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As the population shifted further away from Detroit and across the state, state politics has also undergone shifts in ideology that mirror national trends.
"Rather than being a moderate state and country, I do believe we have become more polarized and both parties have moved to their side of the aisle," Anuzis said. "The 1980s brought in the Reagan Democrats, and I think that has kind of spread. Now, if you look at where Trump did well, he did well in western Wayne County, west Michigan and the UP. Michigan has moved to a more cultural conservative mindset that isn't necessarily partisan."
The shift means that lawmakers viewed as moderates in the past may be considered liberal by those in today's right wing, while the old conservatives may be viewed as moderates, even if political ideologies haven't changed. Meanwhile, extremists and fringe groups disconnected from the mainstream establishment have become increasingly empowered.
"If you look back at the early 1980s, (Oakland County Executive) Brooks Patterson was considered a right winger. Today, they would say he's a moderate," Anuzis said. "That's not so much philosophical as it is stylistic. There are conservatives who would rather fight for the sake of fighting rather than finding common ground. That's a stylistic change."
As a former Republican National Committee member, Anuzis was defeated in 2012 by Dave Agema, a tea party Republican from west Michigan who previously served in the state legislature. Agema was subsequently censured in 2015 by RNC and asked to resign his position by former RNC Chair Reince Priebus for homophobic and Islamaphobic posts he shared on Facebook.
"We have moved into this distrust of government in general. People lost faith in both political parties, and I think that's why we had the rise of someone like Donald Trump," Anuzis said. "I think we moved from a more traditional conservative party to a more independent tea party.
"There's a lot of new blood in the Republican party, and many are from the tea party, and some are those with establishment backgrounds and then those without any background, so there are more checks and balances in the party. Some people call it divisions, but it's sort of citizen activists getting engaged and saying the status quo isn't enough. They are trying to get rid of the professional political class, so to speak."
In state politics, power could be viewed, in part, by which party holds the majority of the seats in the state legislature and the office of governor. However, such a simplistic view doesn't take into account competing interests within the majority party based on individual district needs and ideological differences....continued on page 3