Jun 042012
The sudden, self-inflicted collapse of US Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s reelection campaign, while unprecedented, was not unforeseen. The yawning chasm between McCotter and his constituents is legendary. I should know. I’ve spent the last 5 years documenting his legacy. (If you’d like to see for yourself, I’ve created playlists on Youtube/erox07 called McCotter & Me and McCotter & Me: Season 2.) It’s too late for him, but perhaps his successor can learn something from his folly.

I set out to set up an appointment to meet with McCotter for a few moments to discuss the limits of executive power and privilege. When that proved more difficult than one would expect, I tried to find out what upcoming events he planned to attend in hopes of catching his ear for a moment, only to discover that his office does not release that information. Next, I worked my way up the chain of command, trying to schedule a public town hall meeting with him and found that he doesn’t even accept such requests. Finally, I circulated a petition requesting he revise his policy on town hall meetings so that constituents can make a formal request for one. All together, I collected far more than the 244 signatures McCotter legitimately gathered for his own reelection effort. I know this because I still have photocopies of them. I gave him the originals. I’m no lawyer, but I know that’s how it works.

Without the aid of his staff, I was able to track him down to a Livonia chamber of commerce breakfast this past winter. The petition must have seemed alien to him because when I presented him with it, he declined to even touch the paper let alone read it. His district director, Paul Seewald stepped in to file away the document in his coat pocket. I told McCotter what the petition requested, and he asked. “What gives you the right to speak on behalf of my constituents?”

“The signatures,” I explained. “And not just from constituents, but from your supporters in the Tea Party.” 

“Oh, those people,” he snarled.

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter was fond of proclaiming his reverence for the “Sovereign Citizen” as a way of pandering to “those people.” Citizens are not sovereign. They are subject to the laws of the land. The laws are made by legislators like him and he derives his power from the will of the people. McCotter may  believe that he was the victim of a clerical error, but ultimately this was his undoing. He handled the will of the people the way Madame Currie handled radium, with similar results.These petitions were more than mere formalities; they were the source of his power and should have been handled with the utmost respect.

Whoever steps in to fill his shoes would be wise to remember this.

– Erik William Shelley.

Shelley, a constituent of McCotter’s 11th Congressional District until redistricting last year, details his past efforts to contact McCotter directly and ask him some basic but vital questions in “How John Conyers and Thaddeus McCotter inadvertently drove me into the streets,“ a piece he wrote in December 2011 for occupy-detroit.us. The piece is studded with links to videos of his efforts.

Ed: U.S. Rep. McCotter dropped his campaign to run in the Aug. 7 Republican primary as a candidate for re-election to the U.S House seat he held for 10 years. The Michigan Secretary of State’s office rejected him from the primary ballot because it found that almost all of the 1,830 signatures were fraudulently duplicated and that the dates were changed on some of them. McCotter initially said during the past week that he would run as a write-in candidate. He announced a change of mind a few days later, over the June 2-3 weekend.