It’s unfortunate that Jean Cramer’s racist comments forced her to drop out of the Marysville, Michigan, city council race.
No, really. I’m sincere in regretting that she’s not continuing her campaign.
Cramer, 67, appeared last week at a community forum and rejected out of hand the notion that there could be value in attracting a diverse population to her town, not far from the Canadian border and about 55 miles northeast of Detroit. Her racist response to the moderator’s question stunned many in the audience and made national headlines.
“My suggestion, recommendation: Keep Marysville a white community as much as possible,” she said, without a trace of self-awareness to the insensitivity of her comment. “White. Seriously. In other words, no foreign-born, no foreign people.”
After a weekend of condemnation from embarrassed townsfolk and a barrage of negative attention from the national media, Cramer submitted written notification to the city withdrawing from the council race. Officials for Marysville in a Facebook post wrote that Cramer’s name would remain on the ballot, because her withdrawal occurred after the April 26 deadline set by the State Elections Board.
In an interview with CNN, Mayor Dan Damman applauded Cramer’s decision to stop embarrassing the city.
“I had publicly asked her to withdraw the day after she made the initial statement, and public sentiment from our residents was swift and bold as they rejected her ideology,” Damman wrote in an email to CNN. “It is my sincere hope that she withdrew because she recognized that her belief system and ideology have no place in public service; not in Marysville, not anywhere.”
The city’s mayor pro tem, Kathy Hayman, was apoplectic about Cramer’s comments, saying that she took them personally because her late father was a Syrian-born immigrant who ran a business and held elected office in the community for years. In fact, the very room that the meeting took place was named to honor her father, Joseph Johns.
“So basically, what you’ve said is that my father and his family had no business to be in this community,” Hayman told Cramer.
A reporter for the Port Huron Times-Herald approached her after the forum to ask if she wanted to clarify her earlier comments and respond to Hayman. She obliged by saying more racist and xenophobic things.
“As long as, how can I put this? What Kathy Hayman doesn’t know is that her family is in the wrong,” she told the reporter. “Husband and wife need to be the same race. Same thing with kids. That’s how it’s been from the beginning of, how can I say, when God created the heaven and the earth. He created Adam and Eve at the same time. But as far as me being against blacks, no I’m not.”
While I find Cramer’s views repugnant, they are refreshingly honest and void of the mealy-mouth comments so often uttered by poll-tested politicians. Indeed, Cramer seemed more than willing to defend her racist views in follow-up interviews with local media. Maybe she would have stood by her comments to the bitter end, if not pressed out of the race.
But such is not to be. Without Cramer on the hustings, there’s no way to know how the denizens of Maryville would have ultimately responded to her views. It’s something every American might have dearly benefitted from knowing and understanding, especially in this racially fraught political moment.
To be clear, I would have loved to have heard Cramer debate her views and defend so overtly a racist opinion during the campaign. What’s more, I’m curious to know just how much support Cramer would have received in the community that’s 95% white and located near the Canadian border about 55 miles northeast of Detroit.
After all, she has lived in the community since 2012, according to property records. She was well-known enough to become a qualified candidate for the council, which means that a significant number of residents knew something about her public views. Presumably, many people in Marysville knew or shared her racist vision for the future of their town well enough to encourage her to run for office.
I regret she’s not continuing to campaign because hearing her views represents an excellent test of her city’s values and a missed opportunity for those of us who don’t live in Marysville to learn something real and candid about people who inhabit our nation.