Never discount the political schizophrenia of the American electorate. In Michigan, largely self-financed and self-described ‘tough nerd’ GOP candidate Rick Snyder has beaten back Lansing mayor Virg Bernero in the gubernatorial race. Bill Schuette, a former 4th District Michigan Court of Appeals judge, beat Gennessee-County area prosecutor David Leyton in the race for attorney general, and current Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson beat Wayne State law professor Jocelyn Benson in the race for Secretary of State. Snyder is considered by his supporters to be a moderate Republican, and he was the surprise winner in the Republican primary earlier this year, beating out traditional GOP idealogues such as western Michigan congressman Pete Hoekstra, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard and current Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. Snyder managed to snag votes from the Republican base of right leaners as well as the conservative Independents, and also some centrist Democrats- some of whom considered themselves repulsed by the aggressive populism of Bernero, who beat out the comparably moderate Michigan legislature Speaker of the House Andy Dillon (D-Redford).
By now we all know how things turned out nationwide… I spent the Election Day afternoon at the local NAACP helping with their Voter-Info\Assistance hotline.. The Michigan 13th District’s Hansen Clarke (Clarke claims African-American and Bangladeshi heritage, a statistical first for Congress) is going to be my new U.S. Congressional rep, but since he’ll be a 'freshman' and with the new GOP House majority, he may possibly get stuck on some toothless committee.. it will be a depressing holiday season for me.
Snyder, current venture capitalist and a former founder and executive of Gateway Computers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gateway,_Inc.), is a native of the breakfast-cereal capitol of Battle Creek, Mich., and has resided for many years now in the college town of Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan.
In his victory speech, Snyder pledged that Michigan's urban centers will get their due attention from his administration. Curiously, as of today, Snyder announced that three of his top cabinet members will be veterans of the John Engler Administration http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Engler —John Engler was the last Republican governor in Michigan, who served from 1991 – 2001. Engler was considered a right-wing idealogue by progressives, and among the more notorious policies he enacted was to drastically cut state funding for public mental health services. The former governor now resides in the state capitol of Lansing, and is touted as a possible advisor. Engler has downplayed speculation that he is eyeing the senate seat of Democrat Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing), who is up for re-election in 2012.
Certainly from the 1980 elections forward, Michigan has been chock full of ‘Reagan Democrats’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reagan_Democrat) alongside GOP loyalists. The presence of organized labor has dwindled nationwide over the past 40+ years, and has been less potent of a political power-player, with the possible exception of local political races. To be union-affiliated carries more weight in urban and working-class near-urban areas, but union-culture ambivalence and/or hostility increases in Michigan’s myriad small-town, rural and exurban areas (coincidentally, the racial diversity also drops sharply in these areas as well), especially as one explores further in the state’s northern regions. ‘Detroit run amok’ has long been a scare tactic of various state politicos since the social upheaval of the 1960s.
Disappointingly, but predictably, urban Detroit's voter turnout was relatively low- http://tinyurl.com/2efzyy2. As far as urban-voter apathy goes, I don’t know what it means long-term except that there is a large demographic of folks who do not see any elected officials/politicians as being relevant to their day-to-day existence/survival, and the challenge is to help them see what are the pragmatic benefits to being engaged and involved that don’t involve running off a bunch of statistics that the layperson doesn’t consider informative. In Detroit, the comfort in which people vent at barber shops, beauty salons and bars tends not to translate into voter action.
Mass incarceration will likely continue as a trend—current governor Jennifer Granholm instituted a program in her second term that started minimum-sentence “early” release for non-violent offenders and others who are not considered a high risk (e.g., elderly, ill/infirmed). This program will possibly get scuttled by the next administration to fit the law-and-order hardliners’ agendas. The current tax-credits program for the film/TV/Video-game industry currently promises a 42% return for productions that are spending $50K or more on a project in Michigan. The program will now face relentless scrutiny, and the tax-credit rate will likely get cut down drastically.
Improved mass-transit is a toss-up. Certainly Snyder will not cop to anything resembling trying to force General Motors and Chrysler to get behind new transit/rail developments in the state. During his campaign he has agreed that better transit is important. However, the fiscal-conservatives and anti-tax hardliners among Republicans/Indies will likely balk at any new developments initiated with public funding. A new rail-line planned for Detroit's Woodward avenue may well end at Eight Mile Road.
An amendment also passed that bans former elected officials who were convicted of felonies involving ‘misrepresenting the public trust’ from running for office for 20 years after their conviction. While this presumably applies to all, it became unofficially known as the Kwame Kilpatrick amendment. Whenever Kilpatrick (and former Detroit city councilwoman Monica Conyers) get out of prison, it may be more feasable for them to get a gigs as talk-radio hosts than to try and get back in public service.
As the new year-- and new state government/Congressional lineup comes in, we'll see what happens. The auto companies got the bailout they wanted, but will the city of Detroit?