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UP Republican stands up to peer pressure at Capitol

It’s an insidious little disease that does not have the killing power of COVID-19 but, in the political arena, it is deadly, when it comes to freedom of speech behind closed doors.

We’re talking about “caucus discipline,” aka peer-group pressure or group think. It is alive and well in this town.

Former state Rep. Richard Ball, of Owosso, before he passed, disclosed that, whenever he took a position on an issue that was contrary to the rest of the state House GOP caucus — and that was frequently — he was read the riot act, was ostracized, and often got “looks” that could kill. He chucked about it as he revealed that for the first time, but you could tell that standing up for what he believed was right came with a huge price to pay.

The part of Rep. Ball these days is played by another Republican who has dared to reject the GOP party line on two fronts, namely alleged fraud in the last presidential sweepstakes and GOP “hopes” that they can tag Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with COVID-19 nursing home blunders that resulted in senior citizen deaths.

State Sen. Ed McBroom, the dairy farmer from, of all places, Vulcan in the U.P. (and he is not a Trekky) is telling it like it is, even though countless other Republicans around him are not on the same page.

In the post-election hysteria, former President Donald Trump argued he was still president and Joe Biden was not. Mr. Trump’s then-lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was consuming massive doses of media coverage as he paraded around the country carrying the water for his client to convince state legislatures to put a null-and-void stamp on their election results.

When the former New York mayor came knocking at the door of Sen. McBroom’s state Senate oversight panel, Mr. McBroom said he could not come in.

“He has no firsthand knowledge of election fraud,” he told the media, and, until Giuliani obtained such knowledge, there would be no seat at McBroom’s committee table for Rudy G.

He also had the gumption to declare at the end of the day he did not think there would be any evidence to “change things,” leaving Mr. Biden as president-elect and Donald Trump on the outside looking in.

McBroom said and did what he thought was right, and got flak for it.

Now comes the GOP attack on Whitmer, accusing her of a failed nursing home policy that resulted in senior citizens with coronavirus infection being mixed in with other nursing home residents who allegedly caught the virus and died.

The GOP choir in unison concedes it doesn’t have the evidence to prove the point, but everyone is on a mission to prove it. And in steps Sen. McBroom, singing a different tune.

Here we go again.

He concedes that the governor’s policies were a problem “and I think the policy was detrimental and perhaps led to more deaths than a different policy would have led to, but I don’t think that can be proven, and I don’t think that there necessarily was some sort of purposeful negligence or malfeasance that went on that led to that.”

He is clearly open to changing his mind if the evidence emerges, but, for now, he does not see a “smoking gun” and, in what must be music to the ears in the Whitmer camp, McBroom asserts, “I’m pretty sure there is not going to be one.”

But wait. There’s more.

While other Republicans are considering a subpoena to drag in the governor’s former public health director to testify on those policies, Sen. McBroom advises, “I haven’t felt there’s a compelling reason to bring him back again.”

You see, months ago, Dr. Robert Gordon did appear before the senator’s panel and confessed that, in the early stages of the pandemic last year, the data collection at nursing homes was “very poor.”

The senator does agree with his GOP colleagues that “there is significant reason to be concerned about what happened,” but, unless somebody can dig out the proof, he’s apparently prepared to endure any “looks” that might occur in order to stand up for what he believes.

Rep. Ball must be smiling.

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