For the last 18 months, we had a poster in the window of the Livingston County Democratic Party office — one of those “Missing” posters with a photo of Mike Bishop. It was only eight and a half inches by 11 inches, printed on a home computer, not displayed very prominently. But people who walked by on their way to other stores in the strip mall often pointed at it and exchanged comments with each other.
They knew Bishop was a no-show. And I knew that was a bad sign for our local Republican congressman.
The narrative that Bishop was a no-show had a very definite beginning: April 12, 2017.
That was the date of the “Flat Mike” town hall at which hundreds of Bishop’s constituents showed up, but Bishop didn’t. Instead, they conversed with a cardboard cutout of Bishop. The media covered it, and potential candidates for the Democratic nomination for 8th District Congress spoke.
Bishop tried to make up for his absence with three listening sessions, each limited to a handful of constituents who had to sign up in advance. The sessions were phony attempts at connecting with constituents that fooled absolutely no one. Bishop’s body language during even these safe sessions conveyed the message that he was uncomfortable and timid.
In any event, the sessions were too little, too late. Bishop had shown himself to be afraid of his constituents, unwilling to listen to their concerns, or subject himself to criticism.
Organized by Indivisible groups led by Gretchen Cross Hertz and Nicole Breadon, the no-Bishop town hall was a pivotal moment in the campaign. Phone banking by Democratic volunteers ensured Bishop opponents knew about the event and that it would be well-attended by unfriendly constituents unhappy with his position on health care.
All of a sudden, Bishop looked vulnerable. He was on the defensive, and he never recovered.
By the time of the only public candidate forum between Bishop and Democrat Elissa Slotkin in October 2018, everybody knew what Slotkin meant when she promised to hold quarterly town halls.
She meant that she served three tours in Iraq and she sure wasn’t afraid to talk to the voters of the 8th District — and Mike Bishop was.