The difference between Wisconsin and Michigan


Many parallels have been drawn between what is transpiring in Wisconsin and Michigan in terms of Republicans Gone Wild and the trampling of the rights of voters, union members and any other group Republicans have in their crosshairs. And there are parallels. Certainly the law that Republicans were able to get signed into law stripping away the rights of public employee unions is echoed by the Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) law in Michigan which gives the EFMs immense powers with regard to modifying or canceling contracts, including those with unions. And many of the bills up for a vote in Michigan are focused on diminishing the rights and abilities of public employee unions such as teachers.

But one chief area where the two states are different is in the support recall efforts are getting from their state Democratic Parties.

Let’s start out with some visual proof. Here’s Democratic Party of Wisconsin website’s main page:

Clear. Unambiguous. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin supports the recall effort of Scott Walker. You can even buy a bumpersticker from them, raising money for the party. Not only that, they support the recall efforts of the eight Republican State Senators that are underway, as well.

Now, let’s take a look at Michigan Democratic Party‘s website:

This is a distinctly different “anti-Republican Governor” webpage. There is a reason for that: the Michigan Democratic Party is not supporting the Rick Snyder recall effort. On statewide conference calls and in personal appearances, state Party Chair Mark Brewer has made it clear that the MDP will not be supporting this effort. The MDP believes that it is an effort unlikely to succeed and, as such, would be a waste of precious resources which may, in the end, demoralize Democratic activists and voters.

But it doesn’t stop there. There are at least eight other Republicans being targeted for recall. While Brewer and MDP have been giving some verbal support to local organizers working on these recall efforts, the MDP itself has, so far, chosen to stay above the fray. I have spoken to recall organizers and they confirm that the state Party is offering no tangible support. There isn’t even a mention of it anywhere on the MDP website.

Even the effort to repeal Michigan’s odious EFM law, Michigan Forward, gets no support from Brewer and the MDP. At a Democratic club meeting in Berrien County this week, Brewer suggested that this effort should be a grassroots effort. According to attendees I have spoken with, Brewer believes that there may be a chance for bipartisanship with this issue; that some Republicans may be against the EFM takeovers and we shouldn’t make it a “Republicans vs. Democrats” issue. It’s an interesting position to take given an MDP press release issued after Republicans passed the bill and sent it to Governor Snyder for his signature.

LANSING – The Michigan Democratic Party today blasted Senate Republicans for passing the Emergency Financial Manager bill package, which will strip voters and workers of their fundamental rights.

The bills grant virtually unlimited power to an unaccountable manager appointed by the Governor’s administration. That manager can arbitrarily eliminate collective bargaining rights, sell public property, take away the power of local governments, school districts, and elected officials, and even abolish local governments and school districts.

“These bills allow the creation of local dictators in Michigan,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer said. “Republicans are eliminating the rights of workers and voters and destroying the entire democratic process. They are determined to push through their partisan agenda at any cost.”

“This is just as bad as what’s happening in Wisconsin,” added Brewer. “Republicans should be focused on creating jobs and putting people to work – rather than taking away the basic rights of voters and workers. They should be ashamed and the voters will hold them accountable in 2012 – if not sooner.”

Pretty harsh language from a group that has now chosen to sit on the sidelines in this fight.

So, Wisconsin and Michigan are quite a contrast. In Wisconsin, the DPW sees the organizing potential of recall efforts and is embracing the fight, using it to fire up Democrats all across the state. In Michigan, the MDP is timidly avoiding conflict, keeping their powder dry, bank accounts full(ish) and reaching out their hands to Republicans, hoping for bipartisan agreement.

I can understand their reluctance to get involved with the Snyder recall. Snyder’s Lt. Governor is Brian Calley. Where Rick Snyder is a corporate Republican, Calley is a tea party Republican. It would be a case of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire if Calley were to become Governor. Oddly, the Recall Rick effort does not include a recall of Calley. But, even if it did, the next person in line (and the person after that) are all Republicans. In other words, Michigan’s problems aren’t solved by simply removing Snyder as Governor. Our House, Senate and Supreme Court are all ruled by Republicans.

However, I do not understand their sitting out of the recall efforts of the eight members of the legislature. Here there is a clear path to victory. The targeted legislators all narrowly won in 2010 and are, generally speaking, in mostly blue districts. And there would not be a need for large expenditures of MDP funds. Organizers are already having success raising money.

But it’s the lack of support for the EFM law repeal effort pushed by Michigan Forward that is the most puzzling. Here, there is widespread support for its repeal. The idea that Republicans will get on board with this positively laughable. It is the most egregious overstep of government power in my lifetime; Big Government on steroids. Yet the Republicans who supposedly detest Big Government are quiet as church mice. Not even crickets chirp when you bring it up in the presence of Republicans. And tea party Republicans? The ones who hate Big Government more than any other group in the land? Absolutely nowhere to be seen. You would think that we’d at least have a few Libertarians howling in Michigan, but, so far, a whole lotta nada. It’s very hard to argue when opponents say it’s all about racism and point to the fact that the municipalities and schools facing a takeover by an EFM are, in every single case, majority African American communities.

Much of the Democrats traditional base is on board with the recalls and EFM law repeal, too. Unions, in particular, have had a strong presence at recent protests of Snyder at the University of Michigan when Snyder gave the commencement speech and in the Blossomtime Parade in St. Joseph/Benton Harbor where Snyder was the Grand Marshal. Snyder’s budget, which will likely be passed in late May/early June, disproportionately impacts poor folks and students, more groups that have long been strong supporters of Democrats. In fact, this timidity on the part of the Michigan Democratic Party is eerily reminiscent of the timidity many on the left were so angry about with Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats leading up to the 2010 midterm election.

Michigan Democrats have an opportunity right now. It’s not too late for them to grasp at least part of this movement. They could help set in place organization and energy that would help them in the 2012 election. They could restore lost faith in their base. In short, they could show real leadership, just as the Wisconsin Democrats have done. Given the profound consequences of what the Republicans are trying to achieve in Michigan right now, consequences that will reverberate across the country, we should all hope that they don’t let this opportunity pass.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, if Snyder were to be recalled, Brian Calley, Michigan’s Lt. Gov., would only serve as Governor until a special election to be held in February. This also, assumes, of course, that it doesn’t go court, which it surely would, and the Michigan Supreme Court is controlled by Republicans at this time. I included the bit about Calley because this is one possible explanation for the MDP’s lack of support for the recall effort. So far, despite direct requests for an on-the-record statement from them, I have been not received any explanation other than those I mention in this post. I do have confirmation that they received my request for a statement so they have intentionally chosen not to respond. The MDP’s Facebook page is lit up with people unhappy with their lack of involvement and, for awhile, they were deleting all such comments. They appear to have stopped doing this as some comments remain on the page at this time.