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A surreal year: Lawmakers continue to show contempt for people's wishes

Dec 23, 2016

It’s sometimes difficult to figure out what voters really want. But that’s clearly not true when it comes to one thing: Hunting wolves. Michigan citizens want that outlawed.

Every poll has shown that.

Two years ago the people overwhelmingly voted to outlaw wolf hunting by a nearly two-to-one margin. This would be off the table for now in any event, because the federal government has declared wolves an endangered species.

But yesterday, in a display of absolute contempt for the people’s wishes, Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill to once again give his appointees on the Natural Resources Commission the power to declare a hunting and trapping season for wolves.

... the bill features that newly popular legislative trick ...

If you had any remaining doubt that Snyder and the Legislature couldn’t care less about what we want, the bill features that newly popular legislative trick: A token appropriation designed to prevent the voters from being able to repeal this law again.

There is absolutely no need for this bill.

Wolves were very nearly extinct in Michigan a few decades ago, until painstakingly brought back by careful conservation.

They don’t, despite lies spread by State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, and others, threaten people’s pets or day care centers. More wolves are badly needed on Isle Royale, where the moose population is out of control and the whole ecology is threatened.

But some people with money think it makes them look big to shoot a creature that looks like a large dog, and the politicians can’t wait to let them do it.

Welcome to our surreal, post-democratic politics.

Surreal, in fact, was declared to be the word of the year by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and that’s utterly appropriate, far better than the Oxford English Dictionary’s choice of “post-truth,” and Dictionary.com’s, xenophobia. Those were certainly elements in our presidential campaign.

But not only was this the year in which a carnival barker was selected by the Electoral College, it was one in which the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time since Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House.

I’ll go with surreal.

Welcome to our surreal, post-democratic politics.

This was a year when a man without any political experience and a persona of breathtaking vulgarity was elected President of the United States after being rejected by 54% of the voters and getting almost three million fewer votes than his closest competitor.

Surreal? You bet.

But the final surreal moment came this week, provided again not by the next president, but by our own lame-duck governor. Two of the men he appointed as emergency managers in Flint have just been hit with criminal charges in connection with the Flint water crisis, something that has destroyed Rick Snyder’s career.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has been moving up the ladder, charging higher and higher officials. He has refused to rule out charging Snyder. But when asked if he were personally worried, the governor said he has “no reason to be concerned.”

However, he is charging taxpayers an ever-increasing sum – so far $3.5 million – in legal fees for civil and criminal defense teams to defend him against potential charges and lawsuits.

Surreal? You bet.

I’ll be on vacation next week, preparing for what comes next. I hope your holidays are pleasant, and I think it’s clear we will continue to live in interesting times.

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