LANSING, Mich. — In the wake of the 2020 election, the idea of establishing a pro-Trump political party floated around right-wing circles on social media. Months later, the Michigan Patriot Party is one step closer to being on the ballot in Michigan.
“We felt like we were robbed, and so that pretty much broke the camel's back,” says Zeeland resident Brian VanDussen.
VanDussen, a lifelong Republican, is the founder of the fledgling party, which is now in the process of getting signatures to be officially designated in Michigan.
VanDussen says he's grown sick of the Republican Party and believes Republicans didn’t do enough to challenge the election results. He also thinks the national party is straying from conservative values.
“We need somebody or a party that's going to uphold the Constitution and protect the Bill of Rights. That's what we feel is being eroded,” VanDussen said.
At first, it appeared former President Donald Trump was considering starting a new party himself, though things shifted when he took the stage at CPAC in late February.
“They kept saying, ‘He’s going to start a new party,'" scoffed Trump. “We have the Republican Party. It’s going to unite and be stronger than ever before. I’m not going to start a new party,” he added.
While he is inspired by the former president, VanDussen says Trump's CPAC speech didn’t change his plans for a new party in Michigan.
“It didn't matter to me. I was still going to go the direction I'm headed in, and it's because the Republican party has left me. Why am I going to stick all these band-aids on something that's still going to be the same old, same old?” VanDussen said.
On Thursday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved VanDussen’s petition to form the Michigan Patriot Party. He’s now roughly 42,000 signatures away, including at least 100 in half of the state’s 14 congressional districts, from making it a reality.
According to their website, Michigan Patriot Party candidates will be required to take an oath to uphold their party's platform, "completely, wholeheartedly and unwavering."
Their platform takes aim at "elites" on both sides of the aisle. "We will no longer be led by those who do not listen to us, those who do not put the people of Americas' interests before their own, and those who have secured their positions through treasonous acts," reads the first sentence of their "about" page.
VanDussen wants to have local candidates on the ballot as soon as next year.
“That's our goal: to start small,” he said. “If all this does is to put pressure on the Republicans to do what they were supposed to do and to abide by the Constitution and listen to the people, then I’ve done my job.”
The party has 180 days to gather more than 42,000 signatures; those signatures will then be reviewed by the secretary of state, and if deemed valid, they will be taken to the Board of State Canvassers for a final vote certification.