GOP Gubernatorial Nominee Tudor Dixon—Kidnapping’s Just One Big “Joke” October 2, 2022
I’m sure you’ve heard this time and again. Whenever a GOP politician says something outrageous to a Democrat, or to any member of a racial, ethnic, or religious group, the offending “Team Red” member or suporter replies, “Stop getting all huffy, upset , and sensitive. It was just a joke.” This right-wing response to being called out for nasty comments has been used for years. It is no recent invention. Many years ago, I heard such comments by conservatives on radio broadcasts saying they couldn’t understand why blacks, Jews, and other groups were offended by their so-called “jokes.” These “jokes” consisted of calling their victims nasty names and publicly invoking ugly stereotypes. Fast-forward to Campaign 2022. In Michigan, GOP gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon took mocking her rival Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer to a new “higher”/sicker level. Remember, first-term Gov. Whitmer had been a victim of right-wing domestic terrorism. Two men were recently convicted in a plan to kidnap Gov. Whitmer at her vacation home in order to start a national rebellion. Prosecutors said that these two men went on “reconnaissance missions” to that home, collected high-powered guns, and discussed blowing up a bridge to keep the police from responding. Many Michigan residents were rattled by this terrorist plot and rightly saw it as a rising threat of political violence (nytimes.com, Ulloa, 9/23/22). On September 23, 2022, at one campaign event in Troy, Michigan, candidate Tudor Dixon mocked the attempted kidnapping of Gov. Whitmer. This is what Tudor Dixon said, “The sad thing is Gretchen will tie your hands, put a gun to your head and ask if you are ready to talk. For someone so worried about getting kidnapped, Gretchen Whitmer sure is good at taking business hostage and holding it for ransom.” The crowd reacted with laughter and applause (Ulloa, nytimes.com, 9/23/22). Translation: To GOP candidate Tudor Dixon and her allies, discussing a near kidnapping attempt on Gov. Whitmer is just one “y uu ge” joke. These remarks making fun of a kidnapping attempt on the incumbent Governor that could have turned into tragedy drew quick condemnation from Whitmer’s campaign and from her fellow Democrats (Ulloa). How did Tudor Dixon react? She could have cared less. In fact, at a second campaign rally on the same day with Donald Trump, Jr., Ms. Dixon doubled down on this kidnapping “joke.” Ms. Dixon joked that Whitmer had looked “unsure of what was going on as she held President Biden’s hand during his recent visit to a MI auto show.” In Dixon’s words, “The look on her (Whitmer’s) face was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is happening. I’d rather be kidnapped by the F.B.I.’” Members of the audience laughed, clapped, and whistled. Dem. Governor’s Association deputy communication director Sam Newton aptly called Ms. Dixon’s comments “dangerous, an insult to law enforcement who keep us safe, and utterly disqualifying for the role of MI governor (Ulloa, nytimes.com 9/23/22,cnn.com, Bradner & Judd, 10/01/22 ).” Maeve Coyle, one of Gov. Whitmer’s spokespersons, declared that Dixon’s remarks made her “absolutely unfit to lead in MI and were no laughing matter (Ulloa, nytimes.com, 9/23/22).” Just who is this Tudor Dixon?
Tudor Makary Dixon (45) grew up in Napierville, Illinois. She received a 1998 bachelor’s degree form the University of Kentucky and in the 2000’s moved to Muskegon, MI (freep.com, 1/12/22, Egan, P., crainsdetroit.com/politics, 8/09/22, Grieve, J.) Before going into politics, Dixon worked in sales at several of her father’s steel companies (Egan, freep.com, 1/12/22, Robinson, 7/27/22, axios.com). Dixon co-founded Lumen Student News. Lumen, a now-defunct news site, produced conservative-leaning lessons for grade school students (Egan, 1/12/22, freep.com). In 2018, Dixon became a conservative commentator. She anchored the weekly program “America’s Voice Live” on “Real America’s Voice,” a streaming news and opinion channel (Egan, freep.com, 1/12/22 & 5/20/21). Dixon engaged in controversial commentaries. In 2018, when Macy’s announced it would sell hijabs, Dixon called this Muslim women’s clothing “oppressive garments.” Dixon alleged that Iranian parents are murdering daughters who marry without obtaining parental permission. In 2020, Dixon excused YouTuber Jenna Marbles’ use of blackface as “comedy (Robinson, 7/27/22, axios.com).” IMHO, just another “joke” for Dixon. After Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, Dixon promoted Demagogue Donald’s false claim of widespread voter fraud and claimed he actually won the election (Vigdor, 8/01/22, nytimes.com, Smith & Gomez, 7/30/22, nbcnews.com, Bender, nytimes.com, 7/29/22).
In 5/2021, Dixon announced she would be running for the GOP nomination for Governor of MI against incumbent Democrat Gretchen Whitmer. In the GOP primary debates, Dixon pledged her loyalty to Donald. In a 5/2022 debate, she was asked if she believed that Donald legitimately won the 2020 race in MI. Her reply? “Yes.” In later appearances, Dixon started to dodge questions about whether she still held that election denial belief, a litmus test to many GOPers (See Vigdor, nytimes.com, 8/01/22, Gomez, 7/06/22, nbcnews.com, Murray & Simon, 8/01/22, cnn.com). Demagogue Donald endorsed Dixon after his former Education Secretary, hard-right Betsy DeVos, wrote him that Dixon was “the only one who can stand toe to toe with Whitmer (Vigdor, nytimes.com, Murray & Simon, cnn.com, 8/01/22, Corasanti & Epstein, 7/30/22, nytimes.com).” Besides the endorsement of DeVos and her family, Muskegon GOP Cong. Bill Huizenga also backed Dixon. Dixon handily won the 8/2022 GOP gubernatorial primary. She crushed her nearest rival by nearly 19 points ( nytimes.com, detroitnews.com, Mauger, 8/02/22).
And here is where Dixon stands on the major political issues. Although most Michiganders overwhelmingly support abortion rights, Dixon wants, after the Supreme Court repeal of Roe v. Wade, to support a 1931 anti-abortion law still on the Wolverine State’s books. That law criminalizes all abortions except those that endanger the life of a pregnant woman. Dixon supports an abortion ban with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the mother’s health. She only backs an exception to “protect the life of the mother,” not her health. In an interview, Dixon stated that a 14-year-old girl raped by her uncle is a “perfect example” of an abortion that must be prohibited (washingtonpost.com, 7/21/22, Pietsch, Dress, 7/21/21, thehill.com). Wow! Dem. Governor Whitmer wants to invalidate this draconian 1931 law and favors a proposal on the 11/2022 ballot that would enshrine abortion rights in MI’s constitution (freep.com, Egan, 9/22/22). Abortion rights is a major issue in the MI gubernatorial race (See freep.com, Egan). Dixon wants MI voters to repeal their state’s constitutional provision prohibiting public funding of private schools and to allow funding for students to use on various options for schooling, as her DeVos backers have wanted for years.(Lawler, mlive.com, 10/11/21). Translation: Dixon wants to gut public school funding and give aid to private schools. Dixon is in favor of tax cuts that make up 1/6 of the state’s total budget. She erroneously believes that tourism will replace this lost revenue (See detroitnews.com, Ruble, 7/27/22). She opposes Whitmer’s tough reactions to combat COVID-19 death rates in her state, even though Dixon’s own mother died in this pandemic (LeBlanc, 8/06/22, detroitnews.com). Dixon has some strange priorities as a gubernatorial nominee. In 6/2022, she spoke of supporting a bill that would prohibit drag shows in public schools and for allowing parents to sue schools that host such shows. Critics noted the lack of evidence for such events in MI (Grieve, crainsdetroit.com, 8/02/22). Dixon additionally supports the MI ID Voter Initiative. This initiative would require a government ID to vote, end the sending of many applications for absentee ballots, and abolish drop boxes. Dixon called for an audit of the 2020 election results in MI (Egan, freep.com, 1/12/22, Friske, 7/21/22, michiganradio.org). Dixon is no supporter of the LGBTQ community. Dixon just proposed a policy to require classrooms not to provide instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3, modeled on hard-right FL Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” law. She also recently unveiled a proposal that would ban transgender girls from competing in sports with the gender they identify with (cnn.com, Bradner & Judd, 10/01/22). Dixon is your typical Trump/MAGA loyal GOP lieutenant and will govern accordingly, should she defeat Dem. Gov. Whitmer. That is no joke.
First-term Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer (51) has quite another record. Born in Lansing, MI, she was raised in East Lansing and Grand Rapids. Public service is embedded in her DNA. Her father served as chief of MI’s commerce department under GOP Gov. William Milliken and was president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of MI from 1988-2006 (Cohen & Cook, 2022 Political Almanac, crainsdetroit.com, 7/08/18). Her mother worked as a senior lawyer under MI Attorney General Frank Kelley. Her parents divorced when she was ten. Whitmer obtained a 1993 Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. She originally wanted to become a television sports correspondent. However, after taking a political internship in Lansing, she changed her mind. Whitmer went to law school in Michigan State where she received a 1998 degree. Less than three years after getting her law degree, Whitmer won a state House seat after winning her primary by just 281 votes. She served six years in the MI House, and won a state Senate seat. She served in the MI Senate from 2006-2015. In the state Senate, Whitmer rose to become that chamber’s minority leader, a position she held from 2011-2015. Whitmer was the first woman to head a MI Senate party caucus (Cohen & Cook, 2022, webarchive.org, 8/07/20). In the Wolverine Senate, Whitmer used or oratorical skills and procedural knowledge to become an effective critic of GOP Gov. Snyder and his GOP legislative majority. She fought anti-union right-to-work legislation and other reactionary GOP proposals. In an emotional 2013 floor speech, Whitmer announced that she had been raped while in college. She spoke of this trauma when the state Senate was debating legislation to require abortion insurance to be purchased separately from private health plans. At that time, only 4 of 48 MI state Senators were women. In words that made national headlines, Whitmer declared, “I think you need to see the face of the women you are impacting by this vote today. I think you need to think of the girls that we’re raising and what kind of state we want to be where you would put your approval on something this extreme.” This bill still passed on a near-party line vote and greatly upset Whitmer (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Whitmer was term-limited in 2014. In 2016, Whitmer was unanimously selected to fill the remaining six months of the outgoing Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III’s term. Dunnings had been arrested that year and charged with involvement with a prostitute and neglect of willful duty (lansingstatejournal.com, Hicks, 5/11/16). Whitmer conducted an investigation of the prosecutor’s office to determine if any other officials knew of Dunnings’ alleged crimes and to change how the office handled domestic violence and sexual assault cases. Whitmer’s investigation determined that no other cases had been compromised (lansingstatejournal.com, Hinkley, lansingstatejournal.com, 6/21/16 & 7/22/16). With GOP Gov. Snyder term-limited in 2018, Whitmer ran for governor. She won her primary with 52% of the vote and the general election against GOPer Attorney General Bill Schuette by nine points, 53%-44%. Her campaign slogan, “Fix the Damn Roads,” emphasized her concerns for local MI issues. She ran on a progressive platform that supported a $15 minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, and universal preschool. In the general election, Whitmer took twice as many counties as Hillary had when she lost MI in 2016, including Kent (Grand Rapids), Eaton (suburban Lansing), and most importantly, the working-class Detroit suburbs of Macomb (Cohen & Cook 2022).
In her first term in office, Gov. Whitmer earmarked several billions of dollars for infrastructure investment. She was unsuccessful in funding roads with a gas tax increase. However, she compromised with the GOP to pass a budget. She pushed through a bipartisan compromise on the state’s no-fault auto insurance system which had left MI with some of the highest rates for motorists for years. To the praise of environmentalists, Gov. Whitmer moved to shut down an oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Whitmer aggressively moved to limit in-person shopping, using recreational boats, and limiting many types of travel within MI. She also had to deal with the collapse of two dams that flooded Midland. The public overwhelmingly backed Gov. Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions (Cohen & Cook 2022, mlive.com, 3/26/20 ). She focused in office on health care. Whitmer was chosen to give the Democratic response to Donald’s 2020 State of the Union address (detroitnews.com). Trump and his rabid followers elevated Gov. Whitmer to one of their top scapegoats. He called her “the woman from Michigan,” “Half Whitmer,” and urged his Twitter follower to “liberate Michigan (Cohen & Cook 2022, detroitnews.com).”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was very impressed with Gov. Whitmer’s performance. Before he picked CA’s Kamala Harris for his VP, Gov. Whitmer was a finalist on his running mate list (Cohen & Cook 2022). In 3/2020, Whitmer endorsed Biden for President and was a national co-chair for his campaign (Mauger, 3/5/20, detroitnews.com). Gov. Whitmer delivered a speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention that praised Biden’s work in rescuing MI’s auto industry and attacked Trump for his handling the COVID pandemic. Whitmer was viewed as having a strong possibility of landing a job in Biden’s cabinet, but stated she did not want to leave her governorship. Biden named Whitmer as one of his vice-chairs for the Democratic National Committee, a job for which she was approved (independent.co.uk/news, Mishra, 11/09/20, mlive.com, Barrett, 8/19/20). In her 2022 re-election gubernatorial campaign, Whitmer spoke in favor of Pres. Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, a key legislative achievement. In 9/2022, Whitmer signed an executive directive capping insulin costs at $35 per month and out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 a year for Medicare recipients. In 9/2022, Whitmer announced that student loan borrowers will not be taxed on the debt relief Biden had ordered (cnn.com, Bradner & Judd, 10/01/22).
A 9/15-9/19/2022 poll done by EPIC-MRA of Lansing found Gov. Whitmer leading Tudor Dixon by 16 points, 55%-39% (freep.com, Egan, 9/22/22). However, Gov. Whitmer and her fellow Democrats can take nothing for granted. MI, as we all know, surprised everyone in 2016 by going for Trump which was a key to his electoral victory. In 2020, Biden was, according to polls, leading comfortably in MI but correctly took nothing for granted. In the end, he only won that state by three point, 51%-48%. Many Trump and “Red-leaning Michiganders, clearly, do not talk to pollsters about their plans and so GOP voting strength is “misunderestimated.” (See Cohen & Cook 2022). GOPers currently hold 28 governorships to 22 for the Democrats (governors.rutgers.edu). If Democrats want to take back the majority of governorships, they can ill-afford to lose Gov. Whitmer’s in 11/2022. Governors help pass key legislation in states that often influence national politics. Statistical polls don’t vote. People do. Michigan Democrats, independents, and moderate GOPers must come out in droves in 11/2022 to re-elect Gov. Whitmer. Putting Trump lieutenant Tudor Dixon in the governor’s chair in Lansing will not be a joke.