A primer on the primary

Aug 14, 2002 at 12:00 am

If Jennifer Granholm murders a Cub Scout with a machete sometime before Nov. 5, she won’t be elected governor. Otherwise, this election is essentially over. She won last week’s primary by a stunning margin in a higher-than-expected turnout.

Granholm got half a million votes, nearly as many as Dave Bonior and Jim Blanchard put together. Her margin might have been even higher had not 224,000 ballots been disqualified because voters split their primary ticket. Most of those, based on random comments and a hunch, probably involved someone trying to combine a Granholm vote with one for local Republicans.

Readers of this column may remember that I, nearly alone among the media, have been sharply critical of the attorney general, who otherwise has been treated as though she were Joan of Arc come to save us. Unfortunately, I found her to be slick, preprogrammed on some issues and ignorant otherwise, and happily willing to simultaneously and successfully denounce negative campaigning and practice it vigorously herself.

Aided by the media, she managed artfully to avoid taking almost any clearly defined positions. Blanchard did succeed where the Free Press failed, in forcing her to come out squarely for choice on the overchewed abortion issue. That was about all.

But nobody cared. Granholm ran a brilliant campaign and seemed to be exactly what voters wanted. She made them feel good. She said nothing that anybody found threatening, and allowed them to feel moral and progressive about voting for a woman. She also looked presentable, and was a new and yet vaguely familiar face in a state where most everybody else in politics has been around longer than dirt.

Her courting of editorial boards over the past four years (she spent a lot of time talking about freedom of information issues) paid off handsomely. Her appeals to women’s groups brought her vast amounts of money; she declined campaign finance limits and spent many millions, shrewdly blanketing outstate TV.

Now it is her against Dick Posthumus, a decent, earnest and sincere man who is far to the right of most voters on many issues, cannot possibly compete in the charisma marketplace, and who has to face an electorate suddenly sick of anything smacking of John Engler. The election is not likely to be close.

Yet there may be just a few little wrinkles before the coronation. Black voters didn‘t buy the image. They trusted Jim Blanchard, whom they were accused of sabotaging in 1990. Granholm lost Southfield and Pontiac and ran a very bad third in Detroit. “But where are they going to go (in November)?” one supporter said smugly.

Well, they might stay home.

Nor did anyone really look into what the goddess Jennifer did in her time as Wayne County’s corporation counsel. That may change now; The Detroit News, at least, is unlikely to fear seeming politically incorrect. The impression, however, is that even if it is shown that Granholm was directly responsible for the entire airport mess, the attitude of the voters is likely to be, “Well, shucks, you won’t do it again, will ya, Jenni?”

So what are progressives to do? You could just say, well, damn, she’s bound to be better than the Republicans. Or you could press Granholm to use her huge lead in the polls to take a stand on something more controversial than abusing inmates of nursing homes, which I gather she opposes. Posthumus, at least, has a plan to protect our water.

Demand a better one from her.

Meanwhile, her husband, Daniel Granholm Mulhern, even though he went to divinity school and is a wonderfully moral man, etc., etc., ought to voluntarily pledge to refrain from hitting up any major public or private entity for a fat “consulting” fee so long as his wife is governor. If that happens, she may be worth supporting.

If not … well, Green Party candidate Doug Campbell actually stands for a few good things and has a sense of humor, one that agreeably includes himself. The image I will remember from this campaign is one of David Bonior and Alma Wheeler Smith, at the ruins of the Model T factory in Highland Park the day before the election, calling for it to be made into a museum, not an eyesore. They called for the next governor to repair our existing infrastructure, and to bring jobs and development into our cities, instead of contributing to urban sprawl. And they were almost totally ignored. After all, you can’t beat the Pontiac Silverdome, right? Someday, what they stood for will be remembered. Maybe even before it is too late.


Real villains: Whatever you think of the politicians, they weren’t the real bad guys. That award goes to the slimeballs at Detroit’s TV stations who decided, despite their earlier promises, to put the exit polls on the air before the real polls closed.

What was especially delicious was that their cheap, quick and dirty numbers were way off the mark, much more so than the infamous Florida ones in 2000. One TV station’s exit polls said Granholm 39 percent, Bonior 31, Blanchard 30. Granholm actually got 48 percent. Another said John Dingell 51, Lynn Rivers 49. Actual result: 59-41. Polls this far off are garbage. They could easily have called the winner wrong, with people still waiting to vote. Not that it would have stopped them from doing the same thing next time.


Even worse: Detroiters hate it when suburbanites call them lazy and incompetent. Well, Jackie Currie does her best to continue the stereotype, by mishandling every election and blaming everyone else for her own inability to do her job. When an earlier city clerk messed up the 1970 contest with a faulty punch-card scheme, he was too embarrassed to even run for re-election. But Detroiters elect Currie again and again. The fault, as Shakespeare said, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]