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Doug DeVos’ faux populist rhetoric of celebrating “we the people” is deceptive, since he really means “we own the people”

September 20, 2021

What do you call a West Michigan Billionaire who tries to use populist language? You call him a hypocrite. 

This is exactly what Doug DeVos, the President of RDV Corporation, attempted to do in a recent article posted on the Grand Rapids Business Journal site, entitled, A Question for Constitution Day.

DeVos writes in the article, in reference to the US Constitution:

From the moment those words were written, it was obvious: America fell short. Our country has allowed terrible wrongs to exist, most notably slavery. Such injustices made “we the people” more hope than fact. They concentrated power in the hands of a few, despite the moral mandate to empower the many.

Doug DeVos then goes on to name three social movements, the Abolitionist Movement, the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, referring to them as a form of “American empowerment.”

Ok, so why does everyone with tremendous privilege hide behind the US Constitution? The history of the US has always been about concentrated power, both political and economic. Doug DeVos and his family have been part of the same power structure he identifies, since Doug’s father co-founded the pyramid scheme known as Amway. 

However, once DeVos moves beyond is faux populist rhetoric, he reveals more about what he really values……often in a contradictory way. DeVos writes, “To start, our elected officials have asserted control over ever more of daily life.” While there is a grain of truth to this, Doug DeVos and his family have funded hundreds of politicians at the local, state and federal level, the very same politicians he is criticizing.

DeVos then advocates for, in a very round about way, states rights or what might be called local control. This strategy is what the far right has embraced for decades, from the Koch Brothers, to the American Legislative Exchange Council, to the State Policy Network and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. This strategy has been pushed by the far right for the explicit purpose of undermining any positive federal policies, such as voting rights, LGBTQ equality, worker rights, environmental laws, etc.

Doug DeVos wants us to think that the is beyond a right/left dichotomy, when in fact he and his family have been deeply committed, for decades, to a far right agenda that seeks to undermine the same kinds of social justice movements he identifies in his article on the Grand Rapids Business Journal site.

To further explore why Doug’s rhetoric of faux populism is such bullshit, lets look at the track record of Doug DeVos and his family when it comes to embracing far right political and economic policies. It is also worth noting that these policies are often supported by his own theological framework, one that is rooted in a mixture of Calvinism and Christian Reconstructionism. 

  • In the 2020 US Election cycle, the DeVos family alone contributed $12.7 million to political candidates (primarily GOP), including Donald Trump. In 2018, Doug DeVos personally contributed thousands of dollars to a Senator from Mississippi, Cindy Hyde-Smith, who joked about going to a public hanging, saying she would be in the front row.
  • Doug DeVos is a member of the West Michigan Policy Forum (WMPF), which crafts state policy and then lobbies elected officials in Lansing. The WMPF pushed for eliminating a business tax, helped get Michigan to become a Right to Work State, undermines labor unions, undermines public education and opposes Reproductive Justice and greater equality for the LGBTQ community. How again, does his money and lobbying role with the WMPF seek to thwart the control that politicians have over us???
  • Based on a 2017 FOIA document, the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation gave money to the Grand Rapids Public Schools, specifically to the district to have them get services from businesses, many of which are anti-Public Education.
  • The DeVos family was an integral part of the One Kent Coalition, which was made up of wealthy and influential people from Kent County, who wanted to get rid of the current local government system and have just one governing body for all of Kent County. According to the One Kent Coalition documents, they were advocating for the government to act as a CEO. https://griid.org/2011/08/16/update-on-one-kent-local-government-consolidation-proposal/ 
  • In 2018, Doug DeVos, and then Senator Joe Biden, awarded Liberty Medals to George W. Bush and his wife at the annual National Constitution Center event. Awarding George W. Bush a Liberty Medal is like giving a member of the KKK a diversity award. (1:01:26 into the video) 
  • The Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation providing the funding for both the creation of AmplifyGR, but also to purchase dozens of properties in the southeast side of Grand Rapids before telling any of the predominantly Black residents of that area. Listen to the rhetoric from Doug DeVos in a video at this link, during an AmplifyGR town hall that received lots of pushback. In fact, the pushback was so great that DeVos and his minions decided to cancel move aways from town hall meetings and get people to buy into a framework for development that they were controlling from the very beginning. 

Doug DeVos ends his article in the Grand Rapids Business Journal with the claim that he is all about the notion of “we the people.” If that were the case, why would he and his family spend millions every year to get people to buy into their worldview, whether they be politicians or non-profits. When people like Doug DeVos say “we the people”, they really mean, “we own the people.”

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