Opinion
8:49 am
Wed December 18, 2013

The most radically right-wing state Legislature in living memory

Lessenberry commentary for 12/18/13

Yesterday, the Democratic leader in the Statehouse held a news conference that convinced me his party is basically decent and civilized. And if they keep it up, they are going to lose next year’s  elections.

Here’s what I am talking about. Over the past three years, Republicans have been doing things that once would have caused people to march on Lansing with pitchforks.

They have rammed through Right to Work. Cut and starved higher education, and did their best to undermine public elementary and secondary schools as well. Within the last week, the Republican majority enacted a new law forbidding insurance companies from automatically writing policies that protect women’s right to have an abortion in the case of rape, incest or a dangerous pregnancy. 

They passed a bill doubling the amount fat cats can openly give to political campaigns. Worse, the same law says special interest groups can secretly spend unlimited amounts on so-called “issue-oriented ads,” taking away any accountability in campaign spending.

I could go on, but you get the idea. This has been the most radically right-wing Legislature in living memory.

If you are old enough, just try to remember what Walter Reuther would do if he were alive. Or Soapy Williams, or Hubert Humphrey. They would be yelling, day and night. They would be working people up, galvanizing and making them mad about what was being done to them. The political climate would be entirely different.

But instead, the Democrats have a nice civilized leader in House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, a lawyer from the Oakland County suburb of Auburn Hills. He held a press conference in his office full of sweet reasonableness.

Here, according to the reliable Gongwer News Service, is what he said: “The last two weeks were particularly disappointing.”  He said he had a good working relationship with House Speaker Jase Bolger, he said, “that doesn't mean we will always agree on the issue, but when we disagree, we've been able, in general, to keep our disagreements professional and respectful.”

I can just hear former Texas Governor Ann Richards saying, “Lord have mercy, that man is an idiot.”

For three years, Republicans have ridden over Democrats and their issues like a freight train over an empty suit. Politics haven’t been about being reasonable.

A week ago, a blogger named Eric made fun of me for suggesting a common sense approach. He said the people running our government don’t care.

“They aren’t interested in clever editorials or sound reasoning.” Eric said. “Time and again, all they’ve demonstrated an interest in is what they can get away with.” He thinks any reasoned argument “isn’t going to make a damned bit of difference.”

I hate to admit this, but I now think he is right.

Somehow, the Democrats have to find someone who can excite passions. Incidentally, every Democrat I know thinks Mark Schauer, their candidate for governor next year, is a good and decent man. And privately, they all think he is going to lose.

"The best lack all conviction," the poet Yeats used to say, adding, "the worst are filled with passionate intensity." If I were Democratic state chair Lon Johnson, I’d think hard about that.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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