and that seems to be driving a lot of mis statements or guesses on the part of both sides. What are you finding in terms of fact checking both the governor and the legislature as they continue to battle.


Mike Wilkinson  19:39

A lot of times they use the they use a number that is correct. But there's always a better number or a number that would give a better perspective that might not make their point as well as the one that they are using. So they do they they shade things in and they always shade it towards whatever narrative that they want to support via The idea that the Michigan economy is created and has been completely shut down, which is not isn't pain, or the governor talking about how great the pause has gone for, for residents, in fact, you know, in terms of the lives saved and cases saved, so they they always grab a number of the vaccinations in the vaccinations is a big one. The state is kind of oversold, oh, good, they've done. And they've done fairly well in the last couple of weeks. But they're they're always grabbing numbers. And I think, you know, that's just Unfortunately, the nature of politics. And it's kind of our job to, you know, let everyone know, when Hey, that's, that's not necessarily the best number or the or the one that gives us the fuller picture.


Walt Sorg  20:41

And part of the problem is that the numbers are just aren't there, in a lot of cases, you're finding that our data is very incomplete, not necessarily the fault of anybody. We're dealing with the whole brave new world when it comes to COVID. When it comes to COVID, and we're learning as we go.


Mike Wilkinson 20:57

Yeah, I mean, there have been examples that are really in the very early in the pandemic. And I wrote a story that the state was one of the worst in terms of what it was telling people about the cases that the geographic breakdown and the age breakdown. hospitalizations, we just didn't know that stuff. We were one of the last ones to get there. And we were one of the first ones to identify by race, who were who the cases were in deaths. But then other other aspects. We just, you know, you didn't know where the hospitals overflowing. I mean, anecdotally, we all knew that Metro Detroit hospitals were just getting crushed. But at the statewide level, and giving yourself a giving comparison with what was going on in other states, we didn't have it, it has rebounded and move forward. And there is some fairly good rich data out there. The state has chosen to release some of it in kind of a complicated format. But it has evolved quite a bit since since the beginning, right now with vaccinations. And this is something that the Michigan actually is in the majority of states, unfortunately, and where there's been a lot of concerns that some of the minority community, which is been reluctant to take the vaccine has not been getting it in the same amounts is the majority population. That's obviously a concern, because minority population was disproportionately hit by COVID. Early on, I mean, the over 20 I think it's 23 24% of all deaths are African Americans, but they only comprise 14% of the state. So to know where whether or not that population is getting vaccinated wouldn't be nice. But we don't know hopefully, in the next week or so. We will we will get that information. A lot of people are clamoring for it. But yeah, that is all I do for the most part at Bridge in terms of reporting. And COVID is I've been up to up to my eyeballs with it. literally almost every day since the beginning. It's been a mixed bag. I mean, luckily, it's gotten much better.


Walt Sorg  22:55

One of the challenges we've got is we really don't know cause and effect when it comes to the infection rates, the hospitalizations, etc. We do know that the numbers are getting a lot better in Michigan. But we don't necessarily know why is it because of the steps that the governor in the health department have taken? Is it because people are just complying more voluntarily? Is it just because the national trend is we don't know why. So basically seems like they just have to go with their best hunch.


Mike Wilkinson 23:24

Yeah, I mean, that's exactly that's one of the points that I'm really just fascinated by. So you got right in the second way you had, you had a couple states that allow us to have this perspective on Okay, so South Dakota never did max mask mandate, it never closed down parts of its economy. North Dakota did do a mask mandate, but didn't do so much. And Michigan did quite a few of those things mask mandate, and it did did shut down parts of its economy. And the arc is the same among these places in terms of the LP can go down at different points. And you know, there is some researchers out there that and they're, you know, there's going to be a football field football stadium full of PhDs coming out of this on the other end of this is, was it the cover, or the overtime, it's not over the overt actions of the government to restrict mobility or to cases get so high that people were finally touched by the disease, but they made their own decisions. They didn't need the governor or the county commissioner to tell them hey, it's dangerous out there. They knew that their aunt or uncle you know, their their coworker got sick and died. So that's the thing that we're gonna we're gonna find out you know, it might be years as we look at the mobility data and we do surveys and we find out what drove people to make decisions. But I was just looking at mobility data this morning. And you know, so I actually live in Ohio. I live in Toledo. Only four miles from Michigan and from Michigan with the school there. And we the state did not do some of those indoor, you know, restaurant fans. They did do it. curfew. And if you look at the mobility data from like November, both states did slow down their activity. But Michigan does slow it down more, again, is that because you know, the the case lows were high? Or is it because of the pause that was forced upon the people. But Ohio still had, you know, major restrictions. However, Ohio also still has its case rate remains so much higher than Michigan's from mid November, you know, even to now, I mean, it's doubled the rate that we have in Michigan.


Walt Sorg  25:33

And the cause and effect goes beyond just the infections too. It's also the economic dislocation. I know, as a senior citizen with comorbidities, I wouldn't go into a restaurant regardless of what the governor said. And it's not because I didn't trust the restaurants, it's because I didn't trust the other customers, as much as anything. And I think that may be a huge factor in why restaurants were having so many problems, it was just their customer base eroded. Be that because of the government, but because of people like me?


Mike Wilkinson 26:01

Well, and a lot of researchers that pointed that out from back in March that, you know, that, you know, what was it March, mid March, when there was this the state home order? A lot of people had already made that same decision. Well, before the governor, I mean, the mobility just kind of went off the cliff. And that's the thing that's going to be part that has to be parsed out by researchers is, how much of it is decisions like yours and mine that drives us? Or and how much? Is it the you know, the the actions by you know, either a legislature or a governor? You know, what one of the things that I found interesting is, I think, people acknowledge that there was a factor, I think there was a reluctance to take the pause off on either the second or the third extension, because it became symbolic, if we take it off, are we saying everything is okay, now that it had had more weight than just keeping people out of bars and restaurants that it became a signal of a broader level of safety or danger. So I, you know, that's something that we'll have to look at. But Michigan was one of the one of the few states that stuck it out until that last Monday.


Walt Sorg  27:08

And now we've got a new a new, we've got a new experiment. Now, for all practical purposes with the high school indoor contact sports. Nobody really knows what's going to happen there. We do know that even at a much more controlled level of intercollegiate athletics, both the University of Michigan and Michigan State University have had problems, games canceled and widespread infections within their teams. You go to high schools, and you don't have nearly the controls over the student athletes. God only knows what's going to happen there. It's sort of like a living scientific experiment.


Mike Wilkinson 27:41

Yeah, I mean, you have examples. I mean, they can look at other states and see if they've been a driver, you know, in Ohio, they they have been playing basketball. Now, the crowd there, the stands aren't full of kids. You're innocent, you're not seeing that. But I think some of the factors in terms of some of the sports, you know, and we all know that being outdoors is more safe, right? You know, the wind is there, you got some ways you're moving there, there are factors that make that more safe. You know, I when I think of a basketball game, everyone's moving all the time, right? You know, the it's not a small confined space. But that's just me, who's who's played basketball. I know, and won't go to a restaurant. But it had been really dangerous. I think we would have seen reports coming out of other states, because a number of states dozens of other states had already been having this feature. I think one of the things that caught the state, kind of in a quandary was they were allowing some indoor sports, right? They weren't contact sports. You know, I was joking on Twitter, while not joking with, you know, the superintendent. That's right. And my daughter played volleyball, and they were allowed to continue. Not a contact sport. I'm not sure if it was Washington volleyball game. But those girls are banging into each other all the time, either between teammates or against the opponents. And I don't think the net acts as a mask. It's I was intrigued by that, as obviously was the superintendent of Detroit who really wanted to allow the kids to come back. And again, now that there's a broader point, is it if there is a danger is outweighed by how much it means to those kids and those students who you know, all students want, want this kind of contact they want. They want, you know, the social interaction, the physical interaction, they it is a vital part of their lives. Yeah, right. We'll find out right now,


Walt Sorg  29:24

although we don't have the contact tracing capabilities at the high school level that the colleges have. And we may never know really what the result of all of those was, is that's what's the kids getting sick. It's the kids taking their home to Grappa.


Mike Wilkinson  29:37

Yeah, I mean, the kid might be asymptomatic, but you're right. And then they give it to their mom or their or their grandparent. And, you know, when they do contact tracing, where did they come from? You know, they always ask you Do you know anyone who has it? Well, if your child or grandchild was a sigmatic, you wouldn't. You wouldn't say Oh, it's Bob or you know, Jeannie, because you just don't know. So yeah, we will find out.


Walt Sorg  29:59

Maybe we won't It's gonna make for a great post mortem like you say for a lot of PhDs down the road. A ton of research is going to go into this and hopefully we'll learn from this one more than we learned from the last 100 years ago. Mike, thanks so much for joining us on the podcast. Really appreciate your insights


Mike Wilkinson  30:16

Glad to be here.


Christine Barry  30:17

Meanwhile, the work continues in Washington on President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. We won't get into all the details of the bill. The National talkers can cover that our focus is on the politics of the fight. And a bunch of recent polls suggest that Biden and the democrats are on the right side of this issue.


Walt Sorg  30:36

For their part, Republicans are spending half of their time blowing up their own party from within, and the rest focused on voter suppression is their core campaign tactic. The eternal blow up in Michigan came to a head in the states party winter convention and a scandal alleged against incoming state Chairman Ron wiser. The charges came from the former now former chair Laura Cox. She said wiser paid Stanley grot the republican clerk of Shelby township $200,000 from a party account over a seven month period. So the grot would drop out of the republican race for Secretary of State and allow Mary treater Lange to be the 2018 nominee. Her goal was simply to stop wiser in the process wiser as maga running mate me, Shawn Maddock, who is one of the organizers of the DC rally that turned into an attempted right wing coup with a storm the Capitol


Laura Cox  31:30

Neither Ron nor Stan have denied that Ron gave Stan a total of $200,000 in Michigan Republican Party funds. In fact, both admit to it because they have to the check stubs Don't lie. It is undisputed that these payments began three days after Stan dropped out of the Secretary of State's race. And just four days before the state convention, the nominating convention in 2018.


Walt Sorg  32:00

wiser was pretty quiet about the whole thing, of course, denied the charges. But he hasn't been very visible about it. And I found it interesting as well that the republicans did not make the zoom feed of their convention available publicly. There were no links to it on their Facebook page or on their website, or anyplace else so that people from the outside could watch it. The link was only shared with people who were delegates to the convention, they clearly want this thing to go away. And it's not going to go away because Laura Cox got a big mouth, among other things, and she's very, very unhappy about the whole thing. And it's not just here. Look what happened in Wyoming. The Republican Party of Wyoming formerly censured Liz Cheney. You don't take on a Cheney and Wyoming and get away with it normally, yet they accused her of all sorts of things. And they basically said that the January 6 Riot was sparked by the left wing, and Tifa, which doesn't even actually exist. And Donald Trump had nothing to do with it. And she was being a an absolute trader, by voting in favor of impeachment. It's gonna be fascinating to see how that all plays out in her next primary, especially with Donald Trump campaigning against her. Then you've got Marjorie Taylor green, of course, saying the one thing that she said in the last two years that's true. The Republican Party is no longer it is Donald Trump's party.


Christine Barry  33:22

Meshawn Maddock said the same thing. This is Trump's party. Now. What can you say about that? That's the I can't think of anything good about Trump that you would want to be associated with.


Walt Sorg  33:31

You're also walking the tightrope is the brand new congressman from Western Michigan, Peter Meyer, after voting in favor of impeachment, which will certainly ensure him the wrath of Donald Trump down the road and is already insured of a primary for 2022. He decided to vote against stripping representative green from her committee assignments, saying that this is something that the houses a body should not be taking away committee memberships from anybody, it should be left up to the party caucus. You know, it's interesting in Michigan, the assignments to the committees are made by the Speaker of the House. The speaker takes advice from the Minority Leader, but the speaker has sole authority over who to put on committees. And the previous speaker Lee Chatfield took great advantage of that by stripping committee assignments from both a Republican and a Democrat. There are some squawks raised over the reasons that he did it. But that's long been the practice in Michigan in Washington, they apparently don't think that the Speaker of the House should decide or have any input into who the minority members are of committees. And that was the argument that was used by Meyer. But like I said, He's really walking a tightrope over there.


Christine Barry  34:39

I can understand the philosophical belief that this is how we've always done things and we should not change this long standing way of doing things over what somebody has said. And what he said in his statement was, this was not a vote on whether or not we approved her speech, but whether the house should take the unprecedented move of stripping members of committees. assignments, and I want to focus on the word unprecedented here because, look, a violent attack on our Capitol Building killing Capitol Police officers replacing us flags with Trump flags shouting hang Mike Pence, who is the vice president that's unprecedented. The hostile transition of power when we have ongoing military conflict, a pandemic that's killed hundreds of 1000s of Americans. And one, if not the biggest security, breaches of public and private sectors in history. Those are unprecedented. And that's just the context. But among the people who created that context, was Marjorie Taylor green. And so you have to have an unprecedented response and look, Walt, the committee she was on education and labor and budget that those are the two committees she was assigned to are just what you would think, right, the budget is spending revenue debt limits, education and labor is very expansive. And without getting into the details, one of the subcommittee's of that committee is civil rights. And this is a woman who called our 2018 elections and Islamic invasion, said that Muslims had no place in our government. She called our 2020 presidential election a crime against the American people. She still believes these things. Meshawn Maddock, the new co chair of the GOP is part of this group of people. And I don't see how anyone in Michigan is not just about Peter Meyer, no one in Michigan can be a member of the republican party and say with any credibility, that they don't believe in conspiracy theories, that they aren't anti semitic, that they aren't anti black, that they aren't anti muslim, that they don't believe in violence as a solution to domestic disagreements on policy. They can't see those things and still be a member of the Republican Party, because their leadership believes those things 66% of the party activists, the local leaders, everybody else who votes within the party elected that leadership, they cast the vote for for racism and violence within the party. And you can't be a member of that party while also voting for it. You can't condemn what that party stands for while also voting for it. You can't condemn violence and racism, while also contributing money and paying dues to an organization that promotes it.


Walt Sorg  37:23

And the partisans who are constantly fighting the election battles are jumping on this quickly on the Democratic side groups affiliated with the Democratic Party are supporting the Democratic Party are working to identify Republicans as the party of Marjorie Taylor green and of Q anon, a whole lot of examples of that to play this way. Because it's, it's such an easy target and they're kind of it's sort of like working the refs early in a basketball game. You just want to get them softened up for later. Well, they're working the voters right now getting them pre conditioned to think that the Republican Party is just totally out of there. This ad comes from the republican accountability project.


Republican Accountability Project  38:02

For the soul of the Republican Party, and Trump ultra loyalists are fighting for a republican party that promotes lies. The election was stolen, there was fraud, President Trump won this election. All your congressman, you've been widely threatened, you gotta go to the streets and be violent. At Semitic conspiracy theories and Republican Marjorie Taylor green speculated at the fire which killed 85 people was sparked by a Jewish spae laser.  And now they want to excel republicans like Liz Cheney and Adam kinzinger, for standing up to a president that caused an insurrection on the United States Capitol. To save the soul of the Republican Party, we must stand up to those who act with integrity and against the ones that lie.


Gretchen Whitmer  38:50

That's just one of the commercials that's a part of the republican Civil War. Another comes from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is branding Republicans, as the Q anon party


Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee  39:01

Q Anon – a conspiracy theory born online, took over the Republican Party, sent followers to Congress, and with Donald Trump, incited a mob that attacked the Capitol and murdered a cop. Then Trump and Republicans in Congress has sided with a violent Kuma mob. Congressman Mike Garcia should have stood with us, but he was a coward. He voted to protect Trump. Congressman Mike Garcia, he stood with q not you. dccc is responsible for the content of this advertising.


Christine Barry  39:31

And then there's this one from the folks at the Meidas touch.


The Meidas Touch PAC  39:35

Today is the day American patriots start taking down names fan kickin ass the whole world is watching, folks, if you just roll over if you don't fight? Let's have trial by combat. You don't fight like hell. You're not going to have a country anymore. You'll never take back  Meidas Touch is responsible for the content of this advertising


Christine Barry  40:04

And of course that special touch from the divine Miss m, but Midler


Christine Barry  40:13

crews and Holly crews and Holly are conductors on the trees and trolley starting in so the only way they get erections so sad Rudy dem Jim Jordan plus McCarthy all we need so water, catering to haters and patriotic to vote for generators. They don't care they're repulsive Oh my god, and disrespected, all wants to get there lying is real like Cruz and Holly Cruz and Holly please expel them or was rude by golly, here's our chance to around them. And then there's me to stop the steel. And we'll be great again without them.  They suck!


Christine Barry  41:16

and possibly the best of them all from the inevitable Randy rainbow


Randy Rainbow  41:33

happening filling the GOP Mark Margarita. People


Walt Sorg  42:05

will have a link to the full Randy rainbow performance on our website. He does ended by the way with a an apology to Barbra Streisand, although I'm sure Barbara probably loved it. But that's the state of the Republican Party right now it is, of course, Lou Dobbs has gone to nothing like getting sued for $2 billion, that will get your employer to decide that maybe you ought to no longer be a part of the team. So bye bye Lou


Christine Barry  42:33

Well, it's time for some quick notes. news from the classroom, some good, some not so good. One of the things that I think everybody should have seen coming is that we have more and more teachers dropping out as the pandemic drags on. I'm not on the school board anymore. But every year we go through, we don't know what our headcount is going to be. In the state of Michigan, our budget timelines are weird. And so we have to prepare budgets before we know what the state's budget is, it's a stressful situation, because it's all based on just this constant contingency plan. So it doesn't surprise me at all that Michigan teachers are just tired of the added stress of the pandemic, not having the resources they need early retirement so that people can just get out of these high risk situations, which, again, you know, we said you mentioned earlier, while that the risk of athletics or the risk of his being in school, it's not to the kids, it's to the older people, or you know, to the people at home because they can become carriers. And that's what a lot of these teachers are responding to when they say I just can't take this stress anymore, the stress of trying to catch the kids back up to where they should be with their education, the stress of maybe having bigger classrooms, because we have fewer teachers, and the normal stress that's always there, which is being under resourced in a very demanding profession,


Walt Sorg  44:00

just to make it more complicated. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction says we need more school days, one to make up for the time lost over the last year for students. But also I would contend just because there's more to learn. In this technology age, we've already been skimping on some aspects of education. I took driver Ed when I was in high school. And now nobody takes driver Ed and you can see the carnage on the roads that's a result of that. But more importantly, we don't have very much civics education. So you have a lot of people that are just not knowledgeable about self government. And I think that is very dangerous. And that makes people much more prone to accept misinformation, or outright lies on the internet simply because they don't know. These are things that need to be beefed up. Just like in a lot of school districts, you don't have much anymore in support of the arts or foreign languages. A lot of things have gone by the wayside just because budgets have been been so strapped and the amount of instruction time is so limited. So So all of that is really important too. To consider it's getting more and more expensive all the time as the number of students go down as our population gets older, we've got a lot of real challenges in education that are going to last far beyond this pandemic. on the good side, though, we've got a state program to increase our educational levels pretty significantly.


Christine Barry  45:17

Yes, free college tuition. And you know, there are limits to it. It's for eligible trades at eligible schools you have to apply. It's the $30 million Michigan reconnect program.


Walt Sorg  45:30

And basically what they're saying is that if you want to go to a community college and get a two year degree in something that's going to provide you with an income for the rest of your life, the state of Michigan will pay your tuition. If you live inside of a community college district, which does leave out some rural areas, they only get the in district tuition reimbursement, so they're still going to have to pay, but that's a big step forward. The question is going to be whether the community colleges can handle the increased number of students. I know at Lansing Community College, which services quite a large area in mid Michigan, they've got a nursing program that's way oversubscribed. Right now. There's a lot of people that want to get in, get that registered nurse certification so they can immediately walk into a job that pays 4050 $60,000 a year and there is a huge need for nurses. The question is how many can LCC handle at one time, you're going to have that continuing problem with a lot of the trades programs in the schools. Also going on this week some direct responses to the challenges from last year's election from our Secretary of State. Jocelyn Benson is proposing a comprehensive package of reforms for state election laws that recognize the reality that as a state we're moving away from going to the polls, and more towards voting by mail. The reforms start with speeding up the process of counting all those million votes. So we don't have complaints about votes being discovered at three in the morning,


Jocelyn Benson  46:55

enabling our election officials to count absentee ballots prior to election day or just process them and prepare them to be counted prior to Election Day was something I in clerks all around the state advocated for nearly 18 months for the legislature to do. And they really did it in a way that was needed to put us in a position where states like Ohio and Florida will be at or able to begin this process in Kentucky, North Carolina much sooner.


Walt Sorg  47:21

That's just one element of a very huge package. major elements of which were outlined by Assistant Secretary of State Heaster Wheeler


Heaster Wheeler  47:28

first require that absentee ballot applications are mailed to registered voters every federal election cycle require that ballots are counted if postmarked by Election Day and received shortly after, establish early in person voting at clerk offices and satellite offices prior to Election Day, and make Election Day a state holiday. Additionally, it would allow overseas service members and their spouses to return their ballots electronically required translated election materials where a significant non English speaking community lives, provide funding for clerks to ensure compliance with the American with Disabilities Act and support people with disabilities. And finally allow transportation assistance to the polls.


Walt Sorg  48:19

The only problem with getting a lot of this through Christine is it goes counter to the republican campaign plan of suppressing the vote. It makes it by making it easier to vote. It is generally believe that helps democrats more than it helps republicans at least that's what republicans believe. And they want to suppress the vote. It's not as bad in Michigan as it is in some other states. But there's a lot of efforts nationwide amongst republican state legislatures to make it harder to vote, which to me makes it even more critical that the United States Senate is going to get rid of the filibuster. That's the only way we're going to get voting rights legislation through the Congress. And if Congress were to pass the voting rights, restoration and enhancements that are proposed as a part of the reform packages, it would end an awful lot of the partisan shenanigans that go on, among other things, it would end gerrymandering, at least for congressional elections by requiring that bipartisan or nonpartisan Commission's be established in every state to draw the lines. Right now republicans are licking their chops over the possibility of skewing the boundaries in a lot of states that are completely controlled by Republicans so that they can return to control the House of Representatives. Basically, the democrats in the legislature have a two year majority if they're willing to use it, but to use it, they've got to get rid of the filibuster.


Christine Barry  49:34

Everything is on the line. Now. We've we've seen that over the past few months. But even as Lansing republicans resist the idea of banning weapons in the state capitol, Democrats in Washington are taking solid steps to make things safer. The house has just approved big fines for members who don't agree to security screening who don't comply with that rule. Whether Republicans hate this they have to go through them metal detector. And they're saying things like how can we socially distance and take COVID precaution if we're standing in line to go through a metal detector, which might detect my firearm, it's hard to take them seriously.


Walt Sorg  50:12

Yeah, well, these are serious fines to the first offense of refusing to go through the metal detector on your way to the floor was $5,000. The second offense is $10,000. They've already nailed a couple members of the House, including louie Gohmert, who I would contend is the dumbest member of the legislature. Although it's it's a tough battle, but right up there,


Christine Barry  50:33

oh, my God,


Walt Sorg  50:34

he's just he's a really offensive, but he's already been fined $5,000. And if he does it again, it'll be $10,000. And it'll continue and it's coming right out of their paycheck. This is not something where they can use campaign funds to pay the fine or some some other source of money, it comes right out of their pocket. And for those members who are not multimillionaires, which admittedly is probably fewer than half of them. This is a really big deal. So you know, Lauren bovard, I'm sure is going to get caught on this the whack job from Colorado. And I wouldn't be surprised but our good friend Marjorie Taylor green shows up pack in one of these days and refuses to go through the metal detector as well. You don't need weapons on the floor of the House of Representatives, whether it's state or federal. What you need is good security in the building to keep other people from weapons from going inside the buildings. Something Michigan desperately needs is one of the few states that allows you to carry inside the Capitol. And to wrap up our notes for this week. My favorite story of the week by far comes out of Miami. You may be familiar with David Hogg. He is the student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, who has been one of the gun safety advocates coming off of that terrible massacre in 2018, in Parkland, and he's decided that he is going to take on the CEO of my pillow in a way that is peaceful, hilarious and possibly profitable. They're getting into a pillow fight. Hawk is teamed up with a Los Angeles software developer William legati. I believe his name is pronounced and they're going to start their own pillow company to compete against my pillow. And I find that really amazing especially since my pillow is now off the shelves at places like Bed Bath and Beyond and other places as Michael Sandel becomes more and more controversial, especially after that three hour mockumentary that he put on cable TV last week, alleging a proof of all sorts of weird things in the election. This is the way you go after somebody use the system. And literally they're in a pillow fight. What more peaceful way could you fight with somebody else politically that a pillow fight?


Christine Barry  52:44

Yeah, one of his tweets, he says we're gonna win with memes. I think it's true.


Walt Sorg  52:51

It's really interesting in marketing, when you think about it, because my pillow basically is a marketing company. They did some really tremendous commercials. Michael Sandel was a presence on television. All of it's a pillow for crying out loud. You can get pillows anywhere you get. I've got great pillows. I didn't buy them from him. I got him from one of the big box retailers. And they're fine pillows, but he managed to sell his my pillow by just being an incessant presence on Late Night and cable TV with his goofy jingles. And now you've got David Hogg who has gone from being a high school student, to somebody who has started a national organization that has a huge presence nationally, and did it completely with social media. It's going to be an interesting marketing battle. And I think David Hogg may want to


Christine Barry  53:37

Well, I can't wait to see all the MAGA and Q Trump people buy up his pillows and film themselves shooting them. I think that's gonna be great.


Walt Sorg  53:49

Well As for me, I may have to get some more pillows now just to support the cause


Christine Barry  53:53

me as well.


Christine Barry  54:02

Before we go, we have a recommendation for another podcast. This week's edition of the new abnormal with Rick Wilson, who by the way really likes the F word. And Molly Jong-Fast includes a tremendous interview with Michigan's Debbie Dingell talking about the terror being used as weapons against public officials. We would have pulled an excerpt from that, but that would have been an injustice to representative dangles very personal stories about the escalation of violence as a political tool. We'll have a link to the podcast on our website. And with that, we put a lid on this week's podcast. If you'd like to learn more about today's topics, head on over to our show page at where you'll find, among other things a link to the Dingell interview


Walt Sorg  54:47

and if you want to tell us why we're just full of it, you can email us at EMI or troll us on Facebook or Twitter, unless jack Dorsey has already banned you from Twitter, of course, and the Unless we're zapped by Jewish space lasers, we'll be back here in a week. The Michigan Policast is a production of Michigan citizens for a better tomorrow.

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