Susan J. Demas: Under Republicans, the Center Doesn’t Hold


Last week, yet another troubled man armed with an AR-15 assault weapon committed mass murder.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17, mostly children, is the 1,607th mass shooting since a gunman blew away 27, mostly first-graders, in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

Gun control debates typically go nowhere afterward. Most Republicans roundly reject mainstream, popular and common-sense ideas like universal background checks, banning assault rifles and regulating online, private and gun show purchases.

It’s not a mystery why.

The powerful NRA has become completely unhinged, routinely releasing violent, apocalyptic videos urging people to embrace “the clenched fist of truth” against the “madness” of progressive protests against President Trump and ominously warning the New York Times: “We’re coming for you.”

And so the mainstream conservative position is now to reject nearly any regulation on personal gun ownership. In Michigan, Senate Democrats couldn’t even get domestic abusers and those on the no-fly list banned from the GOP’s “guns everywhere” concealed carry expansion legislation.

There’s hope for some small changes after Parkland, as student survivors like Emma Gonzalez are speaking out, even as some right-wing lunatics spread disgusting conspiracy theories about them.

“Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS,” Gonzalez declared at a gun-control rally just two days after her classmates were murdered.

But Trump is already pushing cockamamie ideas like arming teachers, which doesn’t inspire confidence.

The problem is GOP has veered so far right on issues that reasonable reforms seem like pipe dreams. It’s almost impossible to win Republican primary today supporting abortion rights and it’s fashionable to say you don’t even believe in exceptions for rape, incest and the mother’s life. The President Reagan approach to immigration is now “amnesty” and most Republicans say nothing as ICE tries to round up parents dropping their kids off at school. The market-based approach of Obamacare was derided as socialism.

Perhaps this ideological inflexibility emerged from how the GOP approaches taxes. After winning lower taxes in the 80s and revitalizing their party, Republicans now see this as the prescription for any economic circumstance.

It doesn’t matter if the stock market is booming or crashing, the economy is growing or shrinking or unemployment is rising or falling. It doesn’t matter if people are hurting, roads are crumbling or schools are failing. Cutting taxes is the only way to go. Those who say maybe enough’s enough are shunned.

So realistically, the only way to enact what used to be considered moderate policy on pressing moral issues like guns, immigration and health care is to elect Democrats in Washington, Lansing and other state capitols.

The center doesn’t hold right now.

We need to stop pretending that it can, just because U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) did the bare minimum of his job and met with his constituents after a massive tragedy at the CNN town hall. We need to stop pretending that vague tweets from the president about saving the Dream Act, which protects undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, mean anything after he unilaterally killed it last year.

I know and like many Republican legislators personally. I’ve sometimes been one of those “both sides” columnists. But the GOP, as an institution, has shown little ability for compromise and moderation in the last decade. And its embrace of Trump’s nativism, sexism and corruption will go down as a very dark chapter in our country’s history.

As the mother of two teenagers who I pray never experience anything like Parkland, I say enough. As the mother of an LGBT high-schooler who was mercilessly bullied by Trump-supporting upperclassmen after the election, I say enough.

And as someone who believes in those quaint notions of liberty, equality and justice for all, I say enough.

Dante famously wrote that “the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.” That’s where we are right now. No one should pretend otherwise.

Susan J. Demas is Publisher and Editor of Inside Michigan Politics, a nationally acclaimed, biweekly political newsletter. Her political columns can be found at Follow her on Twitter here.

Susan J. Demas: Trump wins feud with Megyn Kelly because sexism isn't dead

This week, Donald Trump emerged victorious from his fight with Fox News star Megyn Kelly in all his flappy-haired, loud-mouthed glory, dazzling an adoring crowd in Birch Run.

"I love people; I love this country. We are going to make it so strong and so powerful," Trump declared with the unvarnished bravado his supporters ache for. "You are going to love a President Trump."

Pundits had announced he'd never survive after complaining that Kelly, whose show nets 2.5 million nightly viewers, was out to get him at the first GOP debate. She had "blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever," The Donald smirked to CNN.

But I had my doubts that such blatant sexism would take down the GOP frontrunner. As the state's only regular female political columnist, I've seen my fair share of disgusting comments. And sadly, there's an audience for this.

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Susan J. Demas: The message dress codes send to girls –– and boys

My 12-year-old daughter plays on a co-ed soccer team, which means she routinely defends against boys a half-foot taller than her.

That's actually her favorite part, as she catches them off-guard with her speed and aggression.

But she got a rude awakening when she wore her soccer shorts in gym class last year, because she was informed they were too "distracting" for the boys. My daughter, being a shrinking violet, shot back that that was sexist. But as a straight-A student, she acquiesced, lest she be slapped with a "B" -- or worse.

There's nothing unusual about her school's policy -- which is the problem. I will say that other schools seem far more zealous in enforcing dress codes, like an Ann Arbor middle school that recently inspired a protest by 80 students.

Read more.

Susan J. Demas: Ted Cruz, the Duggars and the limits of right-wing victimhood

Ted Cruz was riding high this week, hurling red meat at a rapt crowd in blood-red Livingston County.

Then the GOP presidential hopeful decided to lob a familiar, rambling joke:

"You know, Vice President Joe Biden. You know the nice thing. You don't need a punchline. I promise you it works. At the next party you're at, just walk up to someone and say, 'Vice President Joe Biden,' and just close your mouth. They will crack up laughing."

Just five days earlier, Biden lost his son, Army Maj. Beau Biden, to brain cancer. The vice president, who years ago also lost his first wife and daughter, hadn't even buried Beau when Cruz made the crack.

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Susan J. Demas: Sexism alert: 'Say Yes to the Candidate' ad objectifies Rick Snyder

The objectification of Rick Snyder has got to stop.

A new ad from the College Republican National Committee literally reduces Michigan's governor to a dress.

This spot based on the reality show "Say Yes to the Dress" features dewey-eyed, golden-locked Brittany, a recent college grad who has her whole life ahead of her -- unless she's tragically derailed by picking the wrong wedding gown.

Her frumpy (and likely bitterly divorced) mother frowns as Brittany twirls around in a sleek, bejeweled number Kim Kardashian might model.

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Susan J. Demas: GM CEO Mary Barra fields a question never asked of men

This week, I wrote a newsletter and two columns, posted breaking news, edited stories for future editions, paid my business' bills, crafted and answered several hundred emails, processed new subscriptions and consulted with my attorneys.

And I did this all while being a mom at the same time.

That job involved giving several dozen hugs, cleaning up scrapes resulting from a bike fall, going to two baseball games, hiking with the family, organizing playdates and making more meals than I can count.

I'm not asking for any special kudos. This is similar to what millions of working moms do each and every day, like Mary Barra (who's far more successful than me).

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Susan J. Demas: #YesAllWomen: How everyday sexism poisons us all

When I was 7, I gripped my beautiful mother's hand, squirming as catcalls followed her all the way down a Chicago street.

Three years later, I was playing in our front yard when a car full of teenage boys stopped, telling me how pretty I was, asking if I had an older sister.

Throughout my childhood, my father's clients would call the house, telling me I was so polite I should be a secretary, a fine aspiration for a girl who wrote novellas and got all A's.

By the time I was 15, those men would ogle me. A couple drunkenly propositioned me. Everywhere I walked, from the halls of my high school to my job at the local library, I felt like a piece of meat.

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Susan J. Demas: Nice girls don't say 'vagina' -- what the Rep. Lisa Brown controversy is really about

Nice girls don't say the word "vagina."

They don't say the word "vasectomy," either.


That's what two female lawmakers being banned from speaking last week -- a move Inside Michigan Politics Publisher Bill Ballenger called unprecedented -- is really about.


As much of the country knows, thanks to coverage from National Public Radio, CBS News and CNN, Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) protested some highly restrictive abortion bills by announcing in a floor speech: "I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but no means no."


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Susan J. Demas: I’m Just a Girl

Suppose I wrote horribly misspelled stories that messed up basic facts, like claiming that the Capitol is in Escanaba and the state constitution was crafted by elves.


And suppose I managed to get a gig as a pundit on TV and radio, where I would play the part of the resident airhead. I couldn’t tell you how much the state budget was worth or who the lieutenant governor was.


But I was young, blonde and had a decent pair of sweater puppies.


Naturally, people would question my qualifications — and not just the barely literate folks who spend their days leaving comments online in all caps.

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Susan J. Demas: Sarah Palin's Lady Gaga Tour of Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Sarah Palin blew in here Wednesday with all the stagecraft (and subtlety) of Lady Gaga, pulling up in a luxury tour bus ensconced with the cover photo from her book, right down to her glossy lips and heavenward gaze.

Camera-waving paparazzi were there to capture Palin bounding out in her trademark red blazer with baby Trig in her arms, blessing the frenzied throngs of more than 1,000 with a 60-second speech.

"It's like a campaign event without the depth," a veteran political reporter muttered to me.

Which is saying something.

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