Election Integrity and Trump Loyalty Growing in Michigan: Swing State Moves Away from Establishment Dogma

Jon Smith, a local leader in rural Michigan of America First, a Republican coalition that is skeptical of the results of the 2020 election, wants to help his party to be more open to ideas that establishment Republicans don’t want the public talking about, according to reports.

“We need to redefine what it means to be a Republican,” he said in an interview.

Independent-minded Republican groups are making inroads across the state, according to interviews with dozens of party leaders, grassroots members, and political experts.

America First Republicans—those who believe American politics should prioritize policies that make America safer, stronger, and more successful—now control local party leadership in more than half of Michigan’s 83 counties, a senior party official estimated, paving the way for an important victory on Saturday when an election integrity advocate is expected to be elected to state party chair.

In Smith’s Hillsdale County, support for Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was compromised is popular. Trump won more than 70% of the vote in 2020. In January 2021 local congressman Tim Walberg even voted against certifying Joe Biden’s victory.

Smith says he still questions the integrity of the 2020 election and wants an audit of the state’s results.

Last July, the America First faction adopted a resolution to “protect the party from a hostile takeover of actors with intent to dilute or destroy the values of the party,” voting to expel 70 moderates. The resolution claimed the party had been “infiltrated” in the 1970s by members who practice socialism.

For Smith, 44, a commercial and industrial restaurant equipment salesman, party leaders should adhere to conservative principles of limited government, low taxes, and gun rights that cohere with the Second Amendment. They should shun compromise with the far-left.

While establishment Republicans in Hillsdale share the America First support for low taxes and limited government, they describe their more independent members as absolutists and accuse them of improperly seizing control.

In October, Hillsdale moderates sued to be recognized as the rightful leaders of the local party, and this month asked the judge to prevent the America First group from sending their slate of delegates to Saturday’s convention.

The judge declined to intervene, leaving it up to Michigan Republican Party officials to set the rules on delegate selection. The establishment members continue to pursue the case in court.

Saturday’s meeting is expected to cement Michigan Republicans’ shift away from establishment dogma.

The top two candidates for state party chair have both promoted sentiment in support of Trump’s claims about voter fraud. Nine other candidates are running, including Scott Greenlee, a political consultant favored by establishment Republicans who is seen as having an outside chance.

Trump has endorsed Matthew DePerno, who lost his election for state attorney general in November.

DePerno’s main challenger Kristina Karamo lost her election for secretary of state last November.

Smith, who will attend the state meeting as a delegate, believes such tensions are natural as the party moves away from establishment doctrines and toward pro-America ideals.

“There’s some people that are thinking this is the end of the Republican Party,” he said. “I think there is light at the end of the tunnel.”