Late last summer, we attended a Democratic fund-raiser. A few dozen of us schmoozing, eating cold cuts and potato salad in a backyard around the corner.
We live in the Detroit suburbs, where Trump zombies and Bernie-bros live side-by-side, but might not realize it. So it was refreshing to discover a get-together where the attendees were openly in favor of continuing the American Experiment.
We got a little pep talk from our U.S. Congressman, Andy Levin, who then yielded the stage (actually, the porch) to the star of the show — the person for whom the funds were being raised — our own Michigan state senator, Mallory McMorrow.
My wife and I already knew enough about her to have voted her into office in 2018, but that’s a low bar — a “D” next to her name was all we required. But we recognized her right away — her red hair is hard to miss — even behind her Covid mask, one of the few being worn that day.
We watched her work the room (okay, the yard), and her self-assurance was striking. As we were hoping at least to shake her hand and wish her luck, we were pleased when she engaged the two of us directly. She apologized for the mask and for not shaking hands — her young daughter had tested positive and she was taking no chances, even outdoors.
She spoke knowingly. She related to us as fellow members of the reality-based community. She listened to our gripes without letting her attention wander. She rolled her eyes at the declining sanity of the GOP-controlled legislature. She effortlessly impressed with her presence, her energy, her lively intelligence.
We discovered that we both have backgrounds in advertising, specifically in creative departments, which suggested to me that her marketing savvy and communication skills — two cornerstones of today’s politics — were likely to be strong. Little did I know.
When she got up to address the crowd, she took off the mask and spoke casually for about ten minutes, getting in her talking points, then fielding questions for another twenty. She spoke off-the-cuff, facts at the ready, clearly on her game.
But you could see she had that thing. Call it charisma. Call it sizzle or magnetism or star power. Whatever you call it, the talent was there.
People who’ve spent time in the communications fields recognize it immediately. Total ease in front of large groups of people. Total command of the subject matter. Total engagement with audiences and cameras. Total confidence that she will have the right words to say when she needs them, and that those words will have heft to them. She was a natural.
So last week, when her five-minute demolition of the odious Lana Theis went crazy viral, it was a surprise, but not a total one. We were all high-fives.
If you missed it, do yourself a favor and go look. It’s worth it.
The background is that Theis, a state senator, sent out a repulsive fund-raising email that called out McMorrow by name, associating her with people who “groom and sexualize” children.
This is, of course, the GOP’s slime tactic du jour — the QAnon-ish pairing of Democrats with pedophilia — straight from the Putin playbook.
Theis’s email, which wins no prizes for spelling, grammar, or coherence, contains a number of alternative facts, such as:
Progressive social media trolls like Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Snowflake) who are outraged they can’t teach can’t groom and sexualize kindergarteners or that 8-year olds are responsible for slavery.
As we all now know, Mallory was having none of it. She took to the floor of the Michigan Senate and stripped the paint off Theis.
She called bullshit on the whole culture of toxic lies that now dominate all Republican activity. She called bullshit on the pseudo-controversies and astro-turfed outrage they manufacture to stoke grievance and hate. She called bullshit on the hot button “issues” — wokeness, sexual trafficking, critical race theory, parental rights, voter fraud, and all the rest of the garbage fallout from Trump’s big lie.
This speech was not spontaneous, it just felt that way. As marketing professionals tend to do, she thought it through, wrote it out, and rehearsed it like any other presentation. She knew what she wanted to say. She knew the tone she was going for. Above all, she saw the opportunity to throw a brick through Theis’s window. And she took it.
She brought the anger — the kind of righteous anger we don’t see often enough from Democrats. She made it clear that she was one pissed-off “straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom” who damn well wants her daughter to know exactly what slavery was, exactly why her classmate has two dads, and exactly why she should never take candy from a Republican. And don’t even think of telling her teachers what they can or can’t teach.
And just like that, a star is born. In one five-minute speech, she gives Democrats a vocabulary, an attitude, and a new way of pushing back at the malignancy of people like Lana Theis.
Writing about McMorrow in the Washington Post, Greg Sargent put it well:
[Y]ou rarely hear Democrats go beyond casting themselves as mere victims of a vile smear, and instead hammering those pushing it for their rhetorical degeneracy, phony piety about protecting children, profound lack of rectitude, and all around sleazy and debased public conduct.
“Sleazy and debased” says it all — the perfect description of today’s Republican party. The party of big money and big stupid. The party of no ideas, no initiatives, no ethics, no moral code, no legal scruples, no interest in governing, no objectives of any kind beyond cruelty, obstruction, and power.
Sleazy and debased is what they stand for. It’s their agenda. It’s their party platform. It’s their Putinist vision for America.
I think white suburban mothers will be a key factor in elections for the next few years, assuming we still have elections. So it’s long past time for moms like Mallory McMorrow to get in touch with their anger, and aim it squarely at the party that demonstrates, over and over, that they couldn’t care less about children. Or women. Or humanity in general.
Meanwhile, I’m counting on Mallory to keep calling them out for the lies they spread, the venom they spew, and the damage they can’t stop doing.