Tea Party Disgust: Splitting the Conservative Vote in Michigan's First District

In the aftermath of the very close MI01 Republican primary, won by Dan Benishek of Crystal Falls by 15 votes, several things have transpired that has tested the friendships and trust of tea party members and patriots, and the movement itself.


Glenn Wilson, a self-proclaimed independent, has entered the first district race and has co-opted former leadership of the tea party movement. In a Politico article Wilson is cited as being, “backed by several tea party groups.” When in reality, he has hired the former leader of the Petoskey Tea Party and has the support of disgruntled libertarians. Rich Carlson is no longer the leader of any tea party group, and his friend, Randy Bishop, has completely alienated the tea party folks in Emmet County and many of the supporters he had in his bid to become State Senator to replace Jason Allen in Michigan’s 37th.

Carlson, a former supporter of Tom Stilling’s campaign for the Republican nomination for MI01, had discontinued attendance at the regular meetings for the Petoskey Tea Party group, which prompted the group to elect a replacement leader, Dennis Kelly.

The group, satisfied with being elected to positions within the Republican Party of Emmet County, were very interested in working within the Republican ranks to support conservative ideals and working to decrease the influence of liberalism. Bishop, a member of the tea party group, and a Republican candidate for Senate in Michigan’s 37th, on his own, decided to send out a mass email from “Tea Party leader Randy Bishop” titled, “Local Tea Party group takes control of the Emmet County Republican County Convention.” The email discussed the “political maneuver that could become fuel for the tea party movement across the country.”

The current leadership of the Petoskey Tea Party took great offense to this email on two counts, 1) that Bishop is not the tea party leader, and 2) the email was an unnecessary and provocative move that alienated the Republican base in Emmet County.

To top it off, former tea party leader, Carlson, had introduced the group to Glenn Wilson, a person they were assured would not enter the race in the general unless Jason Allen, current Senator of the 37th won the First District Race. Allen was not held in too fond esteem by most tea party members, and was considered too liberal. (Side note: Many tea partiers believe that when Allen did not ask for a recount, his acceptance of the vote was honorable. Also, when he threw his support behind the winner, it was recognized as a very honorable thing to do for the party.)

“We had made a pledge back in January that we would not go third party as a group, we would not endorse candidates, and just recently we approved a motion to only support the Republican Candidate after the primary, because we knew third parties elect a Democrat, which was of course, not what we wanted.” Kelly said. So the fact that Carlson was pushing Wilson went against everything they had said as a group previously.

If Wilson figured that he had major support with the tea party movement, the Gladwin Tea Party held this past Saturday, should have been the big clue that he will not win a large number of them over. After Wilson finished his speech, which included a number of fractured sentences, no clear train of thought, and was mostly a diatribe against the two-party system, he was questioned no less than 6 times why he is trying to split the conservative vote. Instead of answering the question, he fell back on his disgust of the Republican Party and the Democrat Party. Even when asked that since his platform mirrors much of the Republican platform, why not use his energy to become a part of the Republican Party in order to change it, he responded with a high-pitched, “Tell the Republican to leave the race!”

That response gained some gasps and groans from the audience, but it highlights the illogical thought process of entering the race after the primary. Unless it is not illogic, but for some purpose.

I had the pleasure of meeting with a current tea party member who used to live in Wayne County (Detroit). He told me that he worked on many campaigns, all local, all Democrat. “The thing is, there are liberal Democrats and conservative Democrats, so it is still a two-party system.” He continued, “it is common practice for the liberals to put up a second conservative in order to split the vote and usher in the liberal.” A fellow tea partier asked him, “If that is what is happening here, is there anyway to find out if Wilson is working with the Democrats?” The man said, “No, there will be no trace, no paperwork, he would be fresh.”


The Republican Primary included six Republicans until Goldthorpe suspended her campaign on July 14th. Even though she stopped campaigning, she received almost 5,000 votes in the primary. She had been attending Lincoln Day Dinners and fundraisers for the Republican Party for quite some time, and it was reported several times by several Republicans that her speeches and thoughts on Reagan were not very welcome. She told a group of teenage Republicans that she cried the day she became a Republican, and that she hated Lincoln Day dinners. She said at one meeting, that Reagan contributed to our tax slavery, and at another, was seen refusing to applaud a remembrance of Reagan on his birthday. She was known to carry a small plastic rhinocerous as a visual aid during her speeches, placing blame on every Republican in the room for being RINOs (Republicans in Name Only.) In short, Goldthorpe purported to be the only true Republican, the only pure Republican, and everyone else, except perhaps Ron Paul, were anti-constitutional political hacks. Her campaign manager was Tom Backers, who is now promoting Wilson. Her son is now working for Wilson. Linda Goldthorpe has endorsed Wilson.

This move of Goldthorpe’s has alienated many who believed in her. She has an understanding, one would think, of history and third parties.

In fact, on Monday’s Rush Limbaugh radio program, a woman called from Delaware. Claire said she used to be a Republican, but she has become an independent instead,

“RUSH: Okay, now, having said all that, Claire, I have a penetrating and hard-hitting question for you.


RUSH: Because you started out saying you used to be a Republican.

CALLER: Hm-hmm.

RUSH: But now you are an independent.

CALLER: That’s correct.

RUSH: All right. Now, if you are not a Republican, but you oppose liberalism, socialism, communism, then how are you helping us take back the Republican Party? How many independents are going to be elected this November?

CALLER: Well, I have to tell you, I’m in the process of actually switching back, because of the upcoming primaries that are coming up. And I’ll tell you what turned me on the Republicans. First of all, in my state when Mike Castle voted for the cap and trade, I was done.

RUSH: Yeah, well, Castle’s a RINO.

CALLER: But there’s many of them in this party and there’s too many that don’t understand.

RUSH: That’s right. That’s why you’ve gotta stay in it and take over and make them the minority in the party.

CALLER: Well, I want to echo one other thing, and that is true, that is true. I think if there’s a shot at communism, the danger to this country, it’s going to have to be a Republican because I know it won’t come from a Democrat, but I’m not even sure at this point if the Republicans understand it.

RUSH: That’s another thing that you’re pretty close to being right on, and that’s why abandoning the party and going independent is a ticket to third party, which is a guaranteed winner for Democrats.”

Of course Rush is right, but this back and forth has been part of his radio show for decades. Everybody knows that third parties elect the Democrats. If the independent candidate and his endorsers do not understand this, motives are the next thing that will be questioned. It is a natural progression.

J.R. Dunn in the American Thinker writes,

“But a wild card remains — the Tea Parties. American political culture has never been limited, as it is in Europe, to a professional elite that makes the deals and then imposes them on the prole class. In this country the people speak, as they are speaking today. Obama has governed so ineptly, arrogantly, and stupidly as to arouse disgust in people who until now have been happy to ignore politics.

The Tea Parties are not Republican. They’re not even necessarily conservative as we have grown to recognize the term. But they are American in spirit, and thus de facto conservative. They must turn to the GOP as a political vessel because they have nowhere else to turn.”

The vast majority of tea partiers are out working for their candidates, and in Michigan, if their candidate did not win the primary, they have committed to the Republican candidate. The pursuing of a third party perpetuates the myth that conservatism is a narrow-minded and narrowly-focused purist movement.

Daniel Hannen, Conservative MEP writes in the UK Telegraph,

“K Street versus Tea Party: the latest manifestation of the Republican Party’s ancient dualism. The story of that party’s rise and fall over the past six decades is, in a sense, the story of the rise and fall of what would now be called its Tea Party tendency.”

So those who follow Wilson, set themselves up for failure, but that could be said for the Libertarian movement who perennially chose a different Party in order to push their agenda. If those who cannot vote for either party in a two-party system really wanted to fight the good fight, work toward a goal, plod on and make headway, they would join the movement within the Republican Party, where numerous tea party members have already made a pledge to not go third party and have followed through with it.

Ronald Reagan, speaking at CPAC 1977:

Our first job is to get this message across to those who share most of our principles. If we allow ourselves to be portrayed as ideological shock troops without correcting this error we are doing ourselves and our cause a disservice. Wherever and whenever we can, we should gently but firmly correct our political and media friends who have been perpetuating the myth of conservatism as a narrow ideology. Whatever the word may have meant in the past, today conservatism means principles evolving from experience and a belief in change when necessary, but not just for the sake of change.

Once we have established this, the next question is: What will be the political vehicle by which the majority can assert its rights?

I have to say I cannot agree with some of my friends — perhaps including some of you here tonight — who have answered that question by saying this nation needs a new political party.

I respect that view and I know that those who have reached it have done so after long hours of study. But I believe that political success of the principles we believe in can best be achieved in the Republican Party. I believe the Republican Party can hold and should provide the political mechanism through which the goals of the majority of Americans can be achieved. For one thing, the biggest single grouping of conservatives is to be found in that party. It makes more sense to build on that grouping than to break it up and start over.

Rather than a third party, we can have a new first party made up of people who share our principles. I have said before that if a formal change in name proves desirable, then so be it. But tonight, for purpose of discussion, I’m going to refer to it simply as the New Republican Party.


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