By Jennifer Granholm, POLITICO
The state embodies the divisions in the Republican Party. To the west and north are the social conservatives who support Rick Santorum. To the east and up the I-75 corridor are the business and economic conservatives who will most likely vote for Mitt Romney.
Michigan’s primary assigns delegates by congressional district. So unless Romney loses more districts than he wins and upends expectations, the status quo of the close race will not change much. The candidates will very likely split the 30 delegates.
But unlike in the past, Michigan will not be a test of whether the GOP’s historical wings can coexist. Nor will it be a test of whether the party will effectively reach out to the moderates, conservative pragmatists and independents who once found a home in that party. The tea party has nosed them out.
Michigan has been ground zero of the pander festival — with the candidates trying to out-right each other in town halls from Grand Rapids to Detroit. The Detroit News’s conservative editor Nolan Finley lamented Sunday that the Republican candidates haven’t spent enough time on economic issues. He’s right.
But even if they had, their economic platforms have embraced tea party dogma.
In the laboratory of democracy that is Michigan, we have seen how the strategic intervention to save the auto industry enabled our state to rebound economically. But the candidates cannot allow the words “It worked” to pass their lips. We have seen how critical it is to get kids to go to college. But Santorum believes it’s for snobs — and said he doesn’t even believe in a state’s involvement in public education.
More than almost anywhere else, we know in Michigan about the importance of addressing economic disparity. But numerous nonpartisan studies show the candidates’ proposed tax plans all significantly exacerbate income inequality.
Of particular interest to this former governor is how giving block grants to the states to administer federal funding for things like education, health care and infrastructure would work when multi-jurisdiction businesses would have to deal with a 50-state nightmare of patchwork rules and regulations. But to hear these candidates talk, you would think that they want to eliminate the federal government entirely and create 50 separate countries. Then we would be Europe, wouldn’t we?
I recognize that, as a Democrat, I’m in no position to offer advice to Republicans. But hey, keep it up boys. The version of Republicanism you are offering is a gift to Democrats looking for recruits. The anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, anti-Muslim, anti-Europe (particularly the French and the Greeks), anti-labor, anti-poor, anti-99 percent and now anti-college graduate rhetoric enables us to eagerly welcome your castoffs into the Democratic Party — where inclusivity is celebrated and their contributions are welcome.
And by the way, your policies aren’t doing you any favors either.
To appeal to the Republican base voter these days, GOP candidates are earnestly discussing ways to dismantle government — whether it’s the Energy Department, Education Department or … whatever the third one is. The far right is focused on shrinking government so small that it drowns in a bathtub — but reappears in state-mandated vaginal ultrasound probes.
Attacking the massive deficits that “harm our children’s future” by proposing tax cuts that add a whopping $5 trillion to the deficit. Skewering the rescue of the auto industry in one commercial while boasting about being pro-manufacturing in the next.
Indeed, the long primary will mean that the newly invigorated far right has ensured that the so-called traditional conservatives — like my dad’s generation, the save-your-money, make-prudent-but-conservative-investments kind of conservatives, the pragmatists who are uneasy with the cultural battles — well, they’re obviously disposable.
Dad couldn’t care less about legislating access to women’s contraception or ordering vaginal ultrasound probes — the very subjects make him uncomfortable. He cares about rational economic policy. But his party has left him, gone to tea.
It’s a trend that would have caused former Michigan Gov. George Romney to grimace. Mitt Romney’s Detroit bashing stands in painful contrast to his father’s compassionate, moderate legacy. Where did the pragmatic Mitt Romney of Massachusetts go? The one who thought it was important to offer access to health care to all his citizens? He, too, has gone to tea.
We’ve all watched Romney straining against his genes and his history, contorting himself into a human pretzel, twisting into an anti-immigrant frenzy, an unlikely chameleon of the severe far right.
In Michigan, the candidates’ busy attempts to out-right each other have meant that Michigan voters have been treated to the same old, same old 20th-century trickle-down policies — only narrower.
In their zeal to “let Detroit go bankrupt,” what’s left unsaid is the fact that the tea-steeped Republican presidential candidates are bankrupt of new ideas for moving this country forward in an aggressive global economy, bankrupt of compassion for those who are less fortunate and bankrupt of compromise with those who view the issues differently than they do.
So to all moderate Republicans and independents, we’d like to welcome you to a new home: an expanded Democratic Party. We can learn from each other and you can help us add new sections to our big tent. It will be a beautiful deep blue November in Michigan.
And to the Republican presidential candidates, two words: Thanks, guys.