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Succeed online. Whether you're just starting out or managing a growing brand, Squarespace makes it easy to create a beautiful website, engage with your audience, and sell anything from products to content to time. All in one place, all on your terms. Head to Squarespace. Com for a free trial. And when you're ready to launch, go to Squarespace. Com/american to save 10 % off your first of a website or domain. That's Squarespace. Com/american. A quick warning. There are curse words that are unbeeped in today's episode of the show. If you prefer a beeped version, you can find that at our website, thisamericanlife. Org. As this year comes to an end and we think about what politics looks like right now in our country, a good place to understand it is a state political party that made a very bold choice this year.


The convention will.


Come to order.


The state is Michigan. This is a meeting that happened in February, where the Michigan Republican Party had to pick a new leader. If you want to return to your seats, you're welcome to. If you.




That's fine. I know.


You're going to get up.


And sprint to.


Vote here in a minute.


They were to Crossroads. They had gotten killed in the midterm elections, which was just a few months before this, creamed. They were further out of power than they'd been in 40 years, the Democrats controlling the state House, the Senate, governor's office, most of the congressional seats. And why? Well, the big reason was because the Republicans had all these candidates who were pushing the idea that the presidential election had been stolen. And Michigan voters are not into that. They do not want to elect candidates who are obsessed with the election being stolen, apparently. So at this meeting in February, the party needed to elect a leader who was going to rebuild and take the party forward. And if you think about it, one logical path they could have taken is they could have picked somebody who renounced the whole election fraud thing. Right? All the conspiracy theories about voting machines and just all that stuff that Michigan voters are rejecting.


But there.


Were no candidates like that at all. Nobody who said, Let's drop all this election fraud stuff. Because a candidate like that would not have a ghost of a chance that the Republicans in this room were the ones who actually picked the new party leader. In the last two years, election fraud stopped the steal enthusiasts have driven out the regular old fashioned Conservatives and even other magma-loving Trump enthusiasts. Those people have been arrested. They didn't care enough about election fraud or if they have ties to the old party establishment that this new guard sees as completely corrupt, compromising rhinos. In the end, at this convention, there were nine candidates. Just to give you a sense of the range of this group, the most traditional Republican of this bunch was a guy named Scott Greenly. He's somebody who thought like, Okay, election fraud is a problem. But he also came with connections to donors to old school, pre-January sixth Republicans. In fact, Greenly is an experienced political consultant, which by the way, in this crowd is not an asset. He talked to one of the producers on our show, Zoe Chase.


Everyone's telling me that you're the establishment candidate.


Oh, my goodness. Well, I get called all the names. I'm called establishment. I get called a rhino. That's even worse. I've also been called an America first guy because in 2016, I was working extremely hard for President Trump, long before a lot of people were involved in the party.


So that's Scott Greenley, the most traditional Republican. The least traditional candidate for party chair was a complete political outsider in every way. Somebody who was involved in politics started in 2020 as a poll watcher in Detroit. Someone who got famous when she claimed that she saw election fraud with her own eyes. She went on to Steve Bannin's podcast and all kinds of right-wing media, and then ran for Secretary of state. She's an arresting talker, Black, a millennial, a devout Christian named Christina Caramo. So she tries to become Michigan Secretary of state and was soundly rejected by voters, defeated by 14 percentage points. Again, because Michigan voters are not going for the election fraud stuff that she was pedaling. And she did not concede the race, still hasn't, which is something that the Republican delegates at the state convention loved better.


It's the reason I did not concede after the 2022 election. Why would I.


Concede to a fraudulent process?


Conceding to a fraudulent process is in an agreement with the fraud, as which I will not do. We will grow this party without compromising our values. We're going to be a party that grows like never before. We're going to be a political machine that strikes fear in the heart of Democrats, and we're going to win. Vote Carama Opego.


Maybe you saw this coming, Carama wins. She becomes the head of the Michigan Republican Party, the outsiderist, the grassrootist, not for nothing the Christianist, and picking Carama, Michigan Republicans were saying basically, What we want as a party is somebody to lead who A, believes the election was stolen.


And B, has.


No connection to any establishment political machinery of the past, which is all corrupt. That purity test is something that you see a lot among Republicans right now. In the House of Representatives in Washington, so many political fights are basically between Republicans who don't want to compromise at all and everybody else. You see, there's another to the Republican state parties in swing states: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia. But no state party has taken the flying leap off the cliff that the Michigan Republicans have. More than any other state party, they have the least politically connected, furthest from the establishment, most ideological party leader and her followers running things. Among other things, I have to say, it is an enormously idealistic act done by true believers who feel deeply that the only way out of the mess that we're in as a country is a total break with what has come before. And when Karama won, they were amped.


I am excited.


Everything's going to change.


There were tears. Oh, my God.


I have to pray for her now. Now it starts.


Today on our program, when a political party takes a leap like this one, throws itself out in an act of faith like this one in a major swing state, what does that gamble look like? What happens next? Today, we're going to look at how this year unfolded for these true believers. Producer Zoe Chase went many, many times to Michigan throughout this year and has a special, up-close and personal look at how all this played out. From WBZ Chicago, it's this American life. I'm Aaron Klaess. Stay with us. Fuck, Juan. The lonely island. Okay, before you jump any deeper in this, maybe I should take a second and explain just what a state party actually does. It's basically an organization set up to handle all kinds of boring, practical work that you need to do if you want to win elections. They recruit candidates, they organize meetings. There are these massive get out the vote operations for state elections and for national candidates, too. Above all else, they raise money to pay for campaigns and buy ads and do everything else. The person who raises that money usually is the party chair. So to have somebody with no political connections in that job like Christina Caramo, that is very unusual.


Zoe tells the story from here.


Now, Christina Caramo was elected in February, and the party did not pull together behind their new chair. There was a ton of infighting still over the first few months. The first major test of her leadership, her ability to get things done, came this fall, the Mackinaw Island Conference. It's a big symbolic fabled event in Michigan politics. Politicians, lobbyists, presidential candidates all make their way up to Northern Michigan and get on a ferry to this island where no cars are allowed, horse-drawn carriages instead. The whole place does smell like horse shit, which makes it a perfect setting for a group of politicos. They have Knobb, they gossip, they make deals, they raise money. The test for Christina was, with all the old school Republicans she and her followers have ejected from the party, could she raise enough money to even hold the conference? Would it even happen? Raising money is probably the most important thing the state party chair does, and Christina has no fundraising background. Over the last 10 years, the list of reported job she's done are the scraping by kind: sales clerk, trivia host, substitute teacher, adjunct community college instructor. She made a Christian podcast.


Her plan to fund the party was to get donations from small Republican businesses who have supposedly been sitting on the sidelines because they didn't think the party was conservative enough. But that never seemed to get off the ground. And for months before Mackinac, there were rumors like, how would she ever come up with the cash for this big show-body affair? To get a read on those rumors, I checked in now and then with John Smith. He's the perfect person to go to because he totally epitomizes what the Michigan GOP has become. He's an unabasheded conspiracy theorist. He started in state politics around 2020. He chartered two busses to get to January sixth, didn't go inside the capital, he says. He and others stopped the stealers, took over their local county parties. John's on the state committee now. He was like, I doubt Christina raised enough money to pull off Mackinac.


I think they're lying to people about the speakers and stuff. They don't have a way to pay for them, I don't think. But I think do you know that documentary with that guy that did that concert on the island, fry? I think that's what they're doing here. I'm in the fire.


The Fire Festival.


But it's in my GOP. That's what district ninth chair is telling me.


Literally, in the Fire Festival documentary, people show up in the Bahamas and instead of Blink 182 and the Instagram models they were promised, there is no music, no food, no water, and saggy, fema tents. We all find that Mackinac isn't quite that desperate. When I got up to the grand hotel, there was definitely a Republican conference taking place with trumpets and red, white, and blue sparkly pins, as promised, and a grand piano playing a song about how anything is possible if only you believe. But apparently, This year was really different from past years. At night, I was wandering with a couple of attendees, including one of the younger vice chairs, Hassan Mimmy, in a suit and a low founding, father's-y, ponyail. We were headed upstairs in an elevator looking for the Mackinac parties, which I'd heard were legendary.


Oh, you haven't been to one of these before? No. Oh, yeah, this is.


Very familiar. This is your first time to Mackinac.


Oh, yeah, this is various. Imagine you're going to the mall and there's one store open. This is how this weekend feels to me.


In what weeks? How is it like one store?


Because last time you walk on the porch, there was 800 people, and now there's nobody. And every event.


Yeah. Last time, there were around 2,000 attendees. This year, the best guess I saw was 800 at the very most. Out on the class old porch at one point, I talked to another state committee member who was upset about how things seemed to be going.


Well, it's not exactly what we were hoping or anticipating.


Mark Fortin is one of those who wanted a complete break with how it used to be. And how it used to be was that the head of the party was a super-rich Michigan guy, real estate mogul Ron Weiser. In the last few years, the party yearly budget has been something like $20 million, a chunk of which came directly from Weiser and mostly one other rich family in Michigan, the DeVosses.


We knew that if the grassroots took over the state party that the big shooters would go. Not all of them, but we knew the DeVoss family would go and Mr. Weiser would go. They're all globalists. They're all part of the same great, big mess that Michigan's in bringing in the Chinese, the battery factories. So we know they're globalists.


Then Mark spins out the first of the many times I will hear the theory that Christina is a globalist plant and that the reason things are going so badly is that the establishment planned it this way from the beginning of her rise to power.


They knew the grass roots had had enough, and they're going to take over this party. They knew it then. Now the question is, are these globalist types, are they going to set by and take it? Or are they going to start planning for when the grass roots take over? What do we do next? They're after Michigan. There's no doubt.


But she's like the most anti-globalist of them all. She's the anti-globalist.


I know. I'm not accusing her. I'm saying about who's pulling the strings? I just don't know what to think. I'm telling you things that you're asking me what's on my mind. You're asking me what I'm concerned about, and none of them are facts. But my gosh, you look at all this crap going on, and you can't come up with a decent answer. I just don't know. I justdon't know. I'm trying to find out.


That's not the only conspiracy theory I hear about Christina. In the hallway, I run into someone whose conspiracy theory is on a parallel track, but going the other way. Braden Jacobazzi, a frantic little dude. He's a major Christina supporter, a chair on one of our committees. Braden says it's not Christina who's the globalist plant. Instead, they're a secret-operatives within the party who are trying to take her out. They're doing it by starting all these rumors. He and his friend Ken Byer, another Carama loyalist, told me about a few.


Like today, they came up.


With a rumor that Carama was.


Going to.


Retire for two-years.


It's the most absurd nonsense. I saw that on Twitter. But what?


But why even start that rumor?


What is that? They lied.


Because they didn't want people to show up and pack the house. That's why.


They didn't show up.


That's exactly what they did. We've been fighting this for a while, and all they.


Do is lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie.


And they'll make up the most absurd rumors because they know if they do that, it will try to discredit this event, try to discredit the administration, and try to discredit basically all of the MIGOP. Why would they want to do that?


People want power.


There's an.


Old saying, I don't know where it comes from, but some people would rather rule.


Over ashes than.




Somebody to beat them. Oh, yeah. That's something Christina Cromel's saying.




Absolutely… Oh, well, there.


You go. I think.


It's from Game of Thrones.


The actual business at Mackinac, the meeting of party leaders, was a showdown between Christina supporters and Christina's skeptics about party finances. This was a closed meeting, but I got a tape. Christina's team claimed they'd raised $650,000. The skeptics demanded they open up the books and prove it. Towards the end of the meeting, Christina went to the podium to defend herself.


As far as the financial health of the party, the party is not going bankrupt. It's not. But if you receive a treasure report, unless you think the treasure is lying to you. Now, I will make a comment about a lot of the people who aren't giving, is it because they don't like or feel we're going to bank them because they don't like the philosophical direction of the party? That's the reason why I'm...




The end of the day, Christina's team does not agree to quote-unquote, open the books, show them the party finances. And everyone trudges down to the boats, frustrated with each other, dodging the piles of fresh horse shit. Act Two: Another purity test. Just a few days after the conference ended, there was something else that really has nothing to do with money. They came up about Christina's GOP, about who's welcome inside this party. It was an e-mail, anonymously penned by a guy who called himself Paul Revere. And the gist was, An Islamic takeover of America is happening. Homicidal Islamic terrorists are becoming entrenched and infecting our whole country. It concluded, To paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill, Islam and a man is as dangerous as rabies and a dog. This e-mail was sent out to district chairs and vice chairs of the state party. Three of the vice chairs are Muslim, and two of them replied awl because they felt attacked by the anonymous email. One of them was Hassan Nemi, the guy I was in the elevator with at Mackinaw. Here's what he wrote. Good evening, Christina. This email was sent out to the Republican leadership, every elected member, and all the district chairs.


Conveniently, you were not added, so I decided to forward it over. I noticed that others have forwarded it to you, so I was eagerly awaiting a response from you. Hassan wants her to condemn it publicly. He continues. I took the liberty of reaching out to my contacts at Fox, ABC, and a couple of the Detroit news outlets today with the hopes that you would join the Muslim vice chairs to respond to this. We need to ensure our constituents understand that the party will not stand for this and that our party stands for the Constitution, which defends the freedom of religion. You either join us on air and we all play nice and show what our party stands for, or we go on there and talk about how you have sidelined us and that you have yet to condemn any of this rhetoric. Hassan says he never heard back from Christina. I went to talk with Hassan and his cousin, Ali, about their place in the party, if there even is a place in this party for them under Caramo. These are idealistic Republicans who agree with her and what she stands for. They were like exactly what you might think the Republican Party would want.


Young Muslim guys and the Democratic stronghold of Dearborn, genuinely excited about the potential of bringing Arab Americans into the Republican Party. I met them at a business they own, a print shop and a seller, no cell phone service, no windows, fluorescent lights, concrete walls, and their dog, Pickles. Where we sat in the back was a big sign-up for Hassan's election. He ran for the US House a year ago for Rasheed Al Taliib's seat, or he tried.


I didn't even make it past the primaries. I spent my entire campaign trying to prove to the Republicans that I was a Republican because of my faith. So it was very fun.


What was that like?


It was very interesting. It was the first time in my life I sat in a meeting where they're talking about anti-Sharif law, and I'm a Muslim. I don't know what Sharia law was. I'm just sitting there listening to these people talk things about my faith that I don't even believe and how we're getting into politics to take it all over and corrupt society. I'm just sitting like I'm a politician running for Congress sitting in the audience, listening to this. It happened a lot. It happened a lot. It's what led to running for the Vice-Chair roles was, Hey, this is not right.


The more people seemed to doubt them, the more these guys wanted to prove that they belonged. We're family values, Conservatives, too. We're concerned about what our kids are learning in schools too. We think there's big election fraud, too. We belong here so much, we actually should be in the leadership of the party. Hassan ran for Coalition's Vice Chair. Ali ran for Administrative Vice Chair. No one ran against them. Still, on the day of the leadership race, when was elected chair, one of the people in their own district tried to sabotage them.


They wanted to open the floor to nominations because they couldn't let the Muslims run unopposed. There was ladies out of McComb. This was like a lot of people have on record saying they were going around saying those exact quotes.


Yeah, isn't that crazy?


That's Ali, Hassan's cousin, admin vice chair. He's more relaxed than Hassan to back in his seat. He says things started to get weird right before the boat.


Right before the death, some lady came up to us. I forgot her name, but she was talking to us like, Hey, do you take Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior? And we're like, Bro, what the? That's so off. That's out of pocket. First of all. Second of all, you're asking someone that doesn't believe in that if they want to believe in it now. You didn't even build up to it.


This is just like you walked on to the convention floor. I wouldn't.


Have hired her if I had a.


Sales company. She came up to where our districts are. We were going to our districts, areas. I was just rude the way I just placed. Yeah, I was so rude. No, but we had the conversation. I had the conversation with her gladly. And then actually after convention, I met up with her and we had another conversation for an hour. I'm more than willing to entertain that conversation of how our fates are very similar or not. I'm not an enemy. We are not enemies the way the media perceives it. But I'll have that conversation all day.


Wait, tell the story though, because I feel like I'm missing the beginning of the story.


So what happened? We were at convention doing our rounds. This is the day of the election. We're talking to everybody, letting them know, Hey, this is our plan. This is what we're doing. We're introducing ourselves, yada yada. And somebody goes up there during a new business and wants to put it out there like, Hey, we want to open the floor to have them changed bylaw so we could put people up against them. And everybody starts going crazy.


Did they say specifically because they're Muslim?


Yeah, they were passing off pamphlets. We learned after the fact that there was pamphlets being passed out by these ladies. Like, how are you going to let their voices? And then-.


Just to be clear, someone stood up during convention to make a motion that someone could declare their candidacy right then to stop these Muslims from becoming leaders of the party. Well, still, it didn't pass, and these guys ended up as vice chairs. They were excited like, Hey, what's my budget line? What's the credentials to start emailing people as official state party representatives? Let's drive around, set up meetings, do whatever it is this new experimental group of people wants to do to reach out to people. But there were no leadership team meetings. They say no one called them to tell them, Here's what we want you to do and how to do it. And that they were the ones, Hassan and Ali, who set up the first leadership meeting for vice chairs all across the state. Christina didn't show up to it. Then there was the whole Mackinac situation. The guys wanted to help plan it, and the bylaws say that the admin vice chair, that's Ali, is supposed to play a big role in planning it, but they say no one would communicate with them about it. Finally, they ended up at a meeting in Lansing with Christina and some of her team, where they came away with the message, We don't want people like you leading things with this party.


Hassan and Ali is telling, This is how the meeting went. Hassan was like, Why aren't you advertising what a diverse leadership we are? You're Black. You have three Arab Muslim vice chairs. You have an Indian-American district chair. You should be talking about that.


Yeah, it all goes back to it's a Judeo-Christian movement, and somehow my faith doesn't play a role in that.


This was said to you explicitly.


Along those lines, you want the exact, but yes, along those lines, it's likeIt's the Judeo-Christian values, and we're not a part of this plan.


How did it make you feel? I don't know.


I'm used to it. I don't care. I'm still going to do what I think is right.


You must have been upset.




Just bothers you because it's not… The Federalist Papers and the anti-Federalist Papers were some of the best things I've ever read in my life and those conversations that took place. And then you deal with this type of rhetoric, and you're like, If we're truly talking about the founding fathers, the founding fathers did all of this so there's freedom of.


Religion so you could-Ali had stepped out and walked back into the room at this point.


What did you say, Hassan? Let me see. No, we were talking to him about the diversity and why we're not playing and playing the three- Oh, yeah, she.


Said- She, Christina.


The country wasn't founded off of Muslim beliefs. It was founded off of Judeo-Christian beliefs.


And that's.


A fact. You can look that up for yourself. And then I'm like, Yeah, we understand that, but let's be more inclusive and word it differently so everyone's included because we got the most amount of Muslims in America right there.


I don't want to talk about what was said in that conversation, like exactly what was said.


Yeah, don't. It should be nice about everything.


Hassan starts to get annoyed, staring down the table at Ali.


But yeah, she was- No, genuinely, we're trying to keep our Republican party together and I'm not. This just makes it a lot more...


Hey, the truth is the truth, man. Once you say.


Something, just say it. I'm not against the truth, man. I'm not against the truth. It's just this has caused much more problems when it comes out, the wording that was used, it plays the rhetoric than, hey, we were just told that you guys are not a part of the plan.


Well, she didn't say that.


Basically, they felt like at the meeting in Lansing that they were being subjected to a different purity test, not one about who was grassroots enough, but about whether anybody but Christians had a place in Christina Caramu's party. I talked to Christina about this, and she categorically denied this version of events. She says, Of course, there's a place for Muslims in her leadership. And she says she did try to include Hassan and Ali, but they were unresponsive. Hassan shared screenshots with me that showed him reaching out to her about Mackinaw specifically and getting brushed off. In any case, by the time they got to Mackinac, which they had played no part in putting together, Hassan and Ali were feeling salty.


We got there and they didn't even make us name tags. And that was a statement. You already know what this is a statement. That was so mean. That was a offense to… They got mad when we asked, Where's our name tags? I'm like, Hey, guys, we don't have name tags. They're like, Here. Then they gave us whatever at that point, I was going to be a petty. They gave us general admission. I'm like, Hey, we're vice chairs. No, no, no. Can I get a VIP one? What are you guys doing? But yeah, we were not involved. All I did there to help was during the meeting on Sunday, the lights guy asked me if he could head out. I told him, Yeah, go ahead and leave.




We're still talking when Hassan's phone rings. It's John Smith. The guy I always talk to about what's happening in the party. The Fire Festival guy. He's got news.


Did you guys see McCarthy today?


No, I've been doing a six-hour-long interview.




You see it, Zoe?


No, I've been in the interview too.


That gates led the charge, and they got McCarthy out and voted with the Democrats.


They got him out?


He's out?


First time in the street.


Relatable to these new Michigan Republicans who have a habit of overthrowing. First, they overthrew their own establishment. Now they're having buyer's remorse over the bet they made on Christina, wondering if they should try to remove her, too.


I mean, there's no good time to remove a leadership role, but if it's out of spite, then I don't like it. If it's out of principle and it's true to what they're saying, then fuck it, go for it.


You know what? I might agree with John there. If everything is really as corrupt as they're saying and we get more solid evidence and everything's spread to the light and it looks like what it is, then I don't see these efforts as being misguided.


You're talking about Christina now or are you still talking about McCarthy?


I was ordering pizza, so I just jumped in, pretending I know what we were talking about, to be honest. We're talking about Christina and McCarthy right now.


But as far as John Smith personally goes, he buried the lead on this call. Hassan checks his e-mail while we're on the phone.


John Smith's resignation? John Smith?




district chair?


John, what are you thinking, man?


We're trying to understand why you decided to resign.


How much?


$554. Because I can't afford to play the game anymore. It's a.


Expensive hobby. What are you.


Going to do.


For work?


Construction work? I'm hiring. I quit because I can't afford to play, man. This is expensive going across the district. It's hard on the bait, man. To be honest with you, I wake up to politics 24/7. So I need to get off the mindset and get in the car. I can't work.


I'm right there with you, man.


I travel to two thousand Saturn with one Fender, guys.


Hey. I put 90,000 miles on my truck and I was forced to buy my lease because of this and spent a lot. I promise you, I'm in the same boat and it's... But I'm just hoping we...


It works. It's not working out.


That is an interesting question to me. These leadership roles are volunteer, not paid. Did the party only work before because there were rich people who could afford to do them? How long can the not-rich people afford to be in political leadership here? Of all the people to leave now, I'm surprised it's John. He was one of the first people in Michigan to make a show of pushing out the establishment, part of this wave of new leaders who ousted their county chairs to create this a crossroads state party run by the newbies disconnected from the old guard. He walked so Christina could run. As for Hassan and Ali, they hadn't found the party an especially welcoming place either before or after Christina's takeover, but they're going to keep trying. Seeing how hard they're having to fight to be included, it makes me think about how relatively unimportant winning seems to be in post-January sixth purity politics. Like if the party wanted to win, you could imagine a world where they'd be reaching out to guys like this instead of signlining them. But instead, it seems that this new version of the party is winnowing it down to a relatively small, untainted by compromise group of principled people.


Not a winning strategy for a political party, in Michigan in particular.


Zoe Chase. Coming up, How to topple a Republican leader? Well, like somebody said a half century ago, follow the money. It's about to get real. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio when our program continues. This is American Life, Myra Glass. As this year ends, noticing the fights happening among Republicans in the US House of Representatives and around the country, we have this political story that we thought captured something about the state of Republican politics this year from Michigan, recalling the episode, It wouldn't be make-believe if you'd believe in me. So Ray Chase picks up where she left off.


The last week of September, the plot to oust Christina heated up. When someone in the Michigan GOP sent out a barrage of screenshots to a few reporters, they were a bank statements of the Michigan GOP. It was a little confusing this collection of random screenshots, but it did seem like the party was almost completely out of money. John Smith got the texts. He didn't see any evidence of this thing Christina's people said at Mackinaw about the money they had raised. He was depressed.


They just told us we raised $600,000, which is a lie. They're lying. They're lying to everyone.


I guess, do you think they're lying because they're corrupt, or do you think they're lying because they're scared?


I think they're scared. That's why I'm saying we would be okay with it if they would just open the books. We would help them. If we need to raise $150,000 this weekend, we would all go out as a united front across the state of Michigan and make it happen. They're choosing to be deceptive.


You think that from the very beginning, they had said, Hey, we're not going to any of the old donors. We're doing a whole new thing. So we need you guys to fundraise all the time. People would have gone with that.


I don't know. But they could have just been honest right from the get-go.


You don't feel bad leaving people in the middle of this mess?


No, I can't. I got to go to work.


People were getting scared that the party was in no way going to be able to run next year's elections. There'd be no fundraising, no get-out-the-vote, no coordination of strategy. They were going to lose control of 2024. That brings us to Act Three: The insurrectionists, insurect again. The guy who leaked the bank account screenshots, Warren Carpenter, was a major Christina supporter at first. Warren helped get Christina elected. He raised money for her Secretary of State campaign. He whipped votes for her chair race. I went to talk to him. He runs a landscaping business in the suburbs of Detroit. He walked me to the back of his office. This is uncomfortable. Is it? Yeah. I don't like it. You'll get used to it.


I don't like it. I don't like it. I don't want to do that. You want to record What.


Do you mean? Well, it's radio. That's why. Warren comes off antagonistic right from the beginning and a little manic. What he's just done, leaking documents to the press about Christina, it's a big deal, though. How are you? You got a lot going on?


It's like you didn't.


Read the news or something. It's like you didn't read the news or something, he says. That morning, the morning we spoke, September 29th, Detroit news reporter Craig Magger, an eminently fair and lightning-fast journalist published a writeup of all the documents Warren had sent him. The article begins, The Michigan Republican Party had about $35,000 in its bank account in August, according to internal records that flashed new warning signs about the dire state of the GOP's finances. This is followed shortly by a quote from a former state GOP official. These numbers demonstrate that the party isn't just broke, but broken. Warren is also extensively quoted in the article, which is a big betrayal of Christina talking to a journalist who, in her view, is just in league with the establishment trying to take her out. Warren says he dabbled in Republican politics before this movement took off, worked on a statewide campaign over 10 years ago, but not much since then until Trump. He loves Trump, calls him Big Daddy, and had that school board come to Jesus, so many Republicans did around the COVID protocols, masking in schools thing. He went to January sixth after he thought he saw the election get stolen, says he didn't go inside the Capitol, but he had such an intense experience there that not long after, he had a mental breakdown, as he puts it.


That's when he got involved in his local party. He's one of the newbies who got elected to district chair, part of the wave that took over the party this year. He'd been part of Christina's inner circle, but now he'd resigned from his position as district chair and was talking smack in the press. So what happened? Well, a few weeks before the Mackinac conference, Warren got on the phone with Christina's chief of staff, Joel Studebaker, and the rest of her team. They were telling him they needed help to pull off the conference. He looked at their financial situation, and he responded with what I now understand to be his typical intensity.


How much money do you have? How much money do we need? How much money are we owed? Who's been paid? What's the problem? What do you need? Why am I on the fucking call with you? But Joel Studebaker didn't know what the numbers were. They didn't know any of the numbers for anything. They were literally flying by the fucking seat of their pants, shooting from the hip. It's the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard of in my entire life. There was no budgetary schematic they could share with me. During that initial Friday call, the only thing they had to share was they almost had the program ready to go to the printer.


A program with speakers on it, they didn't have the cash to pay for, it seemed. Warren called campaign finance experts who looked at what he had and told him to get as far away as possible from this organization. I've looked at Warren's documents, and what I saw looked like a broke party, spending money way faster than it was taking anything in. I also went over the party's FEC filings, though they haven't filed since July. In all that I looked at, I did see some very unusual accounting, but nothing illegal like Warren alleges.


There's only two things that this could possibly be in my mind. It is either gross negligence and competence. I would describe intent and say that it's malicious. Therefore, if it's malicious, then you have to go to the next conclusion, which is then it's destruction of the party. Now, can you ascribe intent for destruction of the party?


Warren goes on to float his own version of the sabotage theory I heard from other people that Christina herself is controlled by some national operation launched at the Michigan Republican Party in order to destroy it.


Either an operative or it's a Fed, but it's either from the Democratic side or it's from an agency.


He's pretty sure it's a not, and that it's not just in Michigan. That would explain why GOPs in Georgia, Arizona, and Idaho are struggling. Someone's sabotaging them. But even if it's not a not, as someone who helped put Christina in office in the first place, Warren now feels responsible for where she's brought the party. Warren's a doer. He's also a make-amendser. I find that out myself when he calls me and apologizes for yelling at me at one point. Maybe that comes from his years in the AA. Warren has a plan to make things right. Oust Christina Caramo. He has a whole 18-point plan to do it. That Detroit news article was a first step, now he's ripping votes against her, just like he whipped votes for her at the beginning of the year, trying to make sure he has the numbers.


You file for the meeting. When we get the signatures, we're going to have all the signatures needed to overthrow. So then it just shows them, it's over. I want psychologically them to be beat before they even go into this. And it's over. Okay, everybody. I just want to get started real quick about why everyone's on the phone call.


The next time I hear Warren's voice, it's from a Zoom meeting someone sent me of state committee members from around Michigan. Warren called the meeting. He has a spreadsheet of the 100 or so people in the state committee color-coded: who's with him, who's against him. He's literally counting votes, trying to get to that majority to out Christina.


Okay, so let's go through this real quick. Everybody in red is in red until they're probably confirmed otherwise. I need some people to speak up as we go through some of these. Andy, is there anybody in your district that's not on board with this? Andy? You're muted. All right. No, all those people are for this.


That's not Andy, that's John Smith. Despite having quit his district chair, he can't stay away. Warren and John go back and forth on whether or not they have a two-thirds majority or do they only need 50 %?


Listen, if we don't have enough, if we don't have two-thirds, we don't call the fucking meeting, right? Nancy Pelosi doesn't bring anything to the floor, doesn't have all the fucking votes. Neither do I. That's it right there. You got the two-thirds to call the meeting. It's over. I'm telling you. Just trust me on this, please, guys. I know I'm forceful, and I'm sorry. I'm a boss and nobody ever tells me no, and that's why I'm not good at this shop. I'm not a good district chair and I'm not good at collaboration stuff. And please don't take my forcefulness for trying to beat up on anybody. It's not what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to convince you that this is We're at the threshold of 50 %. That's what I'm telling people when I'm talking to people is like, do we not move forward? Or where do we get to the point where we have to start having this discussion? So I think I have at that point with 54 people. I mean, that's a significant number. That's more than 50 %. We are the majority on state committee at this point without whippin' a single fucking person.


Then who shows up in the Zoom? The guy Warren lined up to replace Caramo. And guess who it is? Scott Greenley. Yes, Scott Greenley. The guy who ran for chair from the beginning of the story, who wasn't America first enough to get elected in the first place.


Remember? I'm called establishment. I get called a rhino. That's even worse.


Now he makes his pitch to this renegade faction that he should be the choice of the renegade faction. And he cuts quickly.


To the chase. I think I could probably raise a half million dollars in the first week, a couple of million by the end of the year, five by March, and salvage the cycle with about 10 million in total fundraising. And certainly, we have the challenge that some people wouldn't like necessarily everyone who is donating to the party. But I would welcome any and all dollars within reason. Certainly, if Hillary Clinton moved to Michigan and said she wanted to help, I'd be a little suspicious. But short of that, if people want to help this party rebuild, they're going to get an open door, not a closed door.


Some donors won't come back, Greenly says. It's going to be a hard sales job to go to people who've been demonized. Of course, I'll include grass roots, but we all got to play nice together. Warren interrupts him.


Hey, Scott, I had a question sent to me. How can you assure us that John Yob will not be running the party?


John Yob is a powerful political consultant in Michigan. He's been around. A political director for the John McCain campaign, symbol of the hated establishment.


Because I'll be the chairman. Real questions, man. This isn't- Hey, Scott. Hey, Scott, this is John. That would be a real question. You just said you can't... You have a hard time identifying what is grassroots and stuff like that. But that is a legit question. Sure. John and I have worked together. John and I have worked against each other, but unless you guys are electing John the Abbas's chair, he's not running the party, I guarantee that. I'll take his input when it makes sense, that's for sure. I don't want to close anybody out. I don't want to manage by exclusion. I think we need everybody pushing in the same direction, but I will make the decisions the chairman needs to make, and you elect me and I'll be running the party.


Greenly, from another era, it sounds like talking to consultants, raising money, being inclusive, bringing people in instead of cutting people out. The call ends shortly after that. They don't quite have the numbers to out Christina. I can't tell how Greenly went over. John's not sure either. He and Warren chat afterwards.


Hey, Warren.


What up, Johnny? I put Tom in the waiting room. What are you- What do you think? Yeah, that's what I was going to ask you. Here's the thing.


Warren's moving a million miles an hour. He's like, Scott or not, I know I'm going to get the votes to remove her. John's still stuck on whether the grassroots will stomach him.


I think he's an honest guy. Yeah, he's super honest, dude. You know what I mean? If he says he's going to do it, I think he will do that. Yeah, there's a reason he's the only guy that's still loud in all the rooms, dude. All the rest of these consultants are like ghosts. They're like vapors. You don't ever see them anywhere. They're always lurking. He's out in the open every single day, hosting on Facebook about how to be a good leader. Do you know what I mean? Yeah. I'm wondering if Scott Greenly is salvageable to the delegates, and I think he very well could be. To be honest, it's not like we got that many options, though. Hey, this is my wife. Do your thing. I love you, brother. Good night.


Act four: Caramo fights back. There's been a coup attempt to overthrow Christina, and they've got a bunch of people that were lying. Okay. You want to know some of the lies that were out there? Sure. Christina went to meet Donald Trump for dinner, and she came in a swimsuit and a cover-up. This is Darlene, Christina supporter. I'm at a pasta dinner called by Christina's chief of staff in the swanky ballroom in the suburbs of Detroit. The invitation read, Join MIGOP chief of staff Joel Studebaker, as he offers a rebuttal to claims of impropriety. In other words, spaghetti, meatballs, a PowerPoint for dessert. Darlene is here for it. All right. They're manipulating things to where it looks one way. Christina has not drawn a paycheck since July. You can see that in some of the filings. First of all, they said, Oh, Mackinac is not going to happen. She's skimming the money. The speakers aren't getting paid. It's going to end up in the parking lot. Don't go. Refund your ticket. Mackinac is a huge success. Christina went back to what a conference should be. God, country, and party, and family. She went there. She didn't go with all the dinner parties, all the different drinking parties.


She went to bring us all back to our roots. She is grassroots, and she's grassroots all the way. She is not selling out. She never has, and she never will. Downstairs, in the room literally just below this one in another giant ballroom is Warren, sitting alone with his laptop, a projector behind him. He booked the room at 3:00 PM today after he heard he was going to be barred from attending Christina's rebuttal event. He's wearing a red baseball cap that says Trump was right. And he's totally by himself. Oh, my gosh. I was like, Is it him? How are you doing, man? Hi. So?


So what's up?


I don't know. Does it feel weird, everybody upstairs and you're down here? No.


Really? Smart of God, dude.






Because I know you lost all your friends, and that must feel hard.


Oh, are we doing the thing right now? I'm always recording. Okay, well, I don't know, man. You come over with the microphone. I'm not sure.


Sorry. Yes. It's taking Warren longer than he expected to execute his 18-point plan because, as he says, he's a vote counter and he hasn't been getting enough people on the board. And last week, he got invited to a meeting of the McComb County GOP to present his documents and make his case. He put up a rapid-fire slide show for the delegates to convince them that Christina was a fraud. Honestly, he sounded slightly unhinged. Here's some Facebook video of that event.


Guess what? There's more.


There's another one.




There's four more. Over $100,000 that can't be accounted for in deposits. This is your party.


But he's raised enough heat that Caramu's people decided they want to respond publicly to his claims, hence the pasta dinner and counter-presentation. For Warren's part, he's here to respond to the response to his claims and try to keep his cool.


My whole motive coming tonight was going to be calm. I was going to answer people's questions if they had concerns. Are you in the middle of an interview?


Someone comes in and asks, Are you in the middle of an interview?


Yeah, she's talking to me just real quick, but do you want to talk? I just want to bring her up to speed on what's going on down here. Can you give me an overview? Yeah. Anybody that wants to ask anything after all this is done, they come down here and I'll open up documents, show them whatever they want to see. Are the same documents you put at the left of the same thing? I got everything that I got. If you had pasta, you'd say. I get it. I get it. You got to spend their money.


You got some curious customers. In the ballroom upstairs, it's maybe 75 people. Christina's chief of staff, Joel Studebaker, is presenting a rebuttal to Warren's crazed Facebook video. He opens with a Bible verse, but then gets surprisingly detailed, shows snapshots of bank statements. After complaining that the previous administration left them with little money and some debt, which is true, there's this admission.


Here's reality. Fundraising has been a challenge. It's been very difficult. A lot of these things, they're just realities. We need help. We do need help. But you got to be able to work together. There's no way we're going to do that if we keep giving liberal media interviews and if we keep walking through demonization schemes, it's just not going to happen. We need help and we need to do it the right way. We need to collaborate.


Yes, we do. When Christina finally speaks, she talks about finances, about Mackinac, and she's frank. She admits they would have liked to make a lot more money off the conference. They're still in debt for $110,000 speakers fee for Jim Cavizal, for example. She reminds everyone that the reason they elected her is they wanted to run the party differently, not raise $20 million and run right through it like previous chairs.


So where did all this $20 million go? What was it spent on? Oh, I know. A bunch of consultants who did nothing. So that's what it was spent on. I mean, where did all the money get people ragged about how much money they raised that they're going to pay off their friends? That has been going on for decades. So, yes, we disrupted that system.


She spoke for 20 minutes, no pauses or hesitations, mostly informing the crowd of mostly supporters that she was the victim of a deep state conspiracy to take her out.


Again, this whole deep state thing is very real. It is very real because their goal is that if these people don't succeed not just here, but also places like Colorado, Kansas, Georgia, where you have a bunch of America first chairs, the goal for these people is if these people fail, then the grassroot person won't dare run for chair. And a lot of the people who may or may not want to support a grassroot person for chair wouldn't do it because it's like, Last time it was so horrible. We could never do it again.


She called out the people she sees as covert deep state operatives within the current party. When she describes them, they sound a lot like Warren.


And the thing about it is these people, they pretend to be patriots like us so they can get close to us. They pretend to be one of us so we will trust them.


Moving on next to Ali and Hassan, not by name.


I mean, Ihad two vice chairs falsely accused me of being a bigot against Muslims.


But she insists her administration hasn't ever lied or committed any crimes. The fighting itself, she says, is a tactic to keep her from succeeding. The fighting, however, immediately continues back downstairs in Warren's room. A guy from Christina's team swaggers in to confront Warren. His name's Ken Byer. He said he'd received a text from Warren saying, I'm coming after you. Warren says, it just said, I'm coming. There's this big, wild, westyie face-off between them.


Hey, Ken. You're going to ask some questions? I'd never threatened you at all. Get out of here. Listen, I can have you removed for trespassing just as you were about to have me removed. I didn't threaten you. It was never threatening you. But if you want to threaten me, do it to my face. I never threatened you, Ken. You seem like you're upset. Good night.


Now a little crowd gathers, watching them go at it across the B-suiteball room.


Come on, Ken. Look at all the files, baby. Come on, baby. Come on. What about your felony? Right here. Yeah, I got a felony for drunk driving. It was years ago. See this right here? That's a negative in the account. There's the $15,000 that came in.


This is the problem with the coup warrants trying to pull off. It's the problem that was baked into Carammo's version of the party from the start. This group of people all agree on some basic issues; election fraud, less immigration, no gun control, abortion is murder, don't tell me when to wear a mask, don't tell my children what to read, and the rent is too damn high. What's brought them all together running this party is their lack of trust in any political leadership. They're a very suspicious, conspiracy-minded group, and that's how they look at everything including each other. Of course, they can't agree on who the real enemy is or the cause they all actually believe in.


You're a liar.






Liar. Right before this story went to air this week, Christina Carammo finally agreed to an interview. I reached her while she was taking a morning walk. I asked her about her year and power. I told her it seemed like for all her good intentions, the parties ended up in disarray, broke and ineffective, without the money it needs to win elections next year.


I would say I reject your premise that my tenure should be defined by funds. See, that's the problem. Your premise is off. Your premise is that I should be defined by money because the only people that benefit from the premise you're positing is the political class. The only people that are the elitists are the elitists. I was elected to reject that premise.


This is what it's like to talk to her about this. She wouldn't say what she'd do to get the party out of this mess. She wouldn't even acknowledge that they're in a mess.


We're not bankrupt. That's not true. The thing about it is we are operating at a positive cash flow. So, yes, have I hit the financial goals that I would like? Not at the level I would like, but we are on our way.


Well, that's why I guess I'm asking just for any example. Is there a fundraiser in which you tapped into businesses that had been sitting on the sidelines, like you talked about in your campaign or something like that? Of course. Just any specific you can give me.


Yeah, well, Itry, for want of yes, but I don't know what specific you're looking for because my question is, why are you so dogmatic on the notion of people who want to push the elitist narrative? That's my question. Because I've answered it multiple times. But my question to you, Zoh, why are you so aggressive on that notion? I'm not going to go through the nuts and bolts of every person who's given a dollar or $10,000 or $20,000 to our administration. I've asked that we're operating at a positive cash flow.


As of last month, they're bringing in more than their spending, not because of any fundraising. They got a payout from a national committee, but they're still deep in debt, and I could not get any specifics from Christina on how the party would bring in the millions they've always used to run elections for 2024. She pointed out again and again, That was the wrong question. They've cut costs. They do have a plan to run a ground game. And once that happens, I can judge how that goes. Over the last few months, I've watched our circle of supporters get smaller. District chairs have resigned, members of the budget committee resigned, upset about the finances, and that the leadership wouldn't listen to them. For all intents and purposes, the party is split into. What does it feel like to have all these people who you guys were on the same team to begin with, calling for your oester or coming after you, making all these claims. What does it feel like to what's the experience like for you?


It's betrayal. I don't like it. But when you realize, again, the fact that our country is corrupt is the way it is because most of the people involved in politics are dishonest. People want to lie and try to demean my character. So be it. I just keep going. I'm just trying to keep going.




Was talking to John Smith, who was there when this all began. I said, It seems like the year of Christina Carammo has been a year of failure. The party stopped doing most of the basic normal stuff any political party has to do. They're limping as they go into this major presidential election year. John was like, No, don't write your story like it was a waste. It wasn't a waste. Things are going to continue to be different now. We did something. We changed the party. We put a non-billionaire in charge here. This is just a first step, maybe a misstep, but we're not going to just disappear.


Zoe Chase.


Oh, it.


Looks like the party is over. The last glass of wine has been poured.


The program was edited today by Laura Starchesky, and produced by Chris Benderev, with help from James Bennett II. The people who put together today's show include Fia Benne, Michael Connoisse, Bethel, Cassie, Haley, Valerie Kippness, Seth twins, Stone Nelson, Catherine Raimondo, Nadie, Raymond, Ryan, Ryan, Maria, Alyssa, Ship, Ike, Shreech, Kandarajah, Christopher Certala, Marisa Robertson, Texture, Nancy Uptyke, and Diane Woe, our managing editor, Sara Abdurem, and our senior editors, David Kestobaud and our executive editors, Emmanuel Barry. Special thanks today to Isaac Arnstoff, Kalif Asana, Craig Mahlgar, Jonathan Osting, Simon Schuster, Laura Gibbs, Carrie LaVine, Jason Rowe, Jamie Rowe, Zoe Clark, Colin Jackson, Tyler Scott, Dustin Dwyer, Todd Gilman, Lion Slash away, Kelly Sackett, RoeI'm Mackie, Jonathan Chapman, and Laurie Skibbo, our website, thisamericanlife. Org, where you can stream our archive of over 800 episodes for absolutely free. This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks, guys. As always, Joe Pergman's co-founder, Mr. Troy Mattia. I invited him to Hanukka this year. I don't know. I think it's the last time. He lit the candles. He's great at the Dradel game, but he just kept saying the same thing over and over.


Do you take Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior?


I'm not Glass. Back next week with more stories of this American life.


The band has stopped playing our music.


Our friends.


Aren't around anymore. Oh, it looks like the.


Party is over.




Is Eric, our guest of this American Life, and I'm talking fast to get in shape for this week's program. You see, every week in our program, we bring you three to four stories on some theme, blah, blah, blah, you know the drill. But this week, we throw that slow paced, thoughtful nonsense to the wind and bring you 20, yes, 20 stories in 60 minutes. Frankly, we wanted to do 30 stories in 60 minutes, but at this point, we don't know if we can pull that off. I guarantee you at least 20. To see how many we speed through, listen.