Yesterday, shortly after I announced that I’d be hosting a fundraiser for FLY Children’s Art Center at Woodruff’s on September 8, someone left a comment on the site, alerting me to the fact that the Katie Whitehouse, the director of FLY, had a Mike Eller sign in her front yard. “I can’t believe the head of this organization endorses Eller,” said the commenter. “It makes me sick.” Thankfully, others in the audience weren’t so quick to condemn Katie. Someone pointed out that the sign could have been put there by a landlord, and another reader suggested that she might not be aware of Eller’s history as the head of the far right wing John Birch Society front group, the America First Party of Michigan. The comment I liked best, though, said that it shouldn’t matter who she supports. I’m paraphrasing, but the person said something like, “How would we like it, if people singled us out for condemnation based upon which candidates that we supported?” When I returned from work, and read through the thread, I sent Katie the following note.
Katie, it’s completely unrelated (to the event on September 8), but I wanted to let you know that your name came up on my site today in reference to Mike Eller’s campaign for City Council. (Someone pointed out that you had one of his signs in your yard.) I just wanted to let you know that your politics don’t matter to me, regardless of who you support. I support FLY, and, from everything that I’ve seen, you’re doing great work for the organization. And I’m happy to host this fundraiser and contribute toward the cause, whatever the outcome of this exchange. If you are a supporter of Eller’s, though, and want to talk about some of his beliefs, as he’s stated them over the years, I’d be happy to chat with you. I find his views on homosexuality, AIDS, social security, the civil rights movement, and any number of other things, extremely concerning, and, if you aren’t aware of them, I can send you details… Regardless, though, I’m happy to see you at the fundraiser on the 8th.
As it turns out, Katie wasn’t aware of Eller’s history, or the fact that he hasn’t recanted the statements that he’s made in the past concerning homosexuals, among others. For those of you unfamiliar with Eller’s politics, here are a few highlights, taken from the 2008 America First Party of Michigan platform, which he authored.
• Affirmative Action is… enforced discrimination against white males.
• “WOMEN’S LIB” – Probably the most destructive “movement” in the history of the country. Having its roots in classical Communism (“The women’s liberation movement is a central part of the American socialist revolution in the making” – Leon Trotsky, 1917), it has destroyed the American family, marriage, created the pro – “choice” (read: abortion) movement, blurred the distinction between the sexes, destroyed sexual identity, legitimitized sodomy, all under the usual phony mantra of “equality”. Jesus picked 12 male apostles, not 6 males and 6 females.
• The two chief methods of abolishing property rights in this country today are: “environmentalism”, and “anti–discrimination” laws. Both are smokescreens for the abolition of private property and the rights that go with it. If individual Americans want to control their own property, which they have worked for and earned, they should repeal any legislation which infringes upon that right. Anything less takes power over private property from the individual, whose property it is, and gives it to the State. As a consequence of this proposed policy, all zoning “laws”, as well as state and federal laws, which violate private property rights, should be abolished.
• (T)he entire “environmental” Agenda, since Day 1 (April 22, 1970 – “Earth Day” – also Vladimir Lenin’s Birthday), is, and has been driven by, one over-riding motive: the destruction of Capitalism.
• AIDS: The first Politically – Protected disease. The Cure: Not one Dime (from Government). That would cure it in a hurry.
• We call for an end to all unconstitutional Governmental regulatory agencies, such as the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency); OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)…
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The document in question ends with a rambling stream of consciousness rant against everything from “political correctness” to “car pooling,” which he identifies as evidence of an “apocalyptic vortex of Domestic Communism.” Also on this list are: handicap bathrooms, affirmative action, feminism, “Civil Rights,” sustainability, humanism, multiculturalism, secularism, regional government, national health care, the prescription drug benefit for seniors, mass transit, gun control laws, the abolition of capital punishment, the Clean Water Act, efforts to curb global warming, warning labels on cigarettes and other items, the emasculation of the American male, men wearing necklaces, men wearing earrings, mandatory recycling, Mr. Rogers, PBS, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, easy divorce, unwed couples living together, solar power, jogging, the Paul Robeson “Black Heritage” postage stamp, sexual harassment laws, and calling secretaries “administrative professionals.” (I’m not making any of this up, by the way. Each of those items was cut and pasted directly from Eller’s 2008 platform statement.)
At any rate, Katie, when she learned all of this, recoiled in horror and embarrassment, as most people would. She then promptly removed the sign from her yard, and took to Facebook, letting others know that she’d been “duped.” Here, with her permission, is one of her posts, which beings with a reference to a comment left on this site by one of her neighbors. (He’d said that he’d tried to tell her about Eller previously, but that she hadn’t listened.)
“I did try and talk to her, but she said Eller was a nice man, blah, blah, blah. I couldn’t get through to her. I was hoping someone closer to her could talk some sense into her.”
Umm, this NEVER happened. I have never had a conversation with ANYONE until today about my support of this candidate, who I only just met a week or two (ago) when he came to my door. When I met Eller and heard his platform it sounded reasonable. I had NO IDEA that he was formerly affiliated with AFP, and would NEVER knowingly endorse anyone with racist or anti-gay views. I really would have appreciated if this neighbor actually HAD approached me, rather than have an extensive conversation about me in a blog behind my back. In light of my informative conversation with Mark Maynard, I will NOT be supporting Eller for City Council. Not only am I disappointed in myself for having accepted his platform at face value without researching his past more carefully, in Eller himself for being so manipulative, but now I am also disappointed to find out that the friendly neighborhood that I thought I lived in really isn’t. Thanks, Mark, for giving me the benefit of the doubt, and taking the time to make sure I had all of the facts rather than passing judgement so quickly and so publicly.
And that’s why, as the Democratic primary is just a week away, I’ve decided to say something. I know that we’ve obliquely discussed Eller’s beliefs in the past, but, given that we don’t have a local paper to speak of, and that some folks still apparently don’t know his history, I feel obligated to speak up.
I should mention that I understand why, on the face of it, some people support Eller. I get that people are angry that sitting Ward 3 Councilman Pete Murdock lobbied on behalf of a city income tax at a time when many of us are hurting financially, and appreciate the work Eller did alongside Steve Pierce to stop it from happening. And, I understand why Eller, who presents himself as a successful businessman with a vision for our perpetually-stalled Water Street development project, might come across as an attractive alternative to the incumbent. What I don’t understand, however, is how some people who are aware of his history somehow seem willing to excuse it.
More than one person has told he something along the lines of, “Well, I wouldn’t vote for him to go to Congress, but this is only City Council, and we just need someone to balance the books and cut spending.” I’d argue, however, that his non-fiscal opinions do matter, very much. How can someone who doesn’t believe in zoning laws, for instance, be expected to make good decisions concerning Water Street? I know it’s an extreme scenario, but do we really want a hog rendering facility downtown, pumping toxins into our river? (Eller, as you’ll recall, also believes that we should destroy the Environmental Protection Agency, and roll back clean air and water legislation.) Or, how about his views on gay men, or, for that matter, women who wear pants? What can we expect from him when the time comes to hire new City employees? Will he give gay candidates, women, non-whites a fair shot, or will he only consider straight, white males for our available positions, in an attempt to end the “enforced discrimination against white males” that he sees all around us? I think that’s a legitimate question. (Not only would such behavior be morally reprehensible, in my opinion, but it would put our City at risk for numerous lawsuits.) And I think there are several other scenarios where his personal positions on such topics would negatively impact the City.
And, let’s say you’re OK with all of that. Let’s say that you share his belief that MLK and FDR are “traitors” to our country, that there should be no separation between church and state, and that we, as a country, should stop funding public education with our tax dollars… What do you make of his running in the Democratic primary? How do you reconcile his claim to be a man of integrity, when he’s running on the same ticket alongside folks he clearly detests, like Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren? Or doesn’t honesty really matter to you? (Personally, I have no problem with him running, but I think that he should tell the truth, and not try to present himself as something that he isn’t, just to get elected. I can deal with people who have crazy beliefs, as evidenced by my friends. I cannot, however, tolerate liars and people who seek to manipulate those around them for personal advantage.)
The good news is, in spite of the Eller signs that are sprouting up around town, the word is getting out. I just received another email from Katie, letting me know that she was going to talk with a woman down the street from her, who has an Eller sign in front of her house. As she has a gay family member, Katie thinks it unlikely that she’d support a man who says that we should “cure” AIDS by cutting off research funding, and allowing everyone with the disease to die.
And I guess that’s my message tonight. Instead of leaving anonymous comments online about neighbors who have Eller signs in front of their houses, go over and talk with them. Engage them in conversation. And don’t just assume that they know what the man is about. Like Katie, they may well have been “duped.”
Oh, and to those of you who wrote in and said that you’d no longer support FLY, when you thought that Katie was an Eller supporter, how about doing the right thing and making a donation now that you know how she really feels? (They just needs $165 to make their current fundraising goal, and you could really help.)
Also, it’s probably worth reiterating that, regardless of how I feel about Eller, I don’t like the idea of blacklisting people. I don’t think that we, as a community, should single out Eller supporters for our condemnation, stop patronizing their businesses, etc. While I have a great many problems with his politics, and feel as though he should have run a more honest campaign, I don’t believe we should seek to bully or shame anyone into changing their opinions. I do think, however, that we owe it to our neighbors to meet them half way, acknowledge that they may have valid reasons for supporting Eller, and then explain why, in our eyes, he’s not someone we’d like to see representing our beloved, diverse and resilient Ypsilanti.