Many have convincingly argued that the GOP’s nominating of candidates who embraced right-wing extremism and disparaged the integrity of election results cost the party dearly in last year’s midterm elections. But up in Michigan — where Democrats won every statewide race in November, wiping out Republicans to win control of both legislative chambers and give them a state-government trifecta for the first time in decades — the state GOP seems to have concluded that the best path forward is further rightward.
In a contentious convention vote on Saturday, delegates of the Michigan Republican Party elected Kristina Karamo — who is still denying her own 14-point election loss in November’s secretary of state race — as their new chairperson. Karamo, who defeated ten rival candidates in the race, will now run the GOP in the swing state for the next two years, through the 2024 elections, when one of Michigan’s U.S. Senate seats will be up for grabs. Reports the Detroit Free Press:
Karamo defeated unsuccessful GOP attorney general candidate Matt DePerno of Kalamazoo, a fellow election denier who was endorsed in the party chair race by Trump. Karamo had 58 percent of the vote on the final ballot. DePerno had 42 percent.
“We will not betray you; we will not lie to you,” Karamo said in a brief victory speech as convention delegates were hustled out of the Lansing Center. The cash-strapped state party had only paid to rent the hall until late afternoon. Officials extended the arrangement until 8 p.m., but told delegates they had to leave quickly after the third ballot.
DePerno also had the support of MAGA personality and pillow guy Mike Lindell, indicating that Donald Trump and his allies were ultimately unable to exert influence over Michigan’s rising right-wing grassroots, who have been mounting an aggressive insurrection against moderate Republicans in the state. It seems highly unlikely that this shift is going to help the Michigan GOP remain relevant beyond the fringe, let alone sufficiently funded, moving into the 2024 election cycle.
Karamo, a devout conservative Christian and former community-college instructor who makes history as the first black chair of the Michigan GOP, holds extreme views on a number of subjects and has promoted Christian nationalism and various right-wing conspiracy theories in recent years. She’s also as loud and proud an election denier as they come. Karamo quickly rose through the ranks of Michigan right-wing politics after claiming she personally witnessed voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. In a speech on Saturday, she championed her refusal to concede her loss to Democratic incumbent Jocelyn Benson in last year’s secretary of state race, insisting that “conceding to a fraudulent person is agreeing with the fraud, which I will not do.”
In addition to her stolen-election claims, she’s said antifa was behind the Capitol Riot, has promoted the “Clinton Kill List” conspiracy theory and various alleged plots involving George Soros, and often cites demonic influence as the reason for the country’s ills. Last year, the liberal watchdog Media Matters highlighted comments Karamo made in 2020 as a podcast host detailing how Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Cardi B, and Billie Eilish were promoting paganism and acting as tools of Satan. She also alleged Jay-Z was a Satanist (though she acknowledged she lacked “hard proof” for that claim), said yoga was “a satanic ritual,” and called out a Korean dramedy for a plotline in which a character was “communicating with demons.”
Some of those comments were framed around the importance of protecting children from satanic influence. Vice News has reported that during a 2020 appearance on a QAnon podcast, Karamo called abortion satanic “child sacrifice” and promoted the the conspiracy theory that abortion providers harvest and sell organs. Though Karamo has denied that she supports QAnon, in 2021 she spoke at a Las Vegas conference linked to the movement.
Vice also highlighted Karamo’s anti-LGBTQ views and how she once referred to gender-affirming care for trans youth as “straight demonic,” as well as how she admitted that she wished “harm and/or misfortune” on “secular progressives.” CNN’s KFile has noted that Karamo once suggested that demonic possession could be transmitted through “intimate relationships.” She also claimed on her own podcast that women who marched in the 2017 Women’s March were “addicted to porn.” Citing a small apparent drop in U.S. Pornhub viewership among women on the day of the march, Karamo said the marching women supported abortion “so they can live sexually promiscuous lives” and thus “didn’t have time to watch their porn” while at the rallies.
Two days before being elected Michigan GOP chair, Karamo reemphasized her demon-hunting bona fides during a speech to a right-wing patriot group, per the Washington Post:
“When we start talking about the spiritual reality of the demonic forces, it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, this is crazy, we can’t go there,’” Karamo said. “No. It’s like, did you read the Bible? Didn’t Jesus perform exorcisms? … Scriptures are clear. And so if we’re not operating as though the spirit realities of the world exist, we’re going to fail every time.”
After Saturday’s convention and vote, which a large number of moderate Republicans skipped, conservative Detroit News columnist Nolan Finley wrote that it was the de facto end of the Michigan GOP, warning that “a party that has already become unacceptable to moderate voters will become unappealing even to conservatives.”